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Premier League clubs reject Project Big Picture proposal but agree bailout for League One and Two clubs

League One and League Two to receive grants and interest-free loans totalling a further £50m on top of the £27.2m solidarity payments already advanced; Premier League says discussions will continue with the EFL regarding Championship clubs' financial needs

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Sky Sports News reporter James Cole has the latest on the power struggle that could define the future of the English game, after Premier League clubs reject Project Big Picture

Premier League clubs have rejected Project Big Picture but have agreed to create an emergency financial package for clubs in League One and League Two.

At a virtual meeting on Wednesday, all 20 clubs "unanimously agreed" that neither the Premier League nor the FA would endorse or pursue the proposals, which included changing the voting structure of the Premier League, as well as funding models for the English Football League (EFL) and Football Association (FA).

The clubs have also agreed to work as a "collective" and with transparency on any future plans that involve the structure or financial of English football.

These proposals, which have now been rejected, were initially drawn up by Liverpool, with the backing of Manchester United.

'Project Big Picture' proposals

  • 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

The plans had involved several other major changes to the structure of English football, with a reduction from 20 to 18 teams in the Premier League and the scrapping of the EFL Cup and Community Shield.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Premier League said: "All 20 Premier League clubs today unanimously agreed that Project Big Picture will not be endorsed or pursued by the Premier League, or The FA.

"Further, Premier League Shareholders agreed to work together as a 20-club collective on a strategic plan for the future structures and financing of English football, consulting with all stakeholders to ensure a vibrant, competitive and sustainable football pyramid.

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"Clubs will work collaboratively, in an open and transparent process, focusing on competition structure, calendar, governance and financial sustainability.

"This project has the full support of The FA and will include engagement with all relevant stakeholders including fans, Government and, of course, the EFL."

The EFL, however, said the majority of its clubs overwhelmingly supported Project Big Picture plans following meetings with chairman Rick Parry.

Six Championship clubs have told Sky Sports News they could go out of business by the end of the season without fans and without a financial bailout.

On the EFL bailout, the Premier League said it "aims to ensure that League One and League Two clubs will not go out of business".

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Cambridge chief executive Ian Mather has welcomed the Premier League's 'rescue package' for League One and League Two clubs but says more radical change is needed to football’s financial structure

It added: "League One and League Two clubs rely more heavily on matchday revenue and have fewer resources at their disposal than Championship or Premier League clubs and are therefore more at risk, especially at a time when fans are excluded from attending matches.

"This offer will consist of grants and interest-free loans totalling a further £50m on top of the £27.2m solidarity payments already advanced to League One and League Two this year, making a total of £77.2m.

"Discussions will also continue with the EFL regarding Championship clubs' financial needs. This addresses Government concerns about lower league clubs' financial fragility.

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Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow says EFL chairman Rick Parry should have approached the Premier League directly about funding rather than individual clubs

"Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them. The Premier League and all our clubs remain committed to the safe return of fans as soon as possible."

Sky Sports News has learned Everton chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale began the Premier League meeting by requesting all clubs, including those involved with Project Big Picture, be held accountable to the Premier League, its clubs and also the fans.

Everton's hierarchy are understood to be upset with the way the proposals were put forward and Barrett-Baxendale made a strong statement against those clubs who were attempting to push the project through.

Masters: No beef with EFL

The Premier League's chief executive Richard Masters admits there has been frustration over the public backing of Project Big Picture, but insists there is "no beef" with the EFL.

Masters described Wednesday's meeting as "candid, constructive and positive in the end" and denied any suggestion the proposals may have damaged the reputation of the league.

"Clearly there's some frustration a proposal that hadn't had any input from the Premier League, from our clubs, has been pushed so hard in public," he said.

"But we don't have a beef with the EFL, certainly not with its clubs. We want to have a good relationship with them. We're their biggest partner.

"We have a historic relationship with them. So we want it to be constructive.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters
Image: Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says Project Big Picture has highlighted 'some systemic issues built up that need dealing with'

"What we tried to do was separate the issue of EFL solidarity and the EFL rescue from a forward plan, and that's what eventually got decided by clubs today.

"Whilst there has been a lot of things said and done, a lot of speculation over the last four days, I don't think it's irreparably damaged the Premier League. And I think that today's meeting proved that."

Dowden: Rescue package is a good start

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has been clear in his view that football should be able to address problems in their infrastructure themselves.

Reacting to the Premier League's announcement on Wednesday, he said on Twitter: "This morning I reiterated calls of many in the football family for bigger clubs to look after smaller clubs.

"An offer has been made by the Premier League to EFL L1&2 which is a good start.

"I urge them to work together and stay focused on helping clubs through this crisis."

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Ian Mather - chief executive of League Two Cambridge United - said: "It's helpful and it's money that wasn't there, so thank you for that, but we need to understand exactly what the deal is.

"Is it enough? I don't know, but it is some progress. Something needed to happen and we do need a long-term reset of finance for football."

EFL: Financial Support Package

"The EFL will meet with all EFL clubs on Thursday to discuss the proposed financial support put forward today by the Premier League.

"The Premier League has written to the EFL in respect of a 'much needed support package' and provided details of an approved £50m grant and loan facility for League One and Two clubs only.

"In addition, the Premier League has requested further discussions with the EFL regarding the nature of this proposal and also on future, potential loan funding for Championship clubs in COVID-19 distress.

"The League will be not be commenting further until it has discussed the elements of the proposal with its membership."

EFL: Project Big Picture

"The EFL notes the position of the Premier League in respect of today's discussions with its clubs regarding the Project Big Picture proposals.

"As we have maintained across the past 72 hours, there is a significant issue facing the English footballing pyramid and therefore it is encouraging that there is an acknowledgment that a review of the current status quo is required, with a strategic plan to be developed to consider the future of the football.

"While by no means a finished product, Project Big Picture was developed to consider these same issues and address the challenges facing football from top to bottom.

"The EFL welcomes the opportunity to contribute to any wider debate with colleagues across the game as we seek to finally address impossible economic pressures and deliver on the objective of having a sustainable EFL in the long-term."

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