Premier League giants driving 'major shake-up' that would shrink top flight

11 October 2020, 17:33 | Updated: 11 October 2020, 17:56

Manchester United and Liverpool are behind the proposed Premier League overhaul
Manchester United and Liverpool are behind the proposed Premier League overhaul. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Liverpool and Manchester United are leading the charge for the Premier League's 'biggest shake-up' in a generation that would reduce the top flight to 18 teams.

Under the plans, titled 'Project Big Picture, the Premier League would be reduced by two teams, more power would be given to the 'big six' clubs and the League Cup and Community Shield would be abolished.

In return, the 72 clubs in the English Football League (EFL) would receive 25 per cent of the top flight's annual income plus an up-front payment of £250 million to help the EFL through the current financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Revealed in the Telegraph, the proposal is being driven by the EFL's chairman Rick Parry and has garnered support from Liverpool’s American ownership Fenway Sports Group and Man United co-chairman Joel Glazer.

They are anticipating that it will also be backed by Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur - the so-called 'big six'.

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The Premier League's democratic one-club, one-vote principle would be torn up, granting the big six greater sway on important decisions, and the threshold of 14 votes to ratify decision or regulation changes would also be abolished.

Mr Parry said the radical overhaul of the Premier League is the best way to safeguard the future of clubs outside the top flight.

"It is definitely going to be challenging and it is an enormous change so that won't be without some pain," the league chairman 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?"

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There is no set date for the proposed changes, however sources have suggested that the 2022-23 season is under consideration.

As well as the big six, ever-present league members Everton, Southampton and West Ham United would also be granted special status, meaning that if six of those nine clubs vote in favour of a proposal, it would get passed.

The Premier League expressed its disappointment in Mr Parry's support for the plans which it said would be "damaging" for the English game.

"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," said a statement for the league.

"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.

"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 plan would see the Football Association gifted £100 million in order to sustain the body.

In addition, there would be play-offs between the club placed 16th in the Premier League and the clubs who finish third, fourth and fifth in the Championship, while those who place first and second in the second flight would continue to be granted automatic promotion.

Accrington chairman Andy Holt believes without major change the EFL is on a "one-way ticket to disaster".

"There was always going to be a price to pay. Not heard a jot from @EFL about this and much of the detail is missing," he wrote on Twitter.

"An attachment to earnings order at 25 per cent is better for championship by far. I'm not automatically opposed or horrified by this.

"The @EFL is on a one way ticket to disaster as things stand. It cannot survive in the existing set up with the @premierleague.

"It will fail and break up as clubs fail. I'm glad for once everyone round the table accepts this."

Reacting to the developments, the Football Supporters' Association said it "notes the report with grave concern" and added: "Football is far more than a business to be carved up; it is part of our communities and our heritage, and football fans are its lifeblood. As football's most important stakeholders, it is crucial that fans are consulted and involved in the game's decision-making."

A statement from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport expressed disappointment at the plans.

"We are surprised and disappointed that at a time of crisis when we have urged the top tiers of professional football to come together and finalise a deal to help lower-league clubs, there appear to be backroom deals being cooked up that would create a closed shop at the very top of the game," a DCMS spokesperson said.

"Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that may undermine them is deeply troubling. Fans must be front of all our minds, and this shows why our fan-led review of football governance will be so critical."