MP Damian Collins warns that the Big Picture proposals could delay a bailout for the EFL and force some clubs out of business, while risking a suspension of league matches
MP Damian Collins, who has been the principle advocate in Parliament for a support package for EFL clubs, fears the urgent need for short-term support will persuade some clubs to back the plan, even though it has been widely condemned as ruinous for English football.
The 72 English league clubs will discuss the proposals, which include controversial reforms such as reducing the number of Premier League teams to 18, giving the Big Six an effective veto on decisions and a greater share of broadcast revenues, at a meeting October 15.
‘There are a lot of clubs thinking they will go bust,’ said Mr Collins, who is a former chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
‘There is no match revenue or bailout. It is like a drowning man clutching a lifeline. They may think if I can get money, I can keep going.
‘A lot of League One and Two clubs will not be thinking of playing in the Premier League, they will be thinking of survival.
Teams in the EFL like Salford City and Tranmere in Sky Bet League Two have no match day income to sustain them because fans are banned from grounds under Covid-19 restrictions
‘Linking reforms to making football more sustainable is right.,’ added Mr Collins, who believes some aspects of the plan, such as improving financial accountability within the EFL make sense. ‘It should be a serious discussion. Power grabs by a few clubs cannot be acceptable.’
The Big Picture plan offers an immediate £250 million bailout and an increase in the top flight’s financial contribution to the lower divisions to around £700million a year.
Sportsmail understands that the EFL is aware of seven clubs that are struggling to pay wages in October and without a cash boost they will fail this month or next.
Many more are believed to be close to the brink, with the Covid-19 crisis cutting off matchday revenues while they are still paying players and staff and as yet there has been no agreement of a bailout, which has been costed at £250 million to cover gate receipts.
EFL chairman Rick Parry is a big supporter of the controversial Big Picture proposals
However, the Big Picture proposals may end up delaying any bail out for the EFL since they would have to be agreed by the clubs in the league and the Premier League, which is deeply divided.
Mr Collins warned that may cause some clubs to go bust, but also result in a suspension of the EFL.
‘For a lot of clubs at the moment they may keep going a bit longer, but you they end up bleeding to death,’ said Mr Collins. ‘For some, there is the prospect of burning money until there is nothing left, or stopping now.
‘Do we wait until we run out of money or do we stop?
EFL clubs are in desperate need of money after Covid-19 reduced match day income to zero
‘You could reach a point where EFL clubs say we are going to stop playing. We will have to mothball.
‘These are the questions going on at the moment.’
The EFL’s chairman, Rick Parry is strongly in favour of the radical reforms, having worked on them with Joel Glazer and John Henry, the owners of Manchester United and Liverpool, respectively.
He argues that the plans would provide a reset to reduce the financial chasm between the Premier League and the Championship in particular, as well as preventing League One and League Two clubs going bust in the Covid-19 crisis.
However, they have been strongly opposed by government. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman outlined his opposition on Monday, stating the plan ‘does not command support through the Premier League and it is exactly this type of back-room dealing that undermines trust in football’s governance’.
Southend United, pictured away to Carlisle United, are among clubs facing financial difficulty
Mr Collins said the government now needs to intervene to find a solution quickly.
‘The question now is what is the alternative. It desperately needs the government with the Premier League to come up with an alternative plan,’ said the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe.
‘If you ask the big clubs for support they will offer it on their own terms not necessarily the right ones for the good of the game.’
‘The government needs to get involved. League One and Two is easier [to solve] because the money needed is less.
‘If this Big Picture plan does not go anywhere what happens next? I think we will see the first clubs fail publicly. If not this month, then certainly in the next month.’