EFL clubs will grasp Liverpool and Manchester United's 'Big Picture'

EXCLUSIVE: EFL clubs will grasp Liverpool and Manchester United’s ‘Project Big Picture’ like a ‘drowning man’, warns MP Damian Collins – who claims the lower leagues may be SUSPENDED over bailout delay

  • Manchester United and Liverpool’s Project Big Picture plan has been slammed
  • It is a response to football’s financial crisis, but is seen as an elite power grab 
  • Damian Collins says clubs close to going bust have no choice but to accept plan
  • EFL clubs meet to discuss proposals on October 15 with Rick Parry in favour 
  • Widely-criticised plan may delay EFL bailout and could send clubs to the wall 
  • Sportsmail understands EFL is aware of seven clubs struggling to pay their staff
  • EFL clubs may choose to stop playing to limit losses if bailout is delayed

Cash-strapped clubs in the English Football League (EFL) will grasp Manchester United and Liverpool’s Project Big Picture proposals like a ‘drowning man clutching a lifeline’, it’s been claimed today.

MP Damian Collins warns that the Project Big Picture proposals could delay a bailout for the EFL and force some clubs out of business, while risking a suspension of league matches

MP Damian Collins, who has been the principle advocate in Parliament for a support package for EFL clubs, fears the urgent need for short-term support due to the financial crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic will persuade some clubs to back Project Big Picture, even though it has been widely condemned as ruinous for English football.

The 72 English league clubs will discuss the proposals, which include controversial reforms such as reducing the number of Premier League teams to 18, giving the ‘Big Six’ clubs – United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – an effective veto on governance decisions and a greater share of broadcast revenues, at a meeting on October 15.

‘There are a lot of clubs thinking they will go bust,’ said Mr Collins, who is a former chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

‘There is no match revenue or bailout. It is like a drowning man clutching a lifeline. They may think: “If I can get money, I can keep going.”

‘A lot of League One and Two clubs will not be thinking of playing in the Premier League, they will be thinking of survival.

Teams in the EFL like Salford City and Tranmere (pictured) in League Two have no matchday income to sustain them because fans are banned from grounds under Covid-19 restrictions

‘Linking reforms to making football more sustainable is right,’ added Mr Collins, who believes some aspects of the plan, such as improving financial accountability within the EFL, make sense.

‘It should be a serious discussion. Power grabs by a few clubs cannot be acceptable.’

The Project Big Picture plan offers an immediate £250million bailout for the EFL and an increase in the top flight’s financial contribution to the lower divisions to around £700m per year.

Sportsmail understands that the EFL is aware of seven clubs that are struggling to pay wages in October and without a cash boost they will go bust this month or next.

Many more are believed to be close to the brink, with the Covid-19 crisis cutting off matchday revenues because stadiums remain closed while clubs are still paying players and staff, and as yet there has been no agreement of a bailout, which has been costed at £250m to cover gate receipts.

EFL chairman Rick Parry is a big supporter of the controversial Project Big Picture proposals

Liverpool owner John Henry (left) and Manchester United co-owner Joel Glazer (right) have been the brains behind Project Big Picture, working secretly with Parry on the plans

However, the Project Big Picture proposals may end up delaying any bailout for the EFL since they would have to be agreed by the clubs in the lower divisions and the Premier League, which is deeply divided.

Mr Collins warned that may cause some clubs to go bust, but also result in a suspension of the EFL.

‘For a lot of clubs at the moment they may keep going a bit longer, but they end up bleeding to death,’ said Mr Collins. ‘For some, there is the prospect of burning money until there is nothing left, or stopping now.

‘Do we wait until we run out of money or do we stop?

‘You could reach a point where EFL clubs say we are going to stop playing. We will have to mothball.

‘These are the questions going on at the moment.’ 

EFL clubs are in desperate need of money after Covid-19 reduced matchday income to zero

EFL chairman Rick Parry is strongly in favour of the radical reforms, having worked on them in secret with Joel Glazer and John Henry, the owners of Manchester United and Liverpool, respectively.

Parry argues that the plans would provide a reset to reduce the financial chasm between the Premier League and the Championship in particular, as well as preventing League One and League Two clubs going bust in the Covid-19 crisis.

However, they have been strongly opposed by government. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman outlined his opposition on Monday, stating the plan ‘does not command support through the Premier League and it is exactly this type of back-room dealing that undermines trust in football’s governance’.

Southend United, pictured away to Carlisle United, are among clubs facing financial difficulty

Mr Collins said the government now needs to intervene to find a solution quickly.

‘The question now is: what is the alternative? It desperately needs the Government with the Premier League to come up with an alternative plan,’ said the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe.

‘If you ask the big clubs for support they will offer it on their own terms not necessarily the right ones for the good of the game.’

‘The Government needs to get involved. League One and Two is easier [to solve] because the money needed is less.

‘If this Big Picture plan does not go anywhere what happens next? I think we will see the first clubs fail publicly. If not this month, then certainly in the next month.’

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