English Football League (EFL) chief executive, Rick Parry, yesterday made his major play to rescue the EFL from its Covid plight and restructure English as a consequence. He co-opted Manchester United and Liverpool, where he was formerly CEO, into backing a plan that would see 25% of all future Premier League (PL) TV deals and a £250m bailout paid to the EFL, while the Premier League would be cut from 20 to 18 teams.
Parry also proposes the EFL discontinue its headline knockout competition; the League Cup, that the Community Shield game is retired, that future parachute payments to relegated PL teams stop and the Premier League pay the FA £100m to make up the Association’s shortfall. In addition, nine PL clubs would be given enhanced voting rights on unspecified issues, based on the longevity of their stay in the Premier League.
These measures would ensure the survival of most EFL clubs. Money that currently goes to teams 19 and 20 in the PL and the lucrative parachute payments would be redistributed throughout the lower leagues. All of this would solve many problems and, as the burden mainly falls on PL cannon fodder, it is no surprise Liverpool and Manchester United have signed up.
If I was chief exec at Fulham, Sheffield United, Burnley, West Brom, Brighton, Wolves, Crystal Palace, Southampton or Leeds, I would be worried about the prevailing business model. None of these nine clubs can be sure of their long-term survival in the PL. Four others: Newcastle, West Ham, Aston Villa and Leicester have experienced lower league football in the last decade and cannot be over-confident of remaining in the top flight forever. That’s a lot of nervous chief execs without sufficient control over their business model.
As a consequence, I do not think the Premier League’s robust rejection of the deal will be the end of the story, at the very least, there will be horse trading in the weeks to come. To pass, the deal will require the majority of top flight clubs to jeopardise their PL gig in return for a more stable but inconsequential existence. It makes sense but when has that ever ruled the day in football?
Admire Parry’s attempt, though I do, it serves Celtic’s (and the rest of Scottish football’s) purpose best for the closed shop in England and Wales to avoid a soft-landing. Alternatively, they could tear down the borders that isolate Scottish clubs from the finances of their main TV market. Allow clubs from the same nation state to compete for income and prizes and provide a timely boost to EFL finances.
As I have said since the pandemic started, we need to keep an eye on the EFL. Its model was economically broken beforehand and was never going to survive these times. It we ever see structural change to our national league systems, these exact conditions are necessary.
We can always hope.