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World exclusive: Man Utd and Liverpool driving 'Project Big Picture' - football’s biggest shake-up in a generation

18-team Premier League, increased EFL funding and axing of League Cup among raft of proposals in 'Revitalisation' document seen by Telegraph

BySam Wallace, CHIEF FOOTBALL WRITER11 October 2020 • 11:45am
Under radical new proposals, the Premier League would be reduced to 18 teams

Manchester United and Liverpool are the driving force behind the biggest changes to English football in a generation and an extraordinary overhaul of the Premier League, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

The two clubs have worked together on a radical set of proposals – called “Project Big Picture” - that will reshape the finances of the game. The Premier League, the most lucrative sports league in the world, would see a reduction to 18 teams, and controlling power in the hands of the biggest clubs.

In return for tearing up many of the rules that have governed the game since the Premier League’s inception in 1992 there will be £250 million rescue package to the Football League to see them through the Covid crisis.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the details of the working document “Revitalisation” authored by Liverpool’s American ownership Fenway Sports Group with support from United. It anticipates the backing of the other members of the so-called big six, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

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In a remarkable set of proposals, which will send shockwaves through the game, 25 per cent of the Premier League’s annual revenue will go to the EFL clubs with £250 million paid up front to see them through the current crisis. There would also be a gift of £100 million to sustain the Football Association.

However, there would be an abolition of the one-club, one-vote principle that has sustained the Premier League since its inception as well as the abolition of the threshold of 14 votes to pass any decision or regulation change.

Under the new proposals, the Community Shield would be abolished
Under the new proposals, the Community Shield would be abolished CREDIT: Shutterstock

Under the new proposals, the League Cup and the Community Shield would be abolished. There have been additional discussions that the League Cup would survive but without the participation of the clubs in Europe.

There would be two automatic promotion places for Championship clubs, but the third, fourth and fifth placed clubs would be in a play-off tournament with the 16th placed Premier League club.

The nine clubs who have been in the Premier League for the longest - which includes the big six - would dictate its running in every aspect and would be free to play more games in the expanded Champions League that is anticipated from the 2024-2025 season onwards.

As well as the Premier League dropping from 20 clubs to 18, there would be 24 in each of the Championship, League One and League Two making a total of 90.

The plan is supported by the EFL chairman Rick Parry who has held talks with Liverpool’s principal owner, the American investor John W Henry, and shareholder and director Mike Gordon. In addition, Parry has spoken to the Glazer family, who own United.

The plan is supported by the EFL chairman Rick Parry 
The plan is supported by the EFL chairman Rick Parry  CREDIT: AP

The talks began in 2017 but have been accelerated since the coronavirus pandemic has thrust football into the grip of crisis with no fans in stadiums until March at the earliest. Liverpool and United are prepared for a fierce debate over their proposals but they want them implemented as soon as possible.

The Revitalisation document calls for immediate action to cut dramatically what it calls the “revenue chasm” in earnings from television contracts between the Premier League and the EFL. In order to discourage Championship clubs from gambling recklessly on promotion, the parachute payments system would be abolished in favour of the 25 per cent share of Premier League revenue being shared more equitably among EFL clubs.

Under proposals for the new model of distribution of television revenue in the Premier League, Fenway, the driving force behind the document, insist there would be no greater share for the top six. Their stated aim is to eliminate the huge gap in earnings between Premier League and EFL clubs while in return having a greater control of the decisions made by the Premier League.

The document says: “A reset of the economics and governance of the English football pyramid is long overdue”.

The proposals also rewrite the Premier League’s 20-club democracy in favour of placing huge power in the hands of the nine clubs with the longest continual stay in the division. As things stand that is the big six, as well as Everton, Southampton and West Ham. Those nine clubs afforded “long-term shareholder status” would have unprecedented power, with the votes of just six of them required to make sweeping changes. These clubs would even be able to veto a new owner taking over a rival club.

