Manchester United and Liverpool are backing a radical plan to overhaul English football, led by the English Football League, which would see control over the Premier League switch to the top teams, sources have confirmed to ESPN.
The plan, first reported in the Telegraph, has been called “Project Big Picture” and would see an overhaul of the finances of the Premier League and the EFL.
Proposed by the EFL and its chairman, Rick Parry, the plans include reducing the Premier League to 18 teams, giving controlling power to the nine clubs who have been in the league the longest, and abolishing the League Cup and the Community Shield.
The Premier League has been governed by the one-club, one-vote rule but if this change is accepted power would shift to the big six of United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea as well as Everton, Southampton and West Ham. Changes would need the votes of just six of these clubs to be brought in.
“It is definitely going to be challenging and it is an enormous change, so that won’t be without some pain,” Parry told the Telegraph.
“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?”
In return for accepting the proposals, the Premier League would give 25% of its annual revenue to EFL clubs as well as gifting £250 million to the league to sure up clubs during the pandemic and a further £100m to the Football Association.
With the reduction of places in the Premier League, there would be two automatic promotion places for Championship clubs and then the third, fourth and fifth-placed clubs would compete in a play-off tournament with the 16th-placed Premier League club.
A Premier League statement, however, rebuked the plan and said it was important for all sides to 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,” the statement said. Football has many stakeholders, therefore this work should be carried out through the proper channels enabling all clubs and stakeholders the opportunity to contribute.
“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 Premier League has been working in good faith with its clubs and the EFL to seek a resolution to the requirement for COVID-19 rescue funding. This work will continue.”
A conversation around these proposals began as early as 2017 but has been accelerated in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic has continued to affect clubs up and down the English football system.
“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,” Parry said.
ESPN’s Mark Ogden contributed to this report.