Liverpool and Manchester United remain determined to bring about a radical restructure that would reduce the size of the Premier League despite fierce opposition from the top flight’s executive, many of its clubs and the Government.
On another dramatic day, Boris Johnson added his voice to the condemnation of Project Big Picture, the FA indicated they could use their ‘golden share’ to block the reforms and the EFL were thrust into fresh turmoil with the resignation of chief executive David Baldwin just when the future of chairman Rick Parry was being questioned.
The Premier League rebels will not be deterred by the chaos that has engulfed them since their controversial plans were leaked on Sunday, and will outline their case at an emergency meeting of the 20 clubs later this week.
Liverpool and Manchester United are still determined to push through Project Big Picture
Liverpool (left) and Manchester United (right) owners met on Monday to discuss their plans
Sportsmail has learned that Liverpool owner John Henry and his United counterpart Joel Glazer held crisis talks on Monday about how to take their project forward in the face of mounting opposition.
Henry and Glazer will continue to push for an 18-club Premier League, which they believe is necessary to create more space in the calendar for the biggest clubs to compete in an expanded Champions League.
However, there is acceptance that proposed governance reforms giving the Big Six an effective veto and a greater share of broadcast revenues may have to be watered down. Introducing the new structure to coincide with the next round of television contracts at the beginning of the 2022-23 season remains their aspiration.
Both Glazer and Henry are trying to reduce the Premier League to just 18 teams rather than 20
Henry and Glazer are also believed to be disputing claims from the Premier League that their proposals would alter the distribution of broadcast revenue and prize money from the top club in the table to the one at the bottom from a ratio of 1.8:1 to 4:1.
They claim the change would be to a more modest ratio of around 2.25:1, which would still make the Premier League the most equitable top division in Europe.
The Americans are also committed to increasing the top flight’s financial contribution to the lower divisions to around £700million a year, which along with a promised £250m Covid-19 bailout has been enough to secure the support of Parry, much to the consternation of many Premier League clubs.
The Premier League have called an emergency meeting of the clubs to clear the air amid anger that the majority of them only learned of the radical proposals when they were leaked on Sunday.
The Premier League are arranging an emergency meeting to have clear-the-air talks with clubs
Representatives of Liverpool and United will be asked to outline their role in developing secret plans that have been in private circulation for so long that Project Big Picture is now on its 17th draft, while the rest of the Big Six will also be held to account after it emerged that they held a private meeting to discuss the proposals last Thursday.
Only Liverpool and Manchester United have confirmed they will be supporting the plans
It is understood that a second meeting scheduled for Sunday was cancelled at the last minute after the plans were leaked.
While the rest of the Big Six are yet to commit to supporting the reforms and are uncomfortable about them being made public, at least one club was sufficiently interested to have submitted proposed revisions to the 17th draft on Friday morning, less than 24 hours after the initial meeting.
Given an 18-team Premier League would suit their long-term strategic interests, it is unlikely they are willing to abandon all of the proposals, either.
Only Liverpool and United were willing to publicly endorse the plans when contacted by Sportsmail on Monday, with eight clubs outlining their opposition, although the fact 10 declined to comment indicates there is a debate to be had.
In another significant development on Monday, the FA indicated they would be willing to use the so-called ‘golden share’ they received when the Premier League was established in 1992 to block the changes.
The FA’s position is a nuanced one rather than being openly hostile, however, because their chairman Greg Clarke has been involved in the discussions for a number of months.
The EFL and chairman Rick Parry (above) are in favour of the Project Big Picture plans
The FA’s main concern is to protect the English football pyramid, so they will be guided by the feelings of clubs in every division.
The governing body have a number of concerns over the proposals, particularly the plan to abolish the Community Shield, which it would fiercely resist due to the value of its broadcasting rights and the money the showpiece occasion generates for charity.
The EFL remain strongly in favour, with Parry arguing 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 are facing other problems following David Baldwin’s unexpected resignation. The former Burnley chief executive only joined the EFL in June, but has quickly become disillusioned due to the difficulties of dealing with a wide range of clubs with competing agendas.
Baldwin will serve a six-month notice period having taken the decision to quit before the plans for Project Big Picture emerged over the weekend.
David Baldwin has quit as chief executive of the EFL despite only taking on the role in June
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed his opposition to Project Big Picture
His departure is a blow for the EFL, not least as he is leading negotiations with the Premier League over the proposed Covid-19 bailout, which could now be in jeopardy due to their disagreement with Parry.
The Premier League took the unusual step of publicly criticising their former chief executive in a strongly-worded statement on Sunday, and Parry is likely to be blamed by EFL clubs if the handout element of Project Big Picture or the bailout fail to materialise.
In another blow to the proposals, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman outlined his opposition, 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’.
SO, HOW WOULD YOUR CLUB VOTE?
By Adrian Kajumba for the Daily Mail
Controversial Project Big Picture plans will require a major overhaul to get off the ground following fierce opposition from the Premier League’s clubs.
Currently, at least 14 of the Premier League’s 20 clubs need to vote in favour of any major proposals in order for them to be introduced.
But at least eight clubs are against PBP, underlining the major task facing Liverpool, Manchester United and EFL chairman Rick Parry, the driving forces behind the previously secret project, to gather support for their radical plans to reshape English football.
As reported yesterday, Brighton, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Sheffield United and West Brom would not back plans to reduce the size of the division to 18, one of the key proposals, under any circumstances. Sportsmail understands West Ham and Leeds are also against the plans in their current form.
The PBP concept has been met with strong objections from a number of the top flights clubs.
Most did not find out about it until the story broke on Sunday, much to their frustration and disappointment. Others only heard unconfirmed rumblings about the plans during last week.
Clubs are due to hold a shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday when the issue will be discussed among the 20 as a whole for the first time, with a series of private conversations among clubs taking place ahead of their virtual league get-together tomorrow.
But many top-flight chiefs believe that, such is the opposition, as it stands the Premier League will not allow the proposals to get as far as a vote.
Instead there is a sense that the revelations about what is being worked on were an attempt to get the ball rolling and, having outlined their wishlist, see which parts those pushing the restructure can get support for.
There is support for the idea of offering the EFL greater financial help.
Indeed, Sportsmail understands it was suggested during last week’s talks about the Premier League’s controversial pay-per-view service that the profits should go to the EFL’s clubs.
But the opposition to giving the top clubs extra voting power and a say in ownership changes is strong while fears about creation of a closed shop have spread throughout the league.
There have also been concerns raised about whether some of the clubs among the long-term shareholders have done enough to warrant now being able to call the shots for the entire division.