The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will host a meeting with English football’s leading administrators and key figures on Tuesday in an attempt to define the future of the game post-COVID-19, sources have told ESPN.
Secretary of State Oliver Dowden has identified the power vacuum left by Greg Clarke’s departure as Football Association chairman as an opportune moment to bring together the game’s stakeholders to help thrash out a more sustainable path after months of slow-paced negotiations between the Premier League, the English Football Association (FA) and the English Football League (EFL).
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The meeting, labelled “The Future of Football Round Table,” is designed to be an open forum for football’s governing bodies to air their grievances and identify how they can work together to safeguard the game following billions in lost revenue resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
Attendees are set to include Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, FA chief executive Mark Bullingham, EFL chairman Rick Parry, FA director of women’s football Baroness Sue Campbell, FA Inclusion and Advisory Board chairman Paul Eliott, anti-discrimination campaigners Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari.
Sources have told ESPN that the agenda will be determined over the weekend but one option set to be discussed is the prospect of an independent regulator afforded the power to mediate between the Premier League, the EFL and the FA.
A survey commissioned by a group led by former FA chairman David Bernstein revealed last month that 79% of football supporters would back independent regulation and 86% are concerned about the long-term financial stability of the clubs and leagues.
Sources within government and among football administrators believe Dowden’s intervention shows the requisite leadership many people have been calling for during months of negotiations in which the game failed to internally agree a rescue package for lower league clubs struggling to survive with fans still prohibited from attending matches.
The EFL on Thursday agreed in principle a £50 million package with the Premier League to help League One and League Two clubs survive. DCMS chair Julian Knight claimed at Tuesday’s parliamentary select committee hearing — which later led to Clarke’s resignation after a series of unacceptable comments — that around 10 EFL clubs will struggle to make payroll this month.
Talks between the Premier League over a separate financial agreement for the Championship, English football’s second tier, remain ongoing. The EFL previously claimed that their 72 clubs would require £250m to ensure they all remained solvent in the 2020-21 season if fans are unable to return due to the pandemic.
Tuesday’s meeting will determine whether a version of “Project Big Picture,” a significant overhaul of the game voted down by Premier League clubs last month, can be revived or modified in some form.
The plan is a raft of changes including scrapping the EFL Cup and the Community Shield, reducing the Premier League from 20 to 18 teams and redistributing a greater share of television income to the EFL while aiming to adapt to European-wide proposals for changes to the current Champions League and Europa League formats.
However, the most controversial aspect was arguably removing the “one club, one vote” policy for Premier League clubs, affording the bigger teams more control over future decision-making.
The Professional Footballers Association will be represented as will fans in the form of the Football Supporters’ Association.