Leaders of the English professional game will face MPs next week over the failure to agree a coronavirus rescue package for the EFL, with Project Big Picture also under scrutiny.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, EFL chairman Rick Parry and Football Association boss Greg Clarke have all been called before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee next Tuesday.
The Government has insisted the Premier League must provide financial assistance to the EFL, and has pointed out that such help was one of the conditions for it giving the green light to Project Restart over the summer, when the 2019-20 season resumed behind closed doors.
Julian Knight, the Conservative MP for Solihull who chairs the DCMS committee, says he agrees that football must help itself.
“The strong in football need to look after the weak,” he told the PA news agency.
“When you’ve got a £9billion TV deal at the top of the game, you’ve just had a transfer window where (Premier League clubs have) spent £1.2bn, when the Championship has wages at 107 per cent of turnover, then it would be very difficult for ministers and the Government to go to the public and say: ‘We’ve just spent your money effectively on supporting these clubs when all this within the game exists’.
“Football, unlike other sports, has not come together. It’s been like cats fighting in a sack. This has been quite an unedifying sight over a matter of many months.
“We’ve given them a lot of space as a committee to come to a deal without noise and without politicians sticking their oar in, but it’s clear to me that as we’re now entering a second lockdown, the situation is becoming even more acute.”
EFL clubs have been particularly hard-hit by the loss of matchday revenue due to the pandemic, but they rejected an offer of £50million for League One and Two sides from the Premier League made up of grants and loans, saying it “fell some way short” of what was required.
The Premier League says the offer remains on the table and is ready to engage with any club in financial crisis.
Parry has previously stated that EFL clubs need a rescue package of £250m to account for the losses to revenue from last season and the current campaign.
EFL board member Steve Curwood told the PA news agency on Wednesday that a new £30m emergency loan facility from the Premier League for Championship clubs would be examined at a board meeting on Thursday.
However he said that, combined with the earlier offer, it still “barely touched the sides” and as part of the Save Our Clubs campaign it was the Government’s job to step in and provide assistance.
Knight said: “If the EFL wants to come in front of the committee and make the argument that the Government and taxpayers – and don’t forget we’re borrowing to the tune of £36bn every month, which is what we spend on defence every year – if they wish to come and make that argument in front of MPs, good luck to them.”
The committee will also take the opportunity to probe the game’s leaders on the Project Big Picture proposals.
These first came to light last month, and would have represented the most significant changes to the English football pyramid since the foundation of the Premier League in 1992 if they had been implemented.
Parry publicly supported the proposals, which were developed by Liverpool and Manchester United. Measures such as an immediate £250m rescue package for EFL clubs and a 25 per cent share in future Premier League media revenues were welcomed by many, but the plans also sought to concentrate power in the hands of the top-flight’s big six clubs.
PBP was described by the Football Supporters’ Association as “a sugar-coated cyanide pill” while the Secretary of State for DCMS, Oliver Dowden, derided it as a “distraction at best” and urged Parry in a committee hearing to ignore this “latest wheeze” and focus on bailout talks with the Premier League.
Clarke’s presence before the committee comes amid questions over his role in PBP.
He told the FA Council last month that he had been involved in early discussions but walked away in the spring when “the principal aim became the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs, with a breakaway league mooted as a threat”.
A number of reports have since suggested Clarke was much more centrally involved.
Knight said: “I’d like to find out the genesis of it, how it came about, who supports it, who doesn’t support it, why do they support it, why don’t they support it. What was the role of the three bodies that are in front of us, and were there any merits to it?
“I understand the way it looked like a power grab, but small elements such as the greater distribution of TV revenues down the game, I thought that was a good idea.”