Premier League clubs reject Liverpool and Manchester United's 'Project Big Picture'

Clubs agree to work together on a new "strategic plan" for the "financing of English football"

epa08743192 A general view of signage outside Anfield stadium in Liverpool, Britain, 14 October 2020. The Premier League has meets on 14 October to discuss 'Project Big Picture' for the first time.  EPA/PETER POWELL
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Premier League clubs have "unanimously" rejected controversial plans put forward by Liverpool and Manchester United for radical changes to the league's structures and finances.

The 'Project Big Picture' proposals would see an increase in funds for the 72 clubs in the English Football League (EFL) but also include special voting rights for the top clubs in the Premier League and a reduction of teams in the top flight from 20 to 18.

The plan has been fronted by EFL chairman Rick Parry and would have included a £250 million ($325.85m) bail-out for his clubs, who face acute financial issues due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But at a meeting on Wednesday of all 20 of the Premier League's clubs, the plans were rejected with a separate, broader-based review by the entire league initiated.

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

The clubs also decided on a £50m rescue package for League One and Two clubs at the meeting on Wednesday.

"All 20 Premier League clubs today unanimously agreed that Project Big Picture will not be endorsed or pursued by the Premier League, or The FA," the league said in a statement.

"Further, Premier League Shareholders agreed to work together as a 20-club collective on a strategic plan for the future structures and financing of English football, consulting with all stakeholders to ensure a vibrant, competitive and sustainable football pyramid."

The process will include the English Football Association, the UK government and the EFL, added the statement.

The Premier League also said they had agreed to offer a rescue package to League One and League Two (third and fourth tier clubs).

"This offer will consist of grants and interest-free loans totalling a further £50m on top of the £27.2m solidarity payments already advanced to League One and League Two this year, making a total of £77.2m.

"Discussions will also continue with the EFL regarding Championship clubs' financial needs. This addresses government concerns about lower league clubs' financial fragility," said the statement.

Before the meeting took place, Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow had indicated his opposition to Project Big Picture.

He told BBC Radio 4 Today: "I don't think we should give too much credence to this particular plan. I think a much broader, long-term plan for football is what I would expect to come from the Premier League.

"Already this season, each Championship club has received nearly £5m from the Premier League which is twice what they receive from their TV contracts.

"The idea that somehow the Premier League does not already take a hugely important role in funding the whole of the pyramid is fantasy.

"While I applaud the notion that the Championship, League One and League Two want to engage with the Premier League, the way to do that is to talk to the chairman and the chief executive of that league, through the front door, not to head over to Florida or Boston and discuss it with only two Premier League teams.

"I think it's amazing that the head of the EFL, which is already receiving nearly £400m a year, would have chosen to go live with a plan without discussing it directly with the Premier League."