Ed Woodward: Manchester United vice-chairman says 'Project Big Picture' was not a power grab

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward
'Project Big Picture' proposals included nine clubs being given special voting rights on certain issues, based on the length of their time in the Premier League.

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has rejected claimsexternal-link 'Project Big Picture' was a "behind-closed-doors power grab".

The plans, put together by Liverpool and Manchester United, would have seen teams in the EFL given £250m to share, plus 25% of revenue from future TV deals that the Premier League secures.

They would have also involved scrapping the Carabao Cup and cutting the Premier League to 18 teams.

The Premier League has agreed to a full review of the proposals, which is due to be completed in March.

The plans for 'Project Big Picture' were leaked to the press in October and provoked a generally negative response, but Woodward said those who reacted were doing so to an incomplete document.

"It's important to reflect that this was a work in progress," said Woodward, speaking to Manchester United's Fans' Forum on 20 November.

"It was not a behind-closed-doors power grab; only draft proposals and a discussion document.

"The next step would have been to roll them out to all stakeholders in search of consensus."

One element of the proposal involved the so-called "Big Six" Premier League clubs - Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea - getting special voting rights on certain issues, along with West Ham, Everton and Southampton.

In October, Premier League clubs "unanimously agreed" that 'Project Big Picture' would not be "endorsed or pursued".

Instead, the clubs agreed to "work together" on a new "strategic plan" for the "financing of English football".

On Thursday, Premier League and English Football League agreed a £250m rescue package to help ease the financial challenge faced by EFL clubs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Woodward had been lobbying for a "no strings attached" offer - and says protecting the English pyramid was at the heart of the talks.

"A strong Premier League and a financially sustainable and robust pyramid are both crucial to the health of the national game and that's the principle we will continue to pursue within the strategic review recently launched by the Premier League," he said.

'A planned, long-term approach to recruitment'

United have played four games since Woodward spoke, winning three but losing in the Champions League to Paris St-Germain at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

He says the club will continue to back manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the transfer market, focusing on summer transfer windows.

"We recognise there's more hard work ahead to achieve the consistency needed to win trophies," said Woodward.

"I said in April we remained committed to strengthening the squad, while being disciplined in our spending during the pandemic.

"I believe we've delivered on that, with the additions we made during the summer taking our total net spending to over €200m (£180m) since summer 2019 - more than any other major European club over that period.

"We will continue to support Ole with a planned, long-term approach to recruitment, focused on the summer windows."

Club to install 1,500 barrier seats

United are to install 1,500 barrier seats - standing with rails - at Old Trafford.

Work will begin early in the new year in the North-East section of the stadium after approval from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.

United have struggled to deal with the problem of persistent standing for a number of years at Old Trafford.

Wolves were given similar permission for their South Stand in 2019 in their bid to tackle persistent standing.

Standing at grounds in the top two tiers of English football is illegal but in 2018 new guidance from safety chiefs allows clubs to install seats with barriers if strict conditions are met.

Fans are currently not allowed to attend games at Old Trafford due to the Government's coronavirus restrictions in Greater Manchester.

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