Out of the picture

Sports | REUTERS 16 Oct 2020

Premier League clubs rejected plans put forward by Liverpool and Manchester United for radical changes to the English top-flight structures and finances and said they would conduct their own review of the game.

The "Project Big Picture" proposals would have seen an increase in funds for the 72 clubs in the Football League but also include special voting rights for the biggest clubs in the Premier League and a reduction of teams in the top flight from 20 to 18.

The plan has been fronted by EFL chairman Rick Parry and would have included a 250 million (HK$2.52 billion) bail-out for his clubs, who face acute financial issues due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But at a meeting of all 20 Premier League clubs, the plans were rejected with a separate, broader-based review by the entire league initiated and a more limited bail-out for lower division clubs.

"All 20 Premier League clubs unanimously agreed that 'Project Big Picture' will not be endorsed or pursued by the Premier League or the FA," the league said in a statement.

"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."

The process will include the FA, the UK government and the EFL, the statement added.

The Premier League also said it had agreed to offer a rescue package to League One and League Two clubs consisting of "grants and interest-free loans totalling a further 50 million on top of the 27.2 million solidarity payments already advanced this year, making a total of 77.2 million."

"Discussions will also continue with the EFL regarding Championship clubs' financial needs."

The UK government's Culture Minister Oliver Dowden, who is responsible for sport, said the offer was a "good start".

Premier League CEO Richard Masters said the meeting had been "candid, constructive, positive in the end."

Feelings have been running high among owners and officials from the Premier League's smaller clubs, some of whom believe the top teams tried to railroad them.

"While 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," Masters said.

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