Both Liverpool and Man Utd (pictured) are in the top six big players. © Action Images via Reuters

In English football, the rule of six relates to something other than Covid-19. It refers to the richest clubs in the Premiership. Teams in lower leagues are struggling financially. But there is stiff opposition to a proposed bailout worth more than £250m from the world’s wealthiest football league. It would mean more power for moneyed clubs, leading perhaps to a “closed shop” of top footballing brands.

The Premier League did agree in principle on Wednesday to do something for their brethren in the bottom two professional leagues, starting with an extra £50m. But the League chose to ignore the plan for now.

Project Big Picture is the brainchild of Rick Parry, the chairman of the English Football League, with input from the largest clubs. It envisages the Premiership making regular payments to smaller, poorer counterparts. Mid-ranking Premier League clubs hate the idea. Their combined voting power gives them clout.

The row revives old pressures within football. Top teams are proud of their success, while lesser clubs look on enviously. The Parry plan foresees the money going to the lower league clubs to cover lost ticket revenues. The Premier League might even transfer 25 per cent of future TV rights, worth over £5bn collectively say Deloitte.

Much of the cash earned in the top league comes from the Big Six. Together Manchester United; Manchester City; Liverpool; Tottenham Hotspur; Chelsea; and Arsenal had 50 per cent more revenue than the other 14 league teams together in the 2018-19 season.

This lower tier of the Premier League carries wage bills accounting for more than two-thirds of top lines — 10 percentage points more than the Big Six. None of these 14 teams really want to subsidise rivals that could be promoted from lower leagues.

Each club in the Premiership has an equal vote in any decision. Mid-tier sides could block Project Big Picture, even if the Big Six supported it. The UK government wants all of them to help out. See this plan as the first shot in a negotiation.

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