Manchester United has given its backing to the proposed shake-up
Manchester United has given its support to the proposed overhaul, which would shrink the Premier League from 20 to 18 clubs © AP

The Premier League and the British government have hit out over radical plans to restructure English football that would include a bailout for lower leagues and hand power to an elite cohort.

Liverpool and Manchester United are among the clubs that have thrown their weight behind what would be the biggest shake-up in the game since the Premier League launched in 1992.

Under the proposals, the Premier League would take out a loan to provide a £250m rescue for the 72 clubs below the top tier. The English Football League, which runs the lower three divisions, would not have to repay the money as it would be structured as an advance on future revenue to be shared by the Premier League.

It would also shrink the Premier League from 20 to 18 clubs, with the nine clubs that have played longest in the top division granted additional powers through special voting rights. Through a two-thirds majority they would be able block club sales and veto changes to the way broadcasting rights are sold.

The Premier League said on Sunday that it was “disappointed” that EFL chair Rick Parry was one of the architects of the initiative, dubbed “Project Big Picture”, and warned that many of the proposals could have a “damaging impact on the whole game”.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which has pushed the Premier League to bail out lower-league clubs, said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the proposals. “There appear to be backroom deals being cooked up that would create a closed shop at the very top of the game,” said the DCMS.

The proposals, first reported by the Daily Telegraph, have been drawn up by the EFL and a number of top flight clubs. They are separate to the division’s restructuring talks with the Premier League. Some elements predate coronavirus, which has created the need for a short-term rescue as lower league clubs seek to survive without vital match-day revenue.

The plan would also share 25 per cent of the Premier League’s annual net media revenues with the EFL.

“Discussion and planning around Project Big Picture has been ongoing for quite some time, unrelated to the current pandemic but now has an urgency that simply cannot be denied,” said Mr Parry.

The EFL chair also hopes to achieve his goal of abolishing so-called parachute payments, which the Premier League makes to clubs relegated from the top tier to the Championship.

Mr Parry says the payments, which have added up to £246m for the eight most recently relegated teams, encourage rivals to overspend in order to keep up. Championship teams paid 107 per cent of their revenues in wages in the 2018-19 season, according to Deloitte.

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