The power will move into the hands of the nine clubs with the longest continual stay in the division - which includes West Ham
The power would move into the hands of the nine clubs with the longest continual stay in the division - which includes West Ham CREDIT: Getty Images

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph, Parry said that he had the support of many of his 72 members, many currently facing financial ruin, to go ahead with the plan. He said: “What do we do? Leave it exactly as it is and allow the smaller clubs to wither? Or do we do something about it? And you can’t do something about it without something changing. And the view of our clubs is if the [big] six get some benefits but the 72 also do, we are up for it.”

He accepted there would be opposition from the Premier League clubs outside the big six who would see it as detrimental to their financial prospects with less money and two fewer places in the top flight.

“It is definitely going to be challenging and it is an enormous change so that won’t be without some pain,” Parry said: “Do I genuinely think it’s for the greater good of the game as a whole? Absolutely. And if the [big] six are deriving some benefit then why shouldn’t they. Why wouldn’t they put their names to this otherwise?”

The proposals include:

  • £250 million immediately to the EFL to compensate its clubs for lost matchday revenue, deducted from future television revenue earnings and financed by a loan taken out by the Premier League
  • Special status for the nine longest serving clubs – and the vote of only six of those “long-term shareholders” required to make major changes, including amending rules and regulations, agreeing contracts, removal of the chief executive, and a wide-ranging veto including on club ownership
  • Premier League to go to 18 clubs from 20
  • £100 million one-off gift to the FA to cover its coronavirus losses, the non-league game, the women’s game, the grassroots
  • 8.5 per cent of annual net Premier League revenue to go on operating costs and “good causes” including the FA
  • From the remainder, 25 per cent of all combined Premier League and Football League revenues to go to the EFL clubs
  • Six per cent of Premier League gross revenues to pay for stadium improvements across the top four divisions, calculated at £100 per seat
  • New rules for the distribution of Premier League television income, overseas and domestic, including proposals that base one portion on performance over three years in the league
  • The abolition of the League Cup and the Community Shield
  • 24 clubs each in the Championship, League One and League Two reducing the professional game overall from 92 clubs to 90
  • A women's professional league independent of the Premier League or the FA
  • Two sides automatically relegated from the Premier League every season and the top two Championship teams promoted. The 16th place Premier League club in a play-off tournament with the Championship’s third, fourth and fifth placed teams.
  • Financial fair play regulations in line with Uefa, and full access for Premier League executive to club accounts
  • A fan charter including capping of away tickets at £20, away travel subsidised, a focus on a return to safe standing, a minimum away allocation of eight per cent capacity
  • Later Premier League start in August to give greater scope for pre-season friendlies, and requirement for all clubs to compete once every five years in a summer Premier League tournament
  • Huge changes to loan system allowing clubs to have 15 players out on loan domestically at any one time and up to four at a single club in England
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Gav Mack11 Oct 2020 12:35PM
 
 

I wrote a piece on this about 6 weeks ago, edited it with my ideas and then posted on my social media on Saturday 10th October

 
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Pale Blue Dot11 Oct 2020 12:35PM
 
 

These proposals are an outrageous attempt at forming a protectionist cartel. The idea that the potential ownership of a club can be vetoed by such a cartel leaves me speechless.

 
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Jonathan Karmi11 Oct 2020 12:34PM
 
 

 

Two ugly things in these proposals :-

1) The ability of the big six to veto changes of ownership, in other words they are entrenching their dominance at the expense of other clubs, who might be lucky enough to attract new mega-rich owners as Chelsea and Man City have done.

2) The ability to send a ridiculous number of players out on loan. That enables the big six to buy up and retain nearly all of the talented 15 to 20 year olds who are out there. It will make it much more difficult for a Championship club for example, to take a highly talented young player, develop him and then eventually sell him off for £20m to £30m.

Apart from these ugly elements, I generally support the proposals. It's important to keep the EFL teams going as traditionally they have been the foundation of the English game.

