Radical proposals for the reform of English football could have a “damaging impact” on the game, says the Premier League.
Under the proposals, led by Liverpool and Manchester United, the English top flight would be cut to 18 teams.
The plans would see the Premier League hand over the £250m bailout required by the Football League to stave off a financial disaster among its 72 clubs.
The Premier League would also hand over 25% of its annual income to the EFL.
“English football is the world’s most watched, and has a vibrant, dynamic and competitive league structure that drives interest around the globe,” a Premier League statement said.
“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.”
Under the proposals, the EFL Cup in its present form would be abolished and the Community Shield scrapped.
In addition, the top flight’s 14-club majority voting system would change.
English Football League chairman Rick Parry is in favour of the plans.
“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,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
The Premier League statement added: “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.”
It is understood Liverpool’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group, came forward with the initial plan, which has been worked on by United co-chairman Joel Glazer. It is anticipated it will receive the backing of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur – the other members of England’s ‘big six’.
The idea is to address longstanding EFL concerns about the huge gap in funding between its divisions and the Premier League by handing over 25% of the annual income, although the current parachute payment system would be scrapped.
There would be a £250m up-front payment to address the existing crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic, seen by some as a bid to garner support for the proposals.
In addition, the Football Association would receive what is being described as a £100m “gift”.
No date has been set for the proposed new-style league to be in operation but sources have suggested 2022-23 is not out of the question.
In order to get down from 20 to 18, it is anticipated four clubs would be relegated directly, with two promoted from the Championship. In addition, there would be play-offs involving the team to finish 16th in the Premier League and those in third, fourth and fifth in the second tier.
It is also planned that, as well as the ‘big six’, ever-present league member Everton, West Ham United and Southampton – ninth and 11th respectively in the list of clubs who have featured in the most Premier League seasons – would be granted special status.
If six of those nine clubs vote in favour of a proposal, it would be enough to get it passed.
There is no mention of Aston Villa and Newcastle United, both of whom have featured in more Premier League campaigns than Manchester City.
Analysis – ‘hugely divisive and potentially seismic’
BBC sports editor Dan Roan
This is a hugely divisive and potentially seismic proposal, threatening the biggest shake-up of the English game in a generation.
Angered by the way the story broke without their blessing, the Premier League has already given it short shrift, viewing this as a regrettable power-grab. In fact one well-placed Premier League source has described it as a “takeover attempt, rather than a rescue package”.
Many will see this as an anti-competitive plot to concentrate power in the hands of the biggest clubs, opening the door to them controlling broadcast contracts and financial rules in a way top-flight bosses have always been desperate to avoid – a step towards a European Super League, and a means of freeing up space in the calendar to play more lucrative pre-season friendlies.
For years the bigger clubs have wanted more money and more sway. This is the most dramatic manifestation of that to date. But will it get off the ground? There will be huge doubts given 14 clubs would need to approve a plan that would mean fewer Premier League places. But the involvement of the two biggest clubs in the country means this surprising development has to be taken seriously.
At a time when the EFL is facing an unprecedented financial crisis however, it is easy to see why they would support a plan that would hand them the £250m they need to cover the loss of match-day revenue this season. And many in football will welcome the idea of a more redistributive financial model, with 25% of Premier League income shared at a time when the gulf between the divisions has been identified as a major problem.
Indeed, if the threat of this plan helps break the impasse between the Premier League and the government over a rescue package for the EFL, and a more redistributive financial ‘reset’, perhaps it can emerge as a positive development.