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‘No beef’ between Premier League and EFL over Project Big Picture rejection, says Richard Masters

Premier League chief Richard Masters insists there is “no beef” between top-flight and EFL clubs in the fallout over Project Big Picture.

The proposals, developed by Liverpool and Manchester United, were endorsed by EFL chairman Rick Parry and promised a £250million coronavirus bailout for football league clubs, as well as a 25 per cent trickle down of future Premier League media revenues to the lower tiers.

However, the plans would also have concentrated voting power in the hands of the ‘Big Six’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United, Man City and Tottenham – and were rejected by Premier League clubs after a league-wide meeting on Wednesday.

Premier League clubs will instead continue work on a “strategic plan” involving all 20 teams. They also agreed to offer an additional £50million in grants and loans to clubs in League One and Two on top of £27.2m already advanced in solidarity payments.

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The Premier League’s offer will now be formally submitted to the EFL for approval, and while Masters said there was “frustration” that Parry had publicly endorsed the PBP plans, the relationship between the leagues would endure.

“Clearly there’s some frustration a proposal that hadn’t had any input from the Premier League, from our clubs, has been pushed so hard in public,” he said.

“But we don’t have a beef with the EFL, certainly not with its clubs. We want to have a good relationship with them. We’re their biggest partner.

“We have a historic relationship with them. So we want it to be constructive.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden had earlier warned Parry not to be distracted by PBP, which he described as “this latest wheeze”, and urged the leagues to continue talks over an EFL rescue package. He also described it as ‘Project Power Grab’.

Oliver Dowden dismisses Project Big Picture plans as a ‘latest wheeze’

He has welcomed the Premier League’s offer to Leagues One and Two as “a good start”. The Premier League said discussions would continue over possible loans to clubs in the Championship.

Masters said the Premier League meeting on Wednesday had been “candid, constructive and positive” despite the involvement of two of the clubs in drawing up the PBP proposals.

“Whilst there has been a lot of things said and done, a lot of speculation over the last four days, I don’t think it’s irreparably damaged the Premier League. And I think that today’s meeting proved that,” Masters added.

FA chairman Greg Clarke said on Tuesday he had walked away from Big Picture discussions in the spring “when the principal aim of these discussions became the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs with a breakaway league mooted as a threat”.

However, Masters said: “I don’t think anybody has been talking about breaking away.”

Asked if there were any elements of PBP that could be worked with, Masters said: “Well, I think there was an acknowledgement

in the room that English football’s model is a huge success, but that it hasn’t been reviewed or modernised for a long time.

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“And so that perhaps there have been some systemic issues built up that need dealing with.

“And as I said, a lot of the things we’ve been talking about – league structure, calendar construction, governance, the financial regulation, broadcasting and commercial will all be part of our review process as well.”

Project Big Picture has, at least, provoked a much-needed conversation which the EFL hopes can be involved in going forward.

“As we have maintained across the past 72 hours, there is a significant issue facing the English footballing pyramid and therefore it is encouraging that there is an acknowledgment that a review of the current status quo is required, with a strategic plan to be developed to consider the future of the football,” said a statement.

“While by no means a finished product, Project Big Picture was developed to consider these same issues and address the challenges facing football from top to bottom.

“The EFL welcomes the opportunity to contribute to any wider debate with colleagues across the game as we seek to finally address impossible economic pressures and deliver on the objective of having a sustainable EFL in the long-term.”

Additional reporting by PA.

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