The chairman of the Football Association, Greg Clarke, meanwhile, has been accused of considering an idea that would see the Premier League expanded to include a second division, with its biggest clubs allowed to introduce so-called B teams further down the pyramid, of conspiring with the authors of Project Big Picture. He, like many others, is now preoccupied with infighting and politicking: This, too, is familiar ground.
That all of these parties are suddenly having big ideas now is a quite remarkable coincidence. But then that has always been soccer’s attitude to change. It is always easier to do nothing.
There are always too many — and this includes the sainted “other 14” of the Premier League who have been hailed this week as the game’s saviors roughly five months after several of them flirted with the idea of abandoning the season entirely, costing their fellow clubs hundreds of millions of dollars, simply so they did not get relegated — happy to turn a blind eye to the need for change because the status quo works for them.
And there are too few who have the credibility to suggest change without immediately being shouted down and accused of self-interest. The leagues do not trust the clubs. The clubs do not trust the leagues. The clubs do not trust each other. Judging by the imbroglio over this month’s announcement that certain games would be aired on pay-per-view, the league and its own broadcasters do not trust each other. English soccer is rich in many things, but good faith is not one of them.
You Say You Want Specifics? Here You Go
All of these interests make suggesting change inordinately difficult. Daniel Finkelstein, writing in The Times of London this week, pointed out the impossibility of obtaining political consensus for measures to combat the pandemic, too. “It is important,” Finkelstein wrote, “to keep it really simple and simultaneously to accommodate everyone’s unique individual circumstances.”
The same applies to the much more trivial task of trying to find solutions that satisfy every single one of soccer’s stakeholders. Criticism, Finkelstein wrote, is easy. Offering something constructive takes effort. But seeing as soccer is, at last, in the market for new ideas, perhaps now is the time to join the chorus.
Let’s start with the good ideas from Project Big Picture. A massive bailout fund for the E.F.L., to be borrowed against the Premier League’s future television income: good. Abandoning parachute payments in favor of a larger annual contribution from the Premier League: also good.