Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is “confident” a rescue package for the English Football League will be agreed soon and revealed a long-term structural review of the game is to be completed by the end of March, 2021.
Masters, EFL chairman Rick Parry and England Football Association chairman Greg Clarke gave evidence at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select parliamentary committee hearing aimed at understanding why the game’s key figures had failed to secure a financial deal to safeguard the future of all 92 clubs.
The EFL have said they need £250 million from the Premier League to ensure no clubs go bankrupt in the 2020-21 season.
Teams in the lower leagues have seen revenues fall dramatically due to an absence of fans inside stadiums since March, with initial plans for supporters to return in October scrapped and no timescale offered of when they might return with England in the midst of a four-week nationwide lockdown.
DCMS chair Julian Knight said the government was aware of 10 EFL clubs that will be unable to pay wages in full at the end of this month and described the Premier League’s offer of £50m to the EFL as “pitiful” and a “farce,” especially in light of the £1.2 billion Premier League clubs spent in the summer transfer window.
“The Premier League has engaged and wants to seek resolution but there can’t be a blank cheque or an underwriting of losses,” Masters said.
“We believe our proposal is appropriate and goes to the heart of the problem and is in line with government policy on how it deals with other sectors.
“We believe we are stepping up and helping the pyramid of football, we have yet to reach an agreement with Rick but I am confident we can do that.
“I don’t think our proposals are pitiful. We can make money available now to clubs that need it and we can work with the EFL to ensure that funds were going to the right places to ensure clubs don’t suffer distress or get to the point of administration.
“We are huge supporters of the pyramid and understand its importance.”
The Premier League’s £50m offer focuses on League One and League Two clubs but Parry confirmed that offer had been rejected because teams in those leagues showed “solidarity” with the second-tier Championship sides, for whom no formal offer has yet been made.
Masters said the Premier League was now considering how to help Championship clubs with Parry added that “constructive dialogue” was taking place.
The Premier League is also continuing with a strategic review of the wider game despite a vision of the future created by several leading top-flight clubs, the EFL and the FA, labelled “Project Big Picture,” being rejected in October.
The plans detail 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 Champions League and Europa League formats.
“Just to clarify on whether I wanted to participate back in February in formal discussions with the FA and EFL, I declined because it also involved a small number of Premier League clubs and I can only participate in processes that are supported by all 20,” Masters added.
“So we played no role in the development of ‘Project Big Picture.’ At that point, pre-pandemic, we were contemplating out own strategic review. The pandemic hit and changed everything as we know for everybody.
“What we have announced in the last two weeks is really a revival of our strategic review with a tighter timeframe and a wider focus to deal with all the issues that have come up during the pandemic.
“Change is coming, but change needs to be delivered with the development of all clubs, whether they be in the Premier League or the EFL. All stakeholders need to be involved. While ‘Project Big Picture’ came up during the middle of this, all of our 20 clubs now support a strategic review. We have invited the FA to participate and the EFL as well.”