Published On: Tue, Oct 13th, 2020

Man Utd and Liverpool set for fiery Big Picture showdown talks with Premier League rivals | Football | Sport

Man Utd, Liverpool and Premier League rivals set for fiery Big Picture showdown talks

Man Utd, Liverpool and Premier League rivals set for fiery Big Picture showdown talks (Image: GETTY)

Manchester United and Liverpool are set to be thrown to the Wolves – and the 13 other ‘small’ clubs – in a heated meeting of Premier League teams later in the week. When details of their Project Big Picture emerged over the weekend, the Premier League board were careful to paint proposals to reduce the size of the top flight as the brainchild of EFL chairman Rick Parry.

However, other clubs may be less charitable – not least because the so-called ‘Big Six’ appear to have hatched plans to shunt the lesser Premier League clubs aside in an opportunistic power-grab without even consulting them.

A regular meeting of members was initially pencilled in for today, but is being rearranged for later in the week with a radically different agenda.

A £250million bail-out fund is being dangled to teams lower down the pyramid for supporting a move to give voting to the top nine clubs instead of the current one-club, one-vote system operated by the Premier League.

It means Liverpool and United, together with Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Spurs could form the six-club majority needed to force any further decisions through.

Everton, West Ham and Southampton were listed as the three cohorts making up the group on the basis of the length of time they have been continously in the Premier League.

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Man Utd, Liverpool and Premier League rivals set for fiery Big Picture showdown talks

Man Utd, Liverpool and Premier League rivals set for fiery Big Picture showdown talks (Image: GETTY)

However, sources at West Ham were quick yesterday to distance themselves from the potential breakaway, saying they are “very much against it.”

While EFL clubs will benefit from promises of 25 per cent of media revenue going forward as well as the short-term hand-out, as well as losing two of their number, the lower clubs will get a lower share of revenue and be stripped of their voting rights.

At the weekend, Parry said: “It’s absolutely the right way forward from the EFL point of view. If there’s a degree of pain elsewhere, that is unfortunate.”

The devil is always in the details. Football has had a day or so to come to terms with the bombshell proposals that were leaked as part of the Big Picture details at the weekend. It was a moment that has given the whole of football a chance to pause and think. The involvement of Parry, for instance.

He was an unexpectedly strong candidate – given his role in leading the original breakaway and then overseeing Liverpool, the reported instigators of this proposal, as chief executive for over a decade.

But he was welcomed in as chairman-elect in September of last year and as recently as December was put before a few invited members of the press at Smith and Wollensky’s to outline his vision for the job before sitting down to a festive Christmas dinner.

Man Utd, Liverpool and Premier League rivals set for fiery Big Picture showdown talks

Man Utd, Liverpool and Premier League rivals set for fiery Big Picture showdown talks (Image: GETTY)

It made no sense at the time, but during the on-the-record session, he was asked if he had any plans to reduce the gap between the Premier League and the EFL. “Not that I’m telling you about. But, yes, I do,” he said.

Project Big Picture was hatched in 2017 and the date when Parry became part of the project is uncertain. What is clear is that he was yesterday becoming an increasingly isolated figure as both Liverpool and Man United declined to comment.

Worse was to follow in the evening, when EFL chief executive David Baldwin announced his intention to step down. An official EFL announcement insisted: “Today’s announcement is not linked to ‘Project Big Picture’ and the decision was taken prior to details of the proposals being made public over the weekend.”

But the timing could not have been worse for Parry as the more considered criticism of the plan began to form a coherent counter-argument.

Aside for the instinctive concern about handing the future of the game to such a small number of self-interested parties, the practicalities of what the Big Picture proposals were slowly being worked through.

For a start, the Premier League are adamant that the £250m rescue package for the EFL and the £100m promised to the FA would have to be borrowed. They can hardly take any other stance when they are currently lobbying the government for help.

Yesterday, details of an additional infrastructure funds to help build stadiums emerged – with Tottenham able to claim £125m retrospectively for the new White Hart Lane offered up by way of illustration.

But a vote of the Big Six could end that windfall at any moment. Currently, the gap in prize money between top and bottom clubs is in the ratio of just 1.7 to 1. Under the new proposals, the top club will take home four times the amount the bottom club earns.

Furthermore, merit payments will be determined over the average performance from the previous three seasons – protecting big clubs against blips and making newly-promoted clubs wait three seasons before getting their full recognition.

Enforced salary caps will make the leap even greater for newly-promoted teams trying to take a Championship squad into the top flight and if there is anything that does not suit the very biggest clubs in the land, they can just sort it out with a simple six-way vote.

But don’t worry, Parry says, he trusts the boards of Liverpool and United to look after the football pyramid – although there are no guarantees.

“This is a COBRA plan,” he insists. “This has been years in the thinking, months in the making.” Understandable, then, perhaps that football is worried it will come back to bite it.

Former QPR, Leicester, Blackpool and Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway has slammed the plans of Liverpool and United as “selfish” and called for the Government to step in to sort football out of its current mess.

As manager of Grimsby Town, 23rd in League Two, he could not be further away from the top teams in the Premier League when it comes to the Big Picture and he fears that “greed” at that level could kill the game further down the pyramid.

“What are Liverpool and Manchester United thinking? How selfish are you? It breaks my heart to say it, I don’t get it,” Holloway said.

“Greed is disgusting, and that’s what I’m seeing everywhere. It’s absolutely vile, and I hate it, so step in.

Man Utd, Liverpool and Premier League rivals set for fiery Big Picture showdown talks

Man Utd, Liverpool and Premier League rivals set for fiery Big Picture showdown talks (Image: GETTY)

“Get the Government to control our game and make sure the people at the bottom still have a club. Go and tell the top clubs that you can’t do that, please. Somebody needs to.

“The game belongs to people in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It belongs to us. Every community deserves it, and you’re just at the top of it, so who do you think you are?

“There’s more than enough money in the game to stop it going out, and it needs to be done right now. They’re not going to do it, because they want to get richer and richer.

“Money is going out of the game left, right and centre – billions and billions of pounds buying footballers, and it’s going out the game.

“The money’s going to run out. But they want to squash the competition and make sure they’re going to be the top six forever and a day. You’ve got to earn that right, because we all want to catch you.

“We’ve all got to have a dream haven’t we? We’ve all got to be able to believe, and it’s just nonsensical to me. Football cannot die, but selfishness is what’s killing it.”

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