The vote ends any chance of the current proposals - which were being driven by leading figures at Manchester United and Liverpool with support from the English Football League chairman Rick Parry - from being implemented in their current guise, although they could still be used as a model to draw up a new framework that will revamp the English pyramid.
The emergency meeting saw those Premier League clubs not included in the ‘Big Six’ voice their opposition to Project Big Picture, which would have seen a significant proportion of power afforded to United and Liverpool as well as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
The other 14 clubs opposed Project Big Picture, while the ‘Big Six’ were not entirely on board with the plans, which had been forged in secret talks between Liverpool, United and Parry over the last three years. At the meeting there was some expression of upset with how Parry has gone about his actions this week, having gone on the record with his comments about Project Big Picture when the story originally broke on Sunday.
With the Premier League following the Football Association in speaking out against Project Big Picture, the plans are dead in the water. Once it was made clear that there was strong opposition against their proposals, both Liverpool and Manchester United fell in line with the other 18 clubs to unanimously agree that Project Big Picture was not the way forward.
Although Project Big Picture has been the brainchild of Liverpool owner John W Henry and club president Mike Gordon alongside United co-owner Joel Glazer, none of them appeared in the videoconference meeting. Liverpool were instead represented by chairman Tom Werner, while United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was in attendance along with chief executive Billy Hogan.
A Premier League statement read: “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.
“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.
Clubs will work collaboratively, in an open and transparent process, focusing on competition structure, calendar, governance and financial sustainability.
“This project has the full support of The FA and will include engagement with all relevant stakeholders including fans, government and, of course, the EFL.”
However, the Premier League has agreed a financial rescue package to offer clubs across League One and League Two, which will support them throughout the 2020/21 season. The £77.2m bailout will include an additional £50m in grants and interest-free loans, which would follow solidarity payments of £27.2m that have already been distributed.
But with the Football League throwing its support behind a £250m rescue package that fell under the proposals of Project Big Picture, the decision is set to be a huge blow to a number of clubs that will have hoped for more financial help than is being offered.
The rescue package does not include the Championship clubs, although talks will continue with the EFL about those in the second-tier, with the Premier League keen for government assistance on the matter.
The statement continued: “Also at today’s meeting it was agreed to make available a rescue package which aims to ensure that League One and League Two clubs will not go out of business as a result of the financial impact of Covid-19 and be able to complete the 2020/21 season.
“League One and League Two clubs rely more heavily on matchday revenue and have fewer resources at their disposal than Championship or Premier League clubs and are therefore more at risk, especially at a time when fans are excluded from attending matches.
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.”
The financial rescue package is a result of the matchday revenue lost by the absence of fans since the coronavirus pandemic began seven months ago, although the subject has triggered an ongoing row between sporting bodies and the government over the refusal to allow supporters back into stadia across the country.
Plans were in place for the reintroduction of fans from 1 October following a number of successful pilot events, but they were scrapped last month when coronavirus cases started to rise once again.
The Premier League has joined calls behind the Let Fans In campaign, although the government reiterated on Wednesday that it is “too soon” for doors to be reopened given this week’s tightening on restrictions in certain areas.
“Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them,” the Premier League statement added. “The Premier League and all our clubs remain committed to the safe return of fans as soon as possible.”
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