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Premier League: Liverpool and Manchester United propose major changes to English football

Premier League says some of the proposals "could have a damaging impact on the whole game" and are "disappointed" by EFL chairman Rick Parry's public support for them

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Sky News correspondent Martha Kelner looks at Project Big Picture - a proposal drawn up by Liverpool's owners and is backed by Manchester United that would see major changes to the structure of English football

A proposal to change the voting structure of the Premier League, as well as funding models for the English Football League and Football Association, has been drawn up by Liverpool's owners and is backed by Manchester United.

The proposal - called 'Project Big Picture' - includes several other major changes to the structure of English football, including a reduction from 20 to 18 teams in the Premier League and the scrapping of the EFL Cup and Community Shield.

The Premier League issued a statement shortly after the plans were first reported by the Daily Telegraph on Sunday, saying "a number of the individual proposals in the plan published today could have a damaging impact on the whole game".

  • Premier League reduced to 18 clubs
  • No EFL Cup or Community Shield
  • Special status for nine longest serving clubs - 'Big Six', Everton, West Ham, Southampton
  • Only six of the nine longest-serving clubs need to vote for major change
  • £250m immediate compensation for EFL
  • Figure also represents coronavirus financial bail-out
  • Club who finishes 16th in Premier League to replace sixth-placed Championship club in EFL play-offs
  • Premier League to commit 25 per cent of future revenue to EFL
Manchester United corner flag
Image: Manchester United have backed Liverpool on Project Big Picture

Initial talks between Liverpool, United and the other "big six" clubs - Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea - have taken place, with hope an agreement can be reached.

The reform plan, drawn up by Liverpool's owners, Fenway Sports Group, was started in 2017 and is seen as a radical change to football governance. It has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic due to the financial situation facing many EFL clubs.

One of the most appealing parts for some EFL clubs may be 25 per cent of all combined Premier League and EFL revenues going to them, with an advance of up to £250m being made available early to help during the pandemic.

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Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol says there is concern that Liverpool and Manchester United's 'Project Big Picture' proposals could turn out to be a 'horror movie' for English football

The proposed changes would put the majority of the power into the hands of the biggest clubs, ending the division's current one-club, one-vote system.

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The plan calls for the nine clubs with the longest continued presence in the league, which includes the 'big six', to be given "long-term shareholder" status and the ability to make changes with the support of just six of the nine.

Along with the £250m up front payment to the EFL, the FA would also receive £100m as a gift.

'Plans extremely attractive to EFL'

EFL chairman Rick Parry, the former Liverpool chief executive, has strongly backed the plan, saying it resolves many of the issues currently facing EFL clubs.

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EFL chairman Rick Parry has hit back at suggestions Project Big Picture could be damaging for English football and believes the plan will help to protect the future of clubs throughout the football pyramid

Speaking on Sunday evening, he said: "This is a proposal to reset the long-term future of the English pyramid.

"This would produce long-term sustainability for all of our clubs. It would narrow the gap between the Championship and the Premier League. It would abolish parachute payments, which create a major imbalance within the Championship. Plus, there's a short-term package of immediate relief.

"It probably is the biggest idea since the formation of the Premier League. In terms of rebalancing the game, providing fairer shares for all, securing the financial future of the pyramid - for us, it's extremely attractive."

Asked whether the proposals have the support of the EFL clubs, Parry said: "We shall see in the coming days. I genuinely believe it's in their very best interests.

"I've had the chance to talk to a limited number of them today and they've been extremely receptive."

EFL chairman Rick Parry at West Brom vs Leeds United
Image: The Premier League expressed its disappointment with EFL chairman Parry

The Premier League said it was "disappointed" by Parry's public support for the plans. As well as the Premier League reducing in size from 20 clubs to 18, there would also be a change to the promotion and relegation exchange with the Championship.

The bottom two clubs would be automatically relegated from the Premier League and replaced with the top two from the Championship.

Premier League logo
Image: The changes would see the Premier League reduced from 20 to 18 teams

The 16th-placed Premier League club would have to play in a play-off with the Championship's third, fourth and fifth-placed teams.

The usual curtain-raising Community Shield match between the Premier League title-holders and FA Cup winners would be scrapped under the proposals, along with the EFL Cup. Other reports have claimed that rather than a complete abolition of the EFL Cup, it could continue without teams who are playing in European competition.

The plan would need the support of 14 of the Premier League's 20 clubs to be approved.

Full Premier League statement

We have seen media reports today regarding a plan to restructure football in this country.

English football is the world's most watched, and has a vibrant, dynamic and competitive league structure that drives interest around the globe. To maintain this position, it is important that we all work together. Both the Premier League and The FA support a wide-ranging discussion on the future of the game, including its competition structures, calendar and overall financing particularly in light of the effects of COVID-19.

Football has many stakeholders, therefore this work should be carried out through the proper channels enabling all clubs and stakeholders the opportunity to contribute.

In the Premier League's view, a number of the individual proposals in the plan published today could have a damaging impact on the whole game and we are disappointed to see that Rick Parry, Chair of the EFL, has given his on-the-record support.

The Premier League has been working in good faith with its clubs and the EFL to seek a resolution to the requirement for COVID-19 rescue funding. This work will continue.

DCMS: Proposals 'deeply troubling'

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport released a statement on Sunday criticising the proposals, and accusing the Premier League's biggest sides of trying to create a "closed shop".

The statement read: "We are surprised and disappointed that at a time of crisis when we have urged the top tiers of professional football to come together and finalise a deal to help lower league clubs, there appear to be backroom deals being cooked up that would create a closed shop at the very top of the game.

"Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that may undermine them is deeply troubling. Fans must be front of all our minds, and this shows why our fan-led review of football governance will be so critical."

Parry hit back at the DCMS, saying: "There is no backdoor - these proposals are entirely transparent. The [DCMS] haven't seen them yet, so what they're commenting on, I can only speculate.

"Maybe they should have come up with a more measured view. We will take the time to explain the proposals and I have every confidence that, when they see them, they will actually see the merits. Rushing out ill-considered statements, I don't think is terribly helpful."

'Plans raise more questions than answers'

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Rochdale chief executive David Bottomley feels the proposed 'Project Big Picture' plans raise more questions than answers

David Bottomley, chief executive of League One side Rochdale, had mixed views on the proposed plans but ultimately felt they raised more questions than answers.

"At least it's a proposal on the table - I think that's very important, after months of uncertainty," he told Sky Sports News.

"I'm grateful to the EFL for negotiating this, but it probably raises more questions than answers to be honest.

"It's hard not to agree [with EFL chairman Rick Parry]. We're not in a situation, particularly clubs in League One and League Two, that we can look at any form of financial assistance and turn it down.

"I just think the game has chosen the wrong moment to rework the pyramid system. But we have to accept this in order to trade through this season.

"That's basically what it's all about. I agree that changes need to be made in future, but why make those changes now when we're operating in such a difficult world?"

'This could create a Premier League 2'

Tranmere Rovers chairman Mark Palios
Image: Tranmere chairman Mark Palios is 'uncomfortable' about the proposals

Former FA chief executive Mark Palios - who is now chairman of Tranmere Rovers - told Sky News he thinks the structure of the game does need looking at, but is not sure the 'Project Big Picture' proposals are an improvement.

"The content of it is difficult and feels uncomfortable," Palios said. "It seems to crystallise the status quo, it gives power to the 'big six' and hands control basically to them.

"I think ultimately, in terms of the pyramid, you see the move towards creating a Premier League 2.

"I think that would crystallise the gap between League One and what is now the Championship, rather than trying to address the gaps that exist in a much more cogent way."

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