West Ham are against radical plans by Liverpool and Manchester United to reform the English football pyramid, according to a club source.
The Project Big Picture proposals have been put together by Liverpool owner John Henry and United co-chairman Joel Glazer.
Everton, Southampton and West Ham would be granted special status in the plans, along with the so-called ‘big six’.
However, a Hammers insider has told BBC Sport they are “very much against” it.
It is understood the club were unaware of the proposals, even though they were named in them – and were shocked when they emerged into the public domain on Sunday.
The source said they were of the view Liverpool and United were the instigators but that they had been told talks have been going on since January and what has emerged is the 17th version of the proposal.
The plans also include special status for Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday the plans would “undermine the trust in football’s governance”.
“In terms of support for clubs we have been given assurances by the Premier League and English Football League that they have no intention to let any EFL club go bust due to covid and we know they have the means to prevent that from happening within existing mechanisms.
“We strongly urge the Premier League and EFL to continue to work constructively to come up with a package of support for the whole football family.”
The ‘Project Big Picture’ proposals
- The Premier League cut from 20 to 18 clubs, with the Championship, League One and League Two each retaining 24 teams.
- The bottom two teams in the Premier League relegated automatically with the 16th-placed team joining the Championship play-offs.
- The League Cup and Community Shield abolished.
- Parachute payments scrapped.
- A £250m rescue fund made immediately available to the EFL & 25% of all future TV deals
- £100m paid to the FA to make up for lost revenue.
- Nine clubs given ‘special voting rights’ on certain issues, based on their extended runs in the Premier League.
The Hammers feel the obvious negatives – the loss of two home games – will hit their finances, while at the same time creating space for more European games and lucrative pre-season friendlies, which would disproportionately benefit the ‘big six’.
The plans include reducing the Premier League to 18 clubs and scrapping the EFL Cup.
In return, the EFL would get 25% of all future TV deals, which would be negotiated jointly, plus the £250m bail-out many clubs have been demanding since May.
This is the fourth season in a row where the ‘big six’ have all qualified for European football. In the past 10 seasons, one of them has missed out on only four occasions.
Over the past decade, West Ham have had two European campaigns, both of which ended during the qualifying rounds. Southampton and Everton have also qualified for Europe twice in the same period.
“The big six are using Covid for a power grab,” said the West Ham source. “If this goes through, over time they will just use more and more for themselves.”
It is not known what will happen if the plan – which has drawn criticism from supporters’ groups, the government and the Premier League executive – is rejected.
The Premier League said “individual proposals” in the plan “could have a damaging impact on the whole game”, and that it would continue its own work on a “resolution to the requirement for Covid-19 rescue funding” for the EFL.
However, one theory – which EFL chairman Rick Parry refused to dismiss when questioned specifically about it twice on Sunday – is that the six clubs have been told they could play within the Football League if their Premier League status was threatened.
One source with detailed knowledge of running clubs at both Premier League and EFL level says the plan has merit but the fear of how the ‘big six’ might rewrite the rule book – potentially including halting relegation or blocking new owners whose investment may threaten their own status – was likely to be regarded as too big a price for many to accept.
‘Something needs to be done right now’
Chairman of League Two club Forest Green Rovers, Dale Vince, said he was “positive” and “excited” about a “very well-rounded and fair packet of changes”.
“I think it will really put a line under the EFL in terms of financial stability, and in terms of creating a level playing field as well,” he told BBC Sport.
“The ending of parachute payments goes hand in hand with that. It distorts competition in the Championship in particular, but that does flow down the EFL as well.”
Asked whether the proposal would put too much power in the hands of the ‘big six’, Vince says the Premier League should adopt a simple majority voting system, where 10 votes would succeed in an 18-team league.
He added: “I don’t think there is anything wrong with the timing of this, there is probably everything right with it because something needs to be done right now.”
Derby County’s chief executive Stephen Pearce told BBC Sport that he does not see the proposals as a “power grab” by the bigger Premier League clubs.
“This actually about how we protect the pyramid as far as I can see,” Pearce said. “Looking at it long term, we need financial stability throughout the whole pyramid. We need the controls in place to sort out player wage inflation and everything we talked about previously.
“I think it makes a case that clubs will be able to focus more on making themselves financially sustainable and putting more into the infrastructure of the clubs, into coaching, the grassroots, the academies.
“I think, in the longer term, it will make the competition better and people will see it as a more attractive sporting product that is more competitive.”