Gillingham chairman explains why he is backing Project Big Picture proposal

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally has given his full support to Project Big Picture – but warned football must not sell its soul.

Scally says EFL chairman Rick Parry has been forced into negotiations for a secret deal with Liverpool and Manchester United to stop EFL clubs going bust and claims it was maliciously leaked to put a bomb under the proposals before they are ready.

The outspoken League One chief insists at least TEN Premier League clubs are in favour and says it is the most viable solution rather than taking out a loan, setting up with an American hedge fund or even selling a percentage of the league.

Scally said: “This is the most attractive solution for the EFL and, believe me, Rick has worked so hard at looking at every option and he’s not the one who has done nothing for the EFL for the past six months.

“It’s better than a loan from the Bank of England repayable over ten years or from an American hedge fund but at a higher interest rate of eight or ten per cent or selling a percentage of the League to a marketing company.

“Covid will end at some stage, hopefully soon, and football will still be in a mess. Rick is trying to address not just the short term problem but the long term issues and that 100 per cent needs to be done.

“He’s been hijacked, wasn’t ready to go public, the clubs weren’t ready to go public. But this is self interest, you could say that about the Big Six, but they are the most powerful and therefore they should have a say in their destiny.

“Now, provided it doesn’t compromise football, the Premier League and the rest of the football pyramid, then they should get a bigger say. We mustn’t sell our souls here but the concept of working in a restructured Football League is the most attractive.

“This has been leaked way before it was supposed to come out. When the Premier League broke away in 1992, this sort of thing was going on for months and months before this all came to fruition. That’s how it all works. Everyone knows that.

“The leak is quite scandalous, the detail is such that only so many people would know.”

Scally also insists that it is not just Liverpool and Manchester United who are on board, it also goes beyond Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham. But more Premier League clubs want it to happen – but are afraid to say so publicly.

“Two have been happy to put their heads above the parapet and put their names to it, they’re happy to push for reform and the other four haven’t wanted to do the same,” said Scally. “But the reality is it’s probably more like ten who want a restructure of football.

“It’s not just two. The Big Six want change. But we’ve all got self-interest and that makes it difficult to find common ground.”

Scally gets on well with Parry, the EFL chairman uses him as a sounding board for League One and, despite that, is not afraid to admit there are elements he does not like.

The common argument against is that there would never be another Leicester City, going up from League One to becoming Premier League champions within seven years in the greatest Premier League story ever told.

“That’s a fair point. But don’t think this is a done deal. The Premier League has been trying to reduce to 18 clubs and if that’s what it takes. I don’t like losing the League Cup,” said Scally.

“Of course I don’t want to see a Premier League where the Top Six gets such a bigger share than the bottom clubs. We won’t sell our souls for the future of football no matter how desperate we get.”

However, Scally insists the EFL – then the Football League – made their greatest ever mistake in 1995 when they had the chance to take a percentage of Premier League revenue when Parry was chief executive but opted instead to take a TV deal. And have been paying the price ever since.

“Not taking the deal on the table at the time, that will go down as the biggest error of judgement in the history of football by the board of directors in the Football League,” said Scally.

“We had three options. One was a Sky deal, an ITV deal and Rick Parry’s deal from the Premier League. We were minded to go with the Premier League deal, we asked for some time to think about it only to discover they’d signed another deal two weeks later.

“We were livid, the board were forced to resign and we clubs have been paying the price ever since.”

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