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Woodward insists Project Big Picture was not a ‘power grab’ as PL announce £250m bailout for EFL

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward insists Project Big Picture proposals were not a ‘power grab’, as the Premier League announces a £250m bailout for the Football League.

The controversial ‘Project Big Picture’ plans were fronted by the owners of Liverpool and backed by Manchester United to overhaul English football, and included a number of radical changes such as reducing the number of teams in the Premier League from 20 to 18, as well as abolishing the League Cup and Community Shield.

The reform plans were also backed by the EFL, principally because they included the handing of a much needed £250 million bailout to aid clubs impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, alongside 25% of annual revenues directed towards the Football League.

However, the plans caused huge controversy given proposals to hand unprecedented power to the biggest sides in English football, removing the one-club one-vote system currently in place and giving ‘long-term shareholder status’ to the Premier League’s nine longest-serving clubs, with changes requiring just six votes from those in power.

Woodward has now defended Project Big Picture and insists it was not a power grab from English football’s elite, his comments coming before the announcement of a bailout package agreed by the Premier League to aid EFL clubs struggling financially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier League clubs have unanimously agreed a £50m bailout of League One and Two clubs, with a further £200m loan facility for Championship sides.

Woodward had earlier defended the initial proposals for Project Big Picture as a ‘work in progress’ and says the plans were to be rolled out to ‘all stakeholders in search of consensus’.

“We have been pushing the rest of the Premier League to provide emergency assistance to the EFL on a no-strings-attached basis and we will also remain at the forefront of discussions about reforms to improve the long-term financial sustainability of the entire English football pyramid,” Woodward told a Manchester United fans’ forum.

“A strong Premier League and a financially sustainable and robust pyramid are both crucial to the health of the national game and that’s the principle we will continue to pursue within the strategic review recently launched by the Premier League.

“Those objectives were at the heart of our involvement in Project Big Picture. It’s important to reflect that this was a work in progress. It was not a behind closed doors power grab; only draft proposals and a discussion document. The next step would have been to roll them out to all stakeholders in search of consensus.”

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