Extraordinary changes could be implemented across English football according to a bombshell report published in the Telegraph, which says that Manchester United and Liverpool are driving the controversial proposals.
The paper has gained access to a “Revitalisation” document laying out proposed changes including reducing the Premier League to 18 clubs, axing the League Cup and the Community Shield, and changing the promotion system.
The Telegraph also reveals the influence of Liverpool’s ownership Fenway Sports Group, who are said to have written the document and are working alongside Manchester United on a set of proposals being labelled “Project Big Picture”.
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It is reported that Liverpool and Manchester United expect the support of Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs. As the Telegraph details:
The two clubs have worked together on a radical set of proposals – called ‘Project Big Picture’ - that will reshape the finances of the game. The Premier League, the most lucrative sports league in the world, would see a reduction to 18 teams, and controlling power in the hands of the biggest clubs.
"In return for tearing up many of the rules that have governed the game since the Premier League’s inception in 1992 there will be a £250 million rescue package to the Football League to see them through the Covid crisis."
- ‘Project Big Picture’ – What controversial plans mean for the future of football
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- Premier League critical of 'damaging' Project Big Picture
- John Henry, Rick Parry and the story behind Project Big Picture
- Government hits out at 'backroom deal' Project Big Picture
The Telegraph says that the plans include changing the structure of English football with the Premier League reduced to 18 teams, the League Cup and Community Shield abolished and relegation play-offs introduced with the 16th-placed Premier League side in a mini-competition with the teams finishing third, fourth and fifth in the Championship.
The plans would also centralise power in the hands of the established Premier League elite with the current one-club, one-vote rule being abolished and the big six clubs plus Everton, Southampton and West Ham afforded "long-term shareholder status" in which the votes of just six of this group would be enough to enforce changes in the league, rather than the threshold of 14 clubs at the moment.
EFL chairman Rick Parry is said to be supportive of the plans, which include this immediate payment of £250m to the EFL, having held talks with Liverpool’s ownership as well as the Glazer family, the owners of Manchester United.
The coronavirus crisis has left many lower-league clubs at breaking point and Parry told the Telegraph:
"What do we do? Leave it exactly as it is and allow the smaller clubs to wither? Or do we do something about it? And you can’t do something about it without something changing. And the view of our clubs is if the [big] six get some benefits but the 72 also do, we are up for it.
"It is definitely going to be challenging and it is an enormous change so that won’t be without some pain: Do I genuinely think it’s for the greater good of the game as a whole? Absolutely. And if the [big] six are deriving some benefit then why shouldn’t they. Why wouldn’t they put their names to this otherwise?”
Premier League criticises 'damaging' Project Big Picture
It is not clear how many Premier League or EFL clubs have been consulted about the proposals and the top flight league was critical of the plans and Parry's public support for them.
"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 league said in a statement.
The Premier League said they supported a "wide-ranging discussion on the future of the game" including competition structures, calendar and finances but said there needed to be more inclusive talks.
"Football has many stakeholders, therefore this work should be carried out through the proper channels enabling all clubs and stakeholders the opportunity to contribute," the statement added.
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