 
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Peter Bolt11 Oct 2020 12:32PM
 
 

 

London  &  The  North  West .

Nobody else will have  a  say .

The  only other interested  parties  will be  the  TV Company`s . (  where incidentally  are to be  found  the TV Companies  ) 

 
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Steve Townsend11 Oct 2020 12:28PM
 
 

Only a matter of time then before relegation from the EPL is removed completely  to preserve the status of the “elite” clubs forever.

 
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Norman Wilson11 Oct 2020 12:26PM
 
 

 

So now we know why the Premier League didn't want the PIF takeover of Newcastle to go through.

The Premier League is a cartel set up to look after the interests of the self declared "Big Six" nothing more.

 
1LikeReply
 
 
E Bee11 Oct 2020 12:25PM
 
 

 

Ridiculous!

 

The only thing i would like to see is a BBC football channel where it only streams football matches on a rolling basis. The BBC should be given these matches free, one week after the match is played.

 

 
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Barry Guevara11 Oct 2020 12:24PM
 
 

 

I support one of the so called elite clubs but the second best thing to happen in football over the past decade was Leicester winning the title. Surely reducing the teams down to 18, lessens the chances of something like that happening again.

I'm left think greedy *******.

 
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Born Londoner11 Oct 2020 12:20PM
 
 

As a supporter of a premier league club not in the “big six” or the “longest serving 9”, these proposals disgust me. I wish the premier league only got a fraction of its income and these big clubs learnt some humility. They are the ugly face of globalisation.

 
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JM Hall11 Oct 2020 12:18PM
 
 

That pain Man Utd will feel will be the bullet they shot into their foot when they finish 29th.

 
1LikeReply
 
 
john rodger11 Oct 2020 12:17PM
 
 

it was always heading that way. PL are terrified of a breakaway euro league. the rest of us can look forward to paying higher subscriptions just to watch our teams win nothing! not me.

 
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Paul Hurved11 Oct 2020 12:15PM
 
 

6 greedy b@stards wanting even more power. Things would never change in the future

 
6LikeReply
 
 
Splodger fisher11 Oct 2020 12:13PM
 
 

 

Sky have taken our footy,cricket,golf,boxing,and god know what else.

Like Amazon,they have become TOO POWERFUL.

They need a haircut,and we need to be able to stream our sports..for a fair price.

 
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Green Fly11 Oct 2020 12:09PM
 
 

 

Christmas has come early for Southampton and West Ham.

It's not so very long since they were in the Championship. This demonstrates just how volatile the Premier league is and how inappropriate a selective system based on a snapshot in time as proposed is.

I don't support any Premier League side, but I'd be spitting blood if I were an Aston Villa or Leicester City supporter.

A classic case of "I'm all right Jack."

 
4LikeReply
 
Green Fly11 Oct 2020 12:15PM
 
 

Even some of the 'big six' have been relegated in my lifetime, but have kept their places by grabbing football's riches.

 
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Splodger fisher11 Oct 2020 12:08PM
 
 

 

I cancelled my sky sports subscription 2 years ago...it’s outrageous how the Sky sports sharks,and to a lesser extent BT,have taken over our nationall sport.

Footy on tv is now for the rich...the poorer fans have been locked out

We need a national boycott of sky sport and all things sky....

 
6LikeReply
 
john rodger11 Oct 2020 12:17PM
 
 

@Splodger fisher i agree. it's a stitch up. 

 
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James Miller11 Oct 2020 12:05PM
 
 

blimey , the league cup, Arsenal and Spurs and ManU will never win anything then .

 
6LikeReply
 
 
ALEXANDER Slater11 Oct 2020 12:02PM
 
 

And what about the implementation of the streaming of ALL premier league matches in the united kingdom, instead of the sky/ bt system. Come on!

