Premier League clubs reject ‘Project Big Picture’

The controversial proposals would have empowered the biggest clubs, in exchange for a rescue package and more revenue for the English Football League.

Although endorsed by most EFL clubs, the plan was criticised by the British government, the Football Association, the Premier League and fan groups [File: Peter Powell/AFP]

Premier League clubs have unanimously agreed to reject the radical “Project Big Picture” plan proposed by Manchester United and Liverpool Football Club to restructure English football.

Under the controversial proposals, the number of teams in the Premier League would have been cut from 20 to 18 and the League Cup scrapped.

More power would have been handed to the biggest clubs in the top-flight in exchange for a rescue package, as many English Football League (EFL) clubs find themselves in financial strife amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also proposed a greater share of broadcast revenues for the EFL.

Although endorsed by the vast majority of EFL clubs, the plan was criticised by the British government, the Football Association, the Premier League and fan groups.

“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,” the Premier League said in a statement on Wednesday.

“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.”

Liverpool and Manchester United have said nothing publicly about their role in the radical strategy, leaving EFL chairman Rick Parry to be their public spokesman.

The divisions the plan created were highlighted in the Premier League statement.

“Clubs will work collaboratively, in an open and transparent process, focusing on competition structure, calendar, governance and financial sustainability,” the Premier League said.

“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.”

Premier League clubs have agreed to a rescue package for clubs in the third and fourth tiers – League One and League Two – but not the second-tier championship.

There is an offer of grants and interest-free loans totalling 50 million pounds ($65m) for clubs in League One and Two in addition to 27.2 million pounds in solidarity payments already made this year.

“League One and League Two clubs rely more heavily on match-day 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,” the Premier League said.

“Discussions will also continue with the EFL regarding Championship clubs’ financial needs. This addresses government concerns about lower league clubs’ financial fragility.”

Source: News Agencies