The English Football League have confirmed discussions over an “innovative proposal” which would see a radical shake-up of the Premier League – and the divisions below.
Known as ‘Project Big Picture’, the plans would see a significant overhaul of the top-flight and the rest of English football – and could have implications for Coventry City.
First revealed by the Telegraph, the new structure would reduce the amount of teams in the Premier League to 18, with an overall reduction in the number of EFL clubs down from 92 to 90.
As part of this, the EFL would receive £250m as an upfront payment and would be entitled to 25 percent of all future net revenue the Premier League receives – but the downside would be increased power to the ‘elite’ clubs within English football.
Instead of the usual 14-team majority needed to pass through any changes from the 20 Premier League clubs, it would be the ‘Big Six’, joined by Everton, West Ham and Southampton, as holding the majority of power within the English game.
The Premier League has already issued a statement hitting out at the proposals, but the EFL and Rick Parry have now spoken publicly themselves.
A statement from the EFL read: “The English Football League today confirms that it has been working on an innovative proposal titled ‘Project Big Picture’ with a number of clubs in the Premier League that looks to reset the economics and governance across the English football pyramid and in the process, protect the game in both the short and long term.”
EFL chair Rick Parry said: “The need for a complete rethinking regarding the funding of English professional football predates the Covid-19 crisis. Discussion and planning around ‘Project Big Picture’ has been ongoing for quite some time, unrelated to the current pandemic but now has an urgency that simply cannot be denied.
“The revenues flowing from the investment and work of our top clubs has been largely limited to the top division creating a sort of lottery, while Championship clubs struggle to behave prudently and Leagues One and Two are financially stretched despite enormous revenues English football generates. This plan devised by our top clubs and the English Football League puts an end to all of that.
“The gap between the Premier League and the English Football League has become a chasm which has become unbridgeable for clubs transitioning between the EFL and Premier League. In 2018/19, Championship clubs received £146m in EFL distributions and Premier League solidarity payments. This compares with £1.58b received by the bottom 14 Premier League clubs – 11 times as much.
“At the same time, parachute payments received by the eight recently relegated clubs totalled £246m. This represents one-third of the total Championship turnover and creates a major distortion that impacts the league annually.
“In an effort to achieve promotion from very small media monies in the Championship to extraordinary sums at the bottom of the Premier League, Championship clubs spent 107 percent of their income on wages last season, a figure that is unsustainable by any analysis but by no means a new phenomenon. The figure has been 99 percent or above in each of the last four seasons. Consequently, our clubs incurred operating losses of £382m last season.
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“In the last 12 months, owners have had to inject some £384m in capital – all before a pandemic created the current financial crisis and impacted clubs, alongside many of the businesses that help fund them.
“Project Big Picture takes a huge step by sharing 25 percent of Premier League media net revenues with the EFL in order to correct this imbalance going forward. Coupled with the introduction of strict cost controls, clubs at every level of the EFL will become properly sustainable even in the face of a major crisis – and more importantly – beyond.
“Just as importantly, the financial gap between the bottom of the Premier League and the top of the Championship will be substantially reduced. This will create a much softer landing for relegated clubs. The elimination of parachute payments will create fairer competition and discourage irrational behaviour.
“The creation of a short-term rescue fund of £250m to replace lost matchday revenue this season and last will enable every club to plan to continue to play and move forward with certainty. As an advance against increased, future revenues this is not a loan and therefore does not need to be repaid. It could never have been repaid under the existing terms and revenue of the English pyramid.
“Now is the time to address both the long-term health of the game and the most challenging short- term crisis it has ever faced. Project Big Picture provides a new beginning which will revitalise the football pyramid at all levels. This new beginning will reinvigorate clubs in the lower leagues and the communities in which they are based.
“The whole of English football has been negatively impacted by this pandemic and the English football pyramid as a whole is only as healthy as those at its base. Through this proposed restructuring we aim to strengthen those who need it most at a time when they need it most. This is about building on what is good and making the most of what works well in order to benefit the game as a whole, while simultaneously tackling those issues which trouble all of us. This is a blueprint for the future of English football and for everyone who cherishes it.”
According to the Telegraph, the plans are reportedly being driven by Liverpool and Manchester United, with parachute payments to the Championship being scrapped in favour of more money being given to clubs across the EFL.
Just three Championship teams would compete in the end-of-season play-offs, with the 16th-placed Premier League side also taking place.
The plans would reshape the finances of the game and would see the Premier League hand out a £250m rescue package to the EFL to help see them through the coronavirus crisis.
Alongside this, the League Cup and Community Shield would both be scrapped, with the controlling power of the Premier League handed to the division’s biggest clubs.
It is said there is a chance the League Cup could survive the shake-up, provided clubs in Europe would no longer take part.
Twenty-five per cent of the Premier League’s annual revenue would go to EFL clubs in the proposals, alongside the proposed rescue package.
The Football Association would also be gifted £100m to see them through the coronavirus crisis.
Yet the one-club, one-vote principle, which sees every Premier League side get an equal say in proceedings, would be scrapped alongside the minimum threshold of 14 votes to pass regulation changes.
The nine clubs who have been in the Premier League the longest would then dictate how the competition is run.
These nine clubs are currently the Big Six, alongside Everton, Southampton and West Ham.
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Just six of them would be required to vote in favour in order to make changes to Premier League regulation.
The Premier League would also shrink to 18 teams, with two being automatically relegated to the Championship.
The team finishing in 16th place would enter the Championship play-offs in order to fight for their survival.
Other proposals include a later start to the Premier League season to allow greater scope for pre-season friendlies, changes to the loan system that would allow clubs to send 15 players out on loan domestically, and a women’s professional league independent of the Premier League and the FA.
Responding to the reports, the Premier League said there should be a discussion in how football comes out the other side of the coronavirus crisis.
The league also criticised EFL chair Parry for backing the plans.
A statement said: “We have seen media reports today regarding a plan to restructure football in this country.
“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.
“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.”