 
2LikeReply
 
 
Robert Gardner11 Oct 2020 12:01PM
 
 

 

Maybe a mass withdrawal of TV subscriptions would put a stop to the greed of the greedy.

I am ready to do just that.Not so desperate to watch premier league cheats.

 
4LikeReply
 
 
Jack Tomlinson11 Oct 2020 12:01PM
 
 

The crucial, but surely terrible, part is that 6 of the 9 "long-term shareholders" can veto new owners for other clubs (if I've read correctly). So Liverpool, City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs are all that's needed to stop other clubs changing owners. I'm a Wolves fan and Fosun have been great for us, but if you are a member of the "long-term shareholders" then clubs like Wolves having owners like Fosun is certainly not good for you.

 
3LikeReply
 
Geoff Eyre11 Oct 2020 12:25PM
 
 

@Jack Tomlinson A lot of the changes seem to be good but this is the key sticking would ManUhave allowed Abu Dhabi to take over City if these rules had been in place. The self-interests of the Big Six could be very 

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© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2020
 

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Unashamed power grab from the Big 6.

Bad for football. Really bad for football. Why can't they just F*** off and make a european super-league and leave everybody else to play proper football.

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Good that you didn’t just do a link, but baked the thread blooming long!

Makes some sense, though this ‘big 6’ thing is bull and just them seeking power they shouldn’t have.  I’ve said forever that the play offs should include the third-bottom side from the PL and 3-5th from the Champs, so that bit gets my vote.

Edited by Branston Pickle

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This is being led by a group of Americans. They should never be allowed in this country again. 

The only way to safeguard football is to adopt the German 51/49 model and have one controlling body. 

The really big issue is that the big 6 will be free to change the rules at any time. What do you think will happen? 

If I wanted to see sport run like this I'd move to America. 

The easy solution is for 86 clubs to cut 6 adrift and start a new league without them. 

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Greedy greedy scum they want to take our young players by destroying scholarship league one and below have no academy’s the list of greed goes on and on they can stick it up their **** holes 

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There are lots of good proposals there. Reducing the Premier League to 18 sides would harm yo-yo clubs and bigger second tier sides such as ourselves, but I can see why it makes sense. It would, in theory, increase competitiveness and allow for a proper winter break. Obviously, I also like the idea of distributing more money to the EFL and having a percentage of funds set aside for good causes, the FA and stadium improvements.

However, it is clearly heavily weighted in favour of the big boys. Allowing them to have nearly all the voting power is clearly wrong, as is the abolition of parachute payments: it basically restricts the spending power of the chasing pack, who can't risk a financial oblivion after relegation.

I'd also propose a restructuring to the EFL while we're at it. No country needs five national divisions or 24-team leagues, so I'd actually have a 20-team Championship, a 20-team League One and two 20-team League Twos divided into north and south. It would make leagues tighter and more competitive, whilst also reducing travel costs for the smaller sides. You'd probably then need to keep the League Cup for the 13 Premier League sides and the 80 EFL clubs who will see a slight reduction in league fixtures.

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On 11/10/2020 at 12:54, kick it off said:

Unashamed power grab from the Big 6.

Bad for football. Really bad for football. Why can't they just F*** off and make a european super-league and leave everybody else to play proper football.

On the plus side for those of us who actively want this (euro breakaway), surely the unspoken threat* is they’ll do exactly that if they don’t get this 

 

(...and if somehow they do get this, as a fallback position it’s a pretty barefaced cash-backed coup.)
 

*Unfortunately, The more open, all-but-spoken threat being that the FA and FL will not get the £100m gift + £250m loan,  risking the wholesale corona-collapse of clubs and leagues. So, not good overall.

Edited by GenerationA47
Typos/clarity

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37 minutes ago, Rock The Boat said:

Behind a paywall

The maybe it should remain paid for. Not copied and posted for free elsewhere. I'm pretty sure that isn't generally OK.

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What are they giving away??? Correct me if I’m wrong but they are just using the payment payments of the 3 clubs that get relegated £120 million x 3 £360 million To take all power for themselves they is no way never should the football league agree to this scam... 

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3 minutes ago, South Sider said:

The maybe it should remain paid for. Not copied and posted for free elsewhere. I'm pretty sure that isn't generally OK.

It's the Telegraph. These small steps will help with the needed destruction of the shoddy paper.

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2 minutes ago, 2clubbanker said:

What are they giving away??? Correct me if I’m wrong but they are just using the payment payments of the 3 clubs that get relegated £120 million x 3 £360 million To take all power for themselves they is no way never should the football league agree to this scam... 

This seems to be it. Bung a load of money to clubs so long as they look the other way while the top 6 take over. Sod them. It's not their sport.

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6 minutes ago, Herman said:

It's the Telegraph. These small steps will help with the needed destruction of the shoddy paper.

Nice to see that even when the topic is Football, the old left wing 'chip on shoulder' is still apparent!

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4 minutes ago, yellowrider120 said:

Nice to see that even when the topic is Football, the old left wing 'chip on shoulder' is still apparent!

Speaking as someone who is stuck in the middle politically this does seem like a time when a "left wing chip on the shoulder" is needed. Football is part of our heritage and it's about to be destroyed by capitalism at its very worst. 

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It should be enshrined that there will always be 3 up 3 down without a vote from the 92 clubs.  The League Cup should be maintained but if the big teams don’t want to put a strong team out them fine so be it.  From our point of view it gives our fringe players more chance of keeping fit and gaining experience.

FFP rules or a salary cap need to be implemented in the EFL with the caveat that if a club over spends they have to convert the debt to shares.

 

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I imagine this is a bit like rules at school - you put a few untenable things in - such as the power lying with the longest serving clubs (which is ridiculous as Southampton and Wet Spam have both flirted with relegation in recent years) which you then back down on to get what you really want (the rest of it) so you look reasonable and open to compromise.

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It makes it even harder to get promoted with a playoff including relegated teams, I would rather that four teams get automatically relegated and top four go up, making the spread of wealth over the bottom clubs better! That would give a bigger fund to teams who are classed as yo yo clubs!

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Screw them. Let the big 6 **** off to their European superleague and leave rest of us to it.

Theyll soon realise the grass isn't always greener. For me the main reason European football is so exciting is the rarity of it. If for example Chelsea v Bayern Munich became a twice a year fixture instead of once every 5 years or so it would become the equivalent of stoke v middlesborough on a cold November night very quickly.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, How I Wrote Elastic Man said:

A power grab when the sport is in a weak position

what would happen to the voting system if one of the "special 9" (most likely West Ham or Southampton) got relegated? 5 from 8?

Their place would go to the next longest serving club maybe? The big 6 will.vote the 9 thing out with their 2/3rds majority at the earliest opportunity anyway!

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Why does everyone here want us to be in the Prem again? I mean, I understand the appeal of being a part of the biggest leuge and the money and all

 

But slowly over time the Prem is proving itself to nothing more than a corrupt, elitest snobbery fest who dont give a toss about any team other than the top three

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Self interest from the Big 6 with a sweetener of payments to the EFL to help out during Covid. A power grab and nothing else.

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Man City are only 10th in the list of teams that have spent most seasons in the Premiership.

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Trouble is the only way the EFL will survive is for something like this to happen. I think we have to accept that the pandemic has changed football forever. If you take the emotion out of the subject, actually it seems quite sensible. 

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27 minutes ago, Herman said:

This seems to be it. Bung a load of money to clubs so long as they look the other way while the top 6 take over. Sod them. It's not their sport.

And there it is in a nutshell.

Once the top 6 have the power, the competitiveness (of which there is now very little) nature and chances of success in that league, will be forever gone for anyone except that 6.

It will of course happen but under a different guise.

The reason?

Money!

Shame. We could drip down finances and retain competitiveness.

 

 

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