Premier League Reform Plan Would Shrink League