Preston’s Peter Ridsdale admits he does not “trust” the motivations of the Premier League’s top clubs but is ready to stand behind Project Big Picture, which is now said to command near unanimous support among the 72 EFL clubs.
EFL chairman Rick Parry led three separate meetings with representatives of the Championship, League One and League on Tuesday to discuss the new proposals, which would see the divisions receive a £250million financial bailout from Premier League clubs as well as an increased share of future broadcast deals in a wider restructure of the English game.
The mooted measures have divided opinion, with many seeing merit in the rescue package while raising fears of a ‘big six’ power grab relating to associated changes in the voting rights of the top flight.
A conference call involving five EFL representatives suggested support among the 72 was close to consensus, though, with support from the meetings involving Leagues One and Two said to be “complete” and “overwhelming” respectively.
Ridsdale, in his role as advisor to North End owner Trevor Hemmings, reported “no dissenting voices” on the Championship call. But while he believes the redistribution of money is essential he is not persuaded that pure benevolence is driving the move.
The former Leeds chairman said: “If I’m absolutely frank, do I trust the top six today irrespective of these proposals? No I don’t. I don’t think some of them believe in the pyramid.
“I think some of them believe in a franchise system like you see in the (United) States. However, the proposals as put on the table at the moment are more likely to support the pyramid than if we don’t have these proposals.
“Is it a concern? 100 per cent it is. Do I trust them? No I don’t. However, today the Football League has got a unique opportunity if this remains on the table to perhaps protect the Football League in the long term, where as at the moment in the short term there is real danger.”
Ridsdale highlighted the issue of voting rights as a potential stumbling block but said it fell to the Premier League, which has its own meeting on Wednesday, to settle that matter.
“I was there when Premier League was formed and the founding members’ agreement was one club, one vote,” he said.
“Going forward it would be six clubs essentially that would determine what would happen to the Premier League and, by definition, English football. That’s the piece that clearly is missing and needs resolving. Only the Premier League can do that because we have no rights to vote on that.”
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally said of League One: “I don’t think anybody spoke badly about it (PBP). There were concerns over certain aspects of it but the principle is very sound.
“Clubs aren’t looking at selling their souls for £250m, this is not about taking the money whatever the cost, this is about the future sustainability of the English football league and the pyramid of football.”
In League Two, Leyton Orient chairman Nigel Travis was even more robust.
“I’d go further than ‘overwhelming support’ I’d say there’s excitement about the opportunity,” he said.
“All my potential new investors are excited. They have been phoning me up saying can we get going now? I would say it’s 23 out of 24 clubs (supporting). We’d also look at other proposals if they came along from the government or the Premier League if they came along but they’ve been sadly lacking.”
Jez Moxey, chief executive of Burton, put a short clock on the discussions, sounding a clear warning about the viability of some sides.
“We literally have clubs right now that are worried about paying October’s payroll and we have got concerns over Championship clubs having to pay PAYE payments,” he said.
“Be under no illusion, we are talking about now. Right this second.”
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