We spoke with EFL League Two board representative John Nixon on Tuesday morning to get his thoughts on the weekend’s breaking news about the Big Picture proposal.
Was the announcement the way the EFL would have wanted it to be announced, and were the EFL board aware it was coming?
I’m sure it wasn’t the way they wanted to do it. These discussions have been going on for some considerable time. They started before Covid and it was always one of the things that the chair was asked to do. He was in the right position to talk to the people that count at the FA, Premier League and obviously within the EFL.
It wasn’t the way they wanted it to come out because it came out rather quickly over the weekend. It’s been rushed a bit at the end because of how it happened. All of the clubs are meeting today [Tuesday] after being briefed, before we meet again on Thursday to talk about finances.
Is it a proposal that’s finalised and ready in its current form?
It probably isn’t at the level of detail they would have wanted it to be at. There are two or three different aspects to look at. I think in 2022 to 2024 there are going to be three levels of European competition, with the European Conference to be added to the two competitions we have now. More clubs are going to be playing in Europe, and that was going to cause a problem with the calendar initially, so you can understand why the Premier League would want less teams.
If you listen to the general public and the fans in particular, they’ve been saying for years that there’s too much money going to players and agents, and Premier League clubs are spending too much. The media are saying the same, the reason that football can’t survive is there’s too much money going to the top of the game and not enough to the bottom. When I’m talking to the clubs at the bottom of the pyramid they’re saying exactly the same thing. This debate had to take place.
When we interviewed for the chairman’s position, and I was there for all of the interviews, it was something we discussed with all of the candidates. It is the big issue that at some stage in the future we’ve got to tackle. The fans, the media and the clubs all think it’s wrong, so if English football is going to survive we’ve got to do something to get more money to the base of the pyramid, which props up the top end. This was going to happen, it’s a bit faster than we would have liked it, but it’s good to have the debates. It won’t end up as its proposed at this moment in time, but it’s a direction of travel that is absolutely vital.
Did Rick Parry bring the Big Picture proposal to his interview?
No. The Premier League haven’t done anything wrong, it was started in 1992 and the money has gradually started seeping up to the top without coming down to the bottom. They have tried, but as it’s gone, more and more money has got stuck at the top which ends up in players’ and agents’ pockets, which is what upsets a lot of people. Once it comes through into League One and Two, it’s also got to go down to grassroots level.
When Rick came in he had two priorities, the first one was to get a CEO which he did. Dave [Baldwin] left us yesterday, although he’ll continue for six months, due to his personal circumstances, which I can understand. Dave has done a good job, so we’ve got to build on that and appoint another CEO.
Everyone, Dave included, will know that the timing of his announcement wasn’t great?
It isn’t connected. Dave has been having these discussions with Rick for some weeks. The Big Picture project was pushed onto us over the weekend because of somebody leaking it out, so because there was an awareness that Dave was leaving it was decided it was best to go ahead with the announcement. If he’d got into the Big Picture debate with the clubs that we’re going to have over the next ten days, and then said he was leaving, that would have looked even worse. To say it now, because he’d decided some weeks ago that he was going to hand his notice in, means that it’s done and dusted.
He's been very receptive, genuinely wanted to listen to clubs, so it’s a big job to replace him?
Yes, and just as it was when Shaun [Harvey] left. Shaun tried to do a similar thing with the distribution model, his was called Project Genie. We were going to look at the finances and try and freeze the distribution model. It isn’t something new, everybody knows that this problem needs to be tackled.
There are some accusations that this is one man’s vision, have the EFL board been excluded?
All the things that we’ve talked about in board meetings and in his interview have all kind of rolled together. All the board members feel we need to get something done, and we also know that he has got the autonomy to go off and talk to the FA and Premier League. He doesn’t need us for that, he needs to bring it back to us, that’s how a board works. Rick was involved in the discussions with the Premier League and some clubs, more than the two that have been mentioned, and he’s inevitably been involved with the FA, whether they say they’re going to put the golden share in and veto it or not …
... and am I right in thinking that veto is to do with promotion and relegation?
I’m not sure, but I think it is. It was set up in 1992 under what was called the tripartite agreement between the FA, the Football League and the Premier League. That was all put together at that point.
With this effectively being thrust on everyone, does that mean that Rick has to face uncomfortable questions from yourself and the EFL board?
Yes and no. Like everybody else, I was taken aback when I read everything that came out on Sunday. I was having a great weekend, we beat Port Vale away which was pleasing, and I was relaxing watching the Formula One when I started getting messages coming in, which I couldn’t believe. I spent half an hour on the phone with Rick on Sunday night and from that point onwards I was more fully in the picture than I had been until that point in time. It didn’t surprise me because of the direction of the things we’ve been discussing, so something was always going to emerge. Whatever emerges now will go back to all of the clubs in the EFL and Premier League, and the clubs will ultimately decide what they want to do. It doesn’t really matter who had the idea or where it comes from, ultimately it will be the clubs that decide.
How did your League Two clubs respond?
As League Two rep I obviously spoke to a lot of clubs, and I think they were taken aback by the speed of it. They know we’re trying to find rescue packages for them, so most of them have been pretty positive. I don’t think this is the short-term rescue package, I think this is more medium and long-term. We need the short-term package put together before the end of the month.
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