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Man Utd and Liverpool accused of "stitching up" Premier League shake-up proposal

Manchester United and Liverpool have been accused of 'stitching up' the game over radical plans to overhaul the Premier League.

Under the plans, known as 'Project Big Picture' and first reported by the Telegraph, the top flight would be reduced to 18 teams – with the nine longest-serving clubs including the current 'Big Six' being given a special status.

The shake-up is being driven by English football's two biggest clubs, and would be the the most radical overhaul of the game since the Premier League was formed in 1992.

It is being seen in some quarters as a power grab by the Big Six – and particularly the American owners of United and Liverpool – who would become more powerful within the Premier League.

The plans would also lead to changes within the Football League, which would be handed a £250million rescue package to see clubs through the Covid-19 crisis.

But the Football Supporters Association (FSA) has added its voice to the growing outcry over the proposals, with the Premier League and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport also having criticised the plans.

In a statement released by the FSA on Sunday, the fans' group claimed football was being treated as a "personal fiefdom' by billionaire club owners.

“The Football Supporters’ Association notes with grave concern today’s press reports of proposals for a major restructure of the Premier League, with far-reaching consequences for the whole of domestic football," the statement read.

“Once again it appears that big decisions in football are apparently being stitched up behind our backs by billionaire club owners who continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom.

"Football is far more than a business to be carved up; it is part of our communities and our heritage, and football fans are its lifeblood.

"As football’s most important stakeholders, it is crucial that fans are consulted and involved in the game’s decision-making.

“We have welcomed the government’s commitment to a ‘fan-led review of the governance of football’; we would argue that today’s revelations have made that process even more relevant and urgent.

“We will of course study the detail of the new proposals, we remain open-minded to any suggestions for the improvement of the governance and organisation of the game, whatever their source, and we will continue to engage constructively in all discussions around reform.

"We would however emphasise that in our discussions so far, very few of our members have ever expressed the view that what football really needs is a greater concentration of power in the hands of the big six billionaire-owned clubs.”

Under the plans, the one-club, one-vote rule which has underpinned the Premier League since its inception would be abolished – as would the requirement for 14 votes to pass any decision or regulation.

In its place, the nine clubs who have been in the Premier League for the longest – which, at present, includes the big six, plus Everton, Southampton and West Ham – would have ultimate power.

As such, the ‘Big Six’ bloc – including Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham – would be able to force through decisions without needing an overall majority – thus diluting the powers of the other 11 Premier League clubs, such as Newcastle, Wolves, Aston Villa, Leeds and Leicester City.

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The Premier League has declared it is disappointed with EFL chief Rick Parry for his “on the record support” for the plan, insisting they see a number of the proposals as being “damaging”.

And a statement from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport accused leaders of the plans of "cooking up backroom deals" to "create a closed shop".

A DCMS spokesperson said: "We are surprised and disappointed that at a time of crisis when we have urged the top tiers of professional football to come together and finalise a deal to help lower-league clubs, there appear to be backroom deals being cooked up that would create a closed shop at the very top of the game.

"Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that may undermine them is deeply troubling.

"Fans must be front of all our minds, and this shows why our fan-led review of football governance will be so critical."

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