Football chiefs to face MPs over bailout negotiations and Project Big Picture

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and English Football League chairman Rick Parry have been called before a parliamentary committee “in an attempt to break the deadlock” over a financial rescue package.

They will be questioned on the state of negotiations and the “obstacles to reaching a deal” for EFL clubs.

They will also face questions over Project Big Picture, as will Football Association chairman Greg Clarke, whose role in the proceedings has come under scrutiny.

“Covid has exposed many of the fissures in our society and this is one of the deepest and football has been exposed, frankly, as having the economics of the madhouse in many respects,” committee chair Julian Knight told BBC Sport.

He said there are concerns that 12 to 15 EFL clubs could go under as a result of the financial crisis caused by coronavirus, which has been worsened by the lack of fans.

The government has made clear it will not provide a bailout to elite football.

The Premier League’s offer of a £50m package for Leagues One and Two, made up of grants and loans, was rejected by the EFL in October. The EFL has a board meeting on Thursday, and Premier League clubs are also meeting.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said in the House of Commons on Thursday that sports minister Nigel Huddleston met with the Premier League and EFL this week to “reiterate the need to reach an agreement in the interests of all fans”, adding that he was “disappointed” with the current situation.

“We’ll be looking to see exactly what they are going to do in order to ensure that we don’t end up with a cataclysm in our national game,” added Knight.

"I am not in the game of effectively sort of pointing fingers as such.But what I want to do is try to help processes and try to see exactly where we can get with this, because we all want a solution. Because frankly this needs to happen, if it doesn't then I really do shudder to think of the consequences."

Committee chair Julian Knight

The plans for Project Big Picture – which were spearheaded by Parry and the owners of Liverpool and Manchester United – emerged last month and were quickly shut down by Premier League clubs.

They would have marked the most significant shakeup in English football in decades, including cutting the top flight to 18 clubs and concentrating power into the hands of the ‘Big Six’, and the manner of the leak has been heavily criticised.

Clarke maintains he terminated his involvement when threats of a breakaway were mooted, and the date of this has been put at early May, but this has been called into question.

Premier League chairman Gary Hoffman has also faced criticism after it emerged that he coordinated a meeting of the ‘Big Six’ two days after the proposals leaked, seemingly without the knowledge of the other clubs.

“Football has not covered itself in glory over the last few months when it comes to the top of the game and its administration and Project Big Picture sort of encapsulated that,” said Knight.

Original article 05.11.20 on the BBC Sport website.

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