English Football League clubs have rejected a £50m rescue package for League One and League Two after deeming the bailout inadequate and insist Championship clubs should be part of any deal.
The Premier League has in turn extended an offer of hardship funding to second-tier teams but, in a move that shows the depths to which relations with the EFL have fallen following the revelations of Project Big Picture, it is to make the offer to clubs directly, cutting out the EFL.
Following a heated shareholders meeting on Wednesday, the Premier League declared a willingness to consider means-tested loans to Championship clubs on top of a bailout for lower-league sides. Its move on Thursday makes the offer explicit, although the specifics of any funding offered remain unclear.
EFL clubs are uncomfortable with the Premier League excluding the Championship from the loans and grants package proposed and are unanimous in believing those teams must be part of any future conversation.
Clubs also believe the EFL and not the Premier League should dictate where any financial support goes, although there is an acknowledgment that most League One and League Two clubs are in greater peril than those in the Championship and would be the first to receive such help.
A Championship source stressed the EFL is “72 clubs, not 48” and acknowledged the EFL must continue dialogue with the Premier League to establish a sufficient financial package.
One League One chairman described the Premier League’s offer, which was £20m in grants and £30m placed in reserve to prevent any clubs from going bust, as “embarrassing, disgraceful and disingenuous”, adding that the deal was akin to giving a “starving child tidbits to survive”.
A statement from the EFL was more conciliatory, saying that “while EFL clubs are appreciative that a formal proposal has now been put forward, the conditional offer of £50m falls some way short” of its financial requirements.
Emphasising the solidarity among the clubs it said: “There was a strong consensus that any rescue package must meet the requirements of all 72 clubs before it can be considered in full … The EFL is keen to continue discussions with the Premier League to reach an agreeable solution.”
There is a general appreciation that the Project Big Picture proposal rejected by Premier League clubs on Wednesday, which was put forward by Manchester United and Liverpool, together with Rick Parry, the EFL chairman, containing a £250m bailout, was “one step too far” but clubs believe something closer to that package is required. Parry is understood to have EFL clubs’ unanimous backing, with many feeling he has sparked discussions on issues that had previously proven impossible.
The rejection of Project Big Picture was welcomed by some Premier League managers on Thursday, with Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhüttl saying: “It ends up in a league that maybe has one champion for the next nine years like in Germany or in Italy. For me, it’s boring, to be honest. What I like so much about the Premier League is that we have every two, three years a new champion. ‘A Leicester’ will never be possible with these changes.”
Several League One and League Two clubs believe they will have to turn to the government for urgent help to save “half a dozen clubs” from entering administration if the Premier League does not substantially increase their offer. Other topics of conversation in the Championship call included the re-introduction of being able to use five substitutes and they also raised the possibility of refusing to pay HMRC bills amid the absence of financial help but agreed that was not an option to pursue.