Premier League: Radical reform plans in the best interest of clubs, says Rick Parry

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
Rick Parry
Former Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry was appointed EFL chairman in September 2019

English Football League chairman Rick Parry has praised Liverpool and Manchester United for coming up with a plan he believes can protect the English football pyramid.

Parry is backing the controversial proposals, which include reducing the Premier League to 18 clubs and scrapping the EFL Cup.

In return, the EFL would get 25% of all future TV deals, which would be negotiated jointly, plus the £250m bail-out Parry has being demanding since May.

He is adamant those behind the plan will not be deterred, despite fierce opposition from the Premier League, government and fans' groups. Parry also says the Premier League could have come up with its own plan but has failed to do so.

What is the 'Project Big Picture' proposals?

  • The Premier League cut from 20 to 18 clubs, with the Championship, League One and League Two each retaining 24 teams.
  • The bottom two teams in the Premier League relegated automatically with the 16th-placed team joining the Championship play-offs.
  • The League Cup and Community Shield abolished.
  • Parachute payments scrapped.
  • A £250m rescue fund made immediately available to the EFL & 25% of all future TV deals
  • £100m paid to the FA to make up for lost revenue.
  • Nine clubs given 'special voting rights' on certain issues, based on their extended runs in the Premier League.

Who is backing it?

Liverpool and Manchester United have created the plan. No other clubs are yet on the record as supporting it.

"This is two of our great clubs showing leadership and exercising responsibility," said Parry. "The message from Liverpool and Manchester United is that they do genuinely care about the pyramid.

"The Premier League could have come up with a plan like this at any time. How long has it taken to get a rescue package? Months.

"It was May when the government was saying we need the Premier League to step up to the plate. What's wrong with us talking about a plan that is demonstrably in the best interest of the pyramid and our clubs?

"We genuinely think that this is in the best interests of the game as a whole."

Parry accepts the proposals may take some time to gain general approval.

Who is against it?

Crucially, the Premier League.

In a response, it said "individual proposals" in the plan "could have a damaging impact on the whole game", and that it would continue its own work on a "resolution to the requirement for Covid-19 rescue funding" for the EFL.

"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 a statement on Sunday, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it was "surprised and disappointed" by "backroom deals being cooked up".

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Breakfast on Monday: "Now is not the right time. The challenge facing football is ensuring particularly the EFL has the resources to enable its clubs to survive. This deal does not command support throughout the Premier League at all.

"There are the resources there. I have to say that if they can't get together and work together to sort this out, we will have to return to what we promised in our manifesto, which is a fan-led review of football governance because I think many fans will be concerned about what they are reading today."

Parry responded by saying: "What they are saying doesn't make it a non-starter. The merit in this plan still shines through. It is about saving the pyramid. It is difficult to reconcile our thoughts with the government's but this won't deter us."

What happens next?

Apart from the Premier League executive's opposition, the other obvious problem faced by those behind the plan is that they need 14 of the 20 current top-flight clubs to vote in favour.

Given the idea could see up to five clubs relegated in one season to reduce the size of the league to 18, it is easy to see half of the league being against the plan.

However, after speaking to some of the senior EFL clubs - many of whom have been in the Premier League - after news of the proposals first emerged, Parry feels there is a wider view that needs to be taken into account.

Parry says, in 2018-19, Championship clubs received £146m in EFL distributions and Premier League solidarity payments, compared with £1.56bn received by the bottom 14 Premier League clubs.

He added parachute payments made to eight recently relegated clubs totalled £246m and represented one-third of the total Championship turnover - calling it a "major distortion".

"I have been talking about need for a reset for considerable time," said Parry.

"I have highlighted various iniquities, including the problem of parachute payments, the massive disparity between what Premier League and EFL clubs receive in TV revenue and, right across leagues, the requirement for owner funding in excess of £400m a year even without Covid.

"This plan is about removing the cliff edge and narrowing the gap in funding that has caused irrational behaviour.

"There may be some in the Championship who don't fancy the idea of an 18-team Premier League. But they are saying it is time to look at the greater good.

"We have not been used or coerced. Our clubs are hard-bitten. They are looking for hope and a brighter future for the game. This is about a structure that works for 25 years.

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, financial rules and even takeovers bids 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.

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