Saving The Beautiful Game: Gary Neville leads new plans to save English football

The Premier League kicked Project Big Picture into the long grass. Credit: PA

As one big plan for the future of English football is ushered unceremoniously off stage left, along comes another one vying for the limelight.

Led by former FA chair David Bernstein and backed by heavyweight names Gary Neville, Lord King, Denise Lewis and Andy Burnham among others, ‘Saving the Beautiful Game’ (STBG) has revealed itself the day after the Premier League kicked the divisive Project Big Picture into the long grass.

The FA is in the crosshairs of this latest proposal, moved firmly to the subs bench for failing to reform itself or to get a grip on governance of the football pyramid which the authors of STBG describe as dysfunctional.

The FA - the report says - lacks credibility, is ineffective and not sufficiently independent. On top of that it is not diverse.

STBG claims that football has proved itself to be incapable of self-reform and that is difficult to argue with.

If you take the league structure as a whole - clubs in Leagues 1 and 2 are perilously poised in a Covid cash-flow crisis, in the Championship they are spending more on wages than they receive in total revenue, while the Premier League’s income after the last TV deal was £5.6 billion.

While a rescue package for the lower leagues is on the table it relieves short rather than long-term pain.

So, what do STBG intend on doing?

Well, it requires legislation for a start and that is always a very, very big hurdle. But the ambition is to set up a new regulatory body to reform how football is run.

Key to that would be a redistribution of income to the wider game after reviewing the financial stress points.

These include parachute payments to relegated Premier League clubs, solidarity payments, a salary cap and a mandatory relegation clause in players contracts.

The new body would implement reform at the FA, starting with the FA council which historically lacks diversity and it would liaise with supporters’ organisations to get them more involved in shaping the future.

The group proposes to set a fixed term for the new regulator and it if can achieve the desired reforms in that time, responsibility could be handed back to a new modern FA.

The “future of football” ideas tray is becoming fuller by the day.