EXCLUSIVE: £150m bailout REJECTED by the EFL as Premier League’s loan offer is derided as a ‘gun to the head’… and lower league clubs who largely support Project Big Picture will look at the proposals again
The EFL have rejected the Premier League’s £150million rescue package because they do not accept the conditions attached to what is primarily a loan.
The offer of financial help, which was ordered by the Government to get football through the pandemic, is not a part of the Project Big Picture plan which has rocked the game.
Sportsmail can reveal the full details of the Premier League’s initial offer for the first time — a £40m grant and £110m loan contingent on the lower divisions giving top-flight clubs control of the calendar, their spending levels and post-Brexit work-permit arrangements, as well as scrapping the League Cup and accepting there will be no promotion from the Championship in the event of curtailment unless 75 per cent of fixtures have been completed.
EFL have rejected the Premier League’s £150m bailout, which is not part of Project Big Picture
The Premier League’s initial £150million offer included the potential scrapping of League Cup
The £40m is a figure that clubs are projected to make over the season from the controversial new pay-per-view TV offering which launches this weekend.
EFL chief executive David Baldwin briefed the 72 clubs on the Premier League’s offer in three separate divisional meetings on Tuesday and was told in no uncertain terms that it should be rejected.
‘It’s not a bailout, it’s a gun to the head,’ a club source said.
‘There’s no way we can accept those conditions. We’d be giving the Premier League complete control of the calendar, our competitions and spending, in return for a loan most clubs cannot afford to repay anyway.’
The EFL have been seeking a bailout from the Premier League to help them cope with the Covid-19 crisis since May, when Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden made such a rescue package a condition of the Government supporting Project Restart, the resumption of last season after lockdown.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said a rescue package was a condition of Project Restart
Dowden is expected to face a grilling from MPs over why the Government have not applied more pressure to the Premier League to fulfil their pledge when he appears before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Wednesday, with the unhappiness of many politicians likely to be increased by Sportsmail’s revelation of their initial offer.
EFL chairman Rick Parry has made it clear the lower divisions need £250m to ensure all the clubs can keep paying their players and therefore playing matches in the absence of gate receipts this season.
The Premier League’s offer is £100m less than that figure, however, and over two-thirds of it comprises a loan.
A number of EFL clubs told Sportsmail on Tuesday night that the £40m grant is less than the money the Premier League recouped in parachute payments this summer after Fulham and West Bromwich were promoted from the Championship, a saving that netted the top flight a cash injection of more than £50m.
Current EFL chairman Rick Parry has made it clear that the lower divisions need £250m
As well as reluctance to accept a large loan with no guarantee of when the return of fans to stadiums will enable them to honour the repayment schedule, the number of conditions attached makes the offer unpalatable.
Sportsmail has previously reported that the Premier League were demanding the EFL sign up to their curtailment plan, which could limit promotion and relegation between the top two divisions, as well as provide support in their battle with the FA for unlimited access to signing foreign players after Brexit.
The ability of Premier League clubs to recruit under 18s from anywhere in the world could have damaging consequences for clubs lower down the pyramid, as selling academy players to the top flight is integral to their business models, a critical source of revenue that would be threatened by an open-border policy.
In addition, it can now be revealed that the Premier League are demanding assurances over reform of the calendar, with the expectation that the League Cup will be scrapped to create room for an expanded Champions League.
Offer from Premier League – led by chief Richard Masters – was derided as a ‘gun to the head’
STATEMENT FROM FANS’ GROUPS OF THE BIG SIX
Manchester United Supporters’ Trust join fans of Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, Spurs, and Chelsea to oppose Project Big Picture.
The fans we represent are fortunate to support clubs that regularly secure the largest financial revenues in the Premier League.
But all of us understand that football doesn’t work in isolation. It’s a family. It requires a fair share of resources to ensure that the Premier League is competitive to watch and that the lower leagues flourish.
While the six clubs we support are widely reported to be the instigators of Project Big Picture, it is important we state very clearly that we do not support the proposals in their current form.
By floating this latest plan, those behind it are acknowledging football needs to be reformed. It’s something we have been saying for many years. There are some suggestions in this plan that have merit.
But we are totally opposed to concentrating power in the hands of six billionaire owners and departing from the one club, one vote and collective ethos of the Premier League.
The Premier League also want the introduction and oversight of a salary cap in all three divisions which will enable them to restrict rivals’ spending, a demand the Championship clubs regard as unacceptable.
‘The Premier League have been informed that the offer is not acceptable,’ said a source with knowledge of the negotiations. ‘It’s little more than blackmail. They need to go away and try again.’
With the initial bailout offer deemed to be derisory, the EFL will instead focus on examining the Project Big Picture proposals in more detail after the majority of clubs welcomed them on Tuesday.
Several clubs criticised elements of the radical plans that have been developed by Liverpool and Manchester United, with concerns over the future of their academies a particular issue for clubs in League One and League Two and others worried over whether the Big Six can be trusted.
With an immediate £250m bailout on offer and the promise of a 25 per cent share in future Premier League television revenues to come, however, it is in their interests to pursue the project, even if the EFL have no power to deliver it.
‘An overwhelming majority of clubs indicated a willingness to discuss the proposals further on the basis that the primary benefits for the future of the English pyramid are clear,’ said an EFL spokesperson.
The 20 Premier League clubs will discuss Project Big Picture for the first time in what is expected to be a heated meeting on Wednesday, amid considerable resentment from the 14 clubs who have been excluded from the talks so far.
In another sign of increasing division at the heart of the sport, FA chairman Greg Clarke provided a stark warning on Tuesday that the governing body could block the reforms, revealing that he walked away from the discussions when the threat of a breakaway league was mooted by Liverpool and United.
FA chairman Greg Clarke revealed he walked away from the discussions on Project Big Picture
Liverpool owner John W Henry (L) and Man United chief Joel Glazer (R) are two of the key figures behind the plans
‘Change must benefit clubs, fans and players, not just selective balance sheets,’ Clarke said. ‘With the knowledge of senior board members and our CEO, I participated in the early stages of talks.
‘However, when the principal aim became the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs with a breakaway league mooted as a threat, I discontinued my involvement and counselled a more consensus-based approach involving all Premier League clubs.Our game needs to continually seek to improve, but benefits need to be shared.’
Fans’ groups came out in opposition to Project Big Picture on Tuesday with the Football Supporters’ Association describing it as a ‘sugar-coated cyanide pill’.