By Andrew Warshaw
October 12 – Could it be the saviour of English football or death knell for the game as we know it? Is it handing power to a cartel of money-grabbing clubs or an invaluable rescue package for the lower professional leagues?
Revolutionary plans to overhaul the entire structure of professional English football have split opinion across the country depending on vested interests.
Under the seismic proposals, led by Liverpool and Manchester United, the Premier League would be cut from 20 to 18 teams and an immediate £250 million bailout would be given to the Football League to help its 72 clubs, many of them in dire financial straits.
The Premier League would also hand over 25% of its annual income to the EFL while £100 million would be paid to the English FA to make up for lost revenue.
If the proposal is accepted, the reorganisation, first reported by the Daily Telegraph newspaper, would hand greater powers to the so-called ‘big six’ clubs, with relegation and promotion radically changed and parachute payments ended.
The bottom two teams in the Premier League would continue to be relegated automatically with the club finishing 16th joining a play-off with Championship teams who finish third, fourth and fifth. Greater voting rights would be given to the nine longest-serving Premier League clubs while the League Cup competition would be scrapped. Until now, the Premier League has enjoyed a one-club, one-vote system, with a majority of 14 currently needed for any significant decisions to pass.
No date has been set for the ground-breaking shake-up but unconfirmed reports have suggested it could be in operation as early as 2022-23.
Reports suggest the plans, dubbed ‘Project Big Picture’, have been three years in the making and were drawn up without the knowledge of the Premier League which has inevitably branded them as divisive, saying they could have a “damaging impact” on the game.
EFL chairman Rick Parry (pictured), who ironically used to be chief executive of the Premier League and later Liverpool, argues the deal would represent a long-term solution that would guarantee long-term stability.
“This is two of our great clubs showing leadership and exercising responsibility,” Parry told the BBC. “The message from Liverpool and Manchester United is that they do genuinely care about the pyramid. The Premier League could have come up with a plan like this at any time. How long has it taken to get a rescue package? Months.
“It was May when the government was saying we need the Premier League to step up to the plate. What’s wrong with us talking about a plan that is demonstrably in the best interest of the pyramid and our clubs? We genuinely think that this is in the best interests of the game as a whole.”
But the Premier League countered: “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.”
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