English Premier League clubs debate radical reform plan

The ‘Project Big Picture’ plan is backed by Liverpool and Manchester United. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 October 2020

English Premier League clubs debate radical reform plan

  • The ‘Project Big Picture’ plan is backed by Liverpool and Manchester United
  • Football Supporters’ Association has described the proposals as a ‘sugar-coated cyanide pill’

LONDON: Premier League clubs are holding a shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday after Football Association chairman Greg Clarke said a breakaway from the top flight was wielded “as a threat” during talks over radical proposals to restructure English football.
The “Project Big Picture” plan, backed by Liverpool and Manchester United, has been criticized by the government, the Premier League and fan groups.
Proposals include cutting the number of Premier League teams from 20 to 18, scrapping the League Cup, controversial changes to voting rights and a financial settlement for the English Football League (EFL).
Representatives of the 20 Premier League clubs will have the chance to debate the issue in the open for the first time during a virtual get-together on Wednesday that comes after an eye-catching intervention from Clarke.
In a letter to the FA council, which convenes on Thursday, he said he had taken part in initial discussions before walking away when he felt the aim had become “the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs, with a breakaway league mooted as a threat.”
Clarke warned the FA could use its so-called “golden share” as a trump card if it felt the wider interests of the game were being compromised and suggested any breakaway competition would not receive the necessary sanctions from the governing body.
“We, the FA board and council, have to ensure that any changes would be to the long-term benefit of the whole of football and we have substantial controls to help ensure that the best interests of the game are served by any new proposals,” he said.
The plans have been championed by EFL chairman Rick Parry, with teams in the Championship, League One and League Two in line to receive £250 million ($323 million) up front alongside a promise of a 25 percent share of future Premier League broadcast revenue.
Support among the 72 EFL clubs appeared to be soaring after separate divisional meetings led by Parry on Tuesday, although the plans have reportedly been less well received by most Premier League clubs outside the elite names.
Former Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale, representing Preston, said there were “no dissenting voices” in the Championship call, Burton Albion chief executive Jez Moxey described League One support as “unanimous” and Leyton Orient chairman Nigel Travis said excitement about the plans was “overwhelming.”
But Christian Purslow, chief executive of Premier League club Aston Villa, indicated his opposition to Project Big Picture before the shareholders’ meeting.
“I don’t think we should give too much credence to this particular plan,” he told the BBC. “I think a much broader, long-term plan for football is what I would expect to come from the Premier League.”
The Football Supporters’ Association has described the proposals as a “sugar-coated cyanide pill offered up by billionaire owners who do not understand or care about our football culture.”
A joint statement from supporters’ groups representing Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea followed, in which fans of the “Big Six” clubs made clear their opposition to the initiative in its current form.

Super-sub Cavani inspires Manchester United fightback

Updated 30 November 2020

Super-sub Cavani inspires Manchester United fightback

  • United climbed to seventh place, two points adrift of the Champions League places

SOUTHAMPTON: Edinson Cavani inspired Manchester United’s thrilling fightback from two goals down to snatch a dramatic 3-2 win against Southampton on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were facing a dismal defeat after first half goals from Jan Bednarek and James Ward-Prowse put Southampton in control at St. Mary’s.

Adding to Solskjaer’s problems, United lost goalkeeper David de Gea to a knee injury at halftime.

But Uruguay striker Cavani sparked United’s escape act after coming on at the interval.

Cavani set up Bruno Fernandes to reduce the deficit and the former Paris Saint-Germain star grabbed the equalizer from his teammate’s deflected shot.

The 33-year-old netted again in the final moments as his third goal since signing as a free agent in October extended United’s winning to four games in all competitions.

United climbed to seventh place, two points adrift of the Champions League places, after setting a club record of eight successive away Premier League wins.

It was exactly the kind of influential display Solskjaer was hoping for from Cavani when he moved for him after United’s failed pursuit of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.

Written off as a panic buy in some quarters, Cavani proved his age should be no barrier to making an impact in the Premier League.

He is only the second player to be directly involved in three goals in a Premier League game after coming on as a substitute for United since Solskjaer scored four against Nottingham Forest in 1999.

United had started brightly and Mason Greenwood rounded Saints keeper Alex McCarthy, only to shoot into the side-netting with the empty goal at his mercy.

Fernandes needed treatment after a heavy challenge from Oriel Romeu, but he almost exacted immediate revenge when his deflected effort clipped the outside of the post.

Southampton took the lead against the run of play in the 23rd minute.

Ward-Prowse curled a corner to the near post and Bednarek got in front of Marcus Rashford to glance his header past De Gea from close range.

Kyle Walker-Peters nearly caught out De Gea with a low drive from an acute angle that skimmed across goal and struck the far post.

United were almost gifted an equalizer when McCarthy’s woeful pass was seized on by Greenwood, but the keeper redeemed himself with a brilliant double save, repelling the teenager’s shot and then blocking Fernandes’s follow-up.

Ward-Prowse doubled Southampton’s lead in the 33rd minute.

Taking aim from the left side of the United area, Ward-Prowse curled a superb free kick over the wall and past De Gea, whose despairing attempt to claw it out sent him clattering into the post.

David Beckham is the only English player to have scored more direct free kicks than Ward-Prowse’s nine in the Premier League era.

De Gea might have felt he could have done better having got a hand to it, but Dean Henderson made his first Premier League appearance for United when he replaced the injured Spaniard at half-time.

It was Cavani’s introduction that proved decisive after a curious late arrival on the pitch as he sorted out his boots.

Cavani linked up with Fernandes to reduce the deficit in the 59th minute as his cross reached the Portugal midfielder, who swivelled to fire home from 10 yards.

Since his United debut in January, Fernandes has been involved in a league-high 25 goals, scoring 15 and providing 10 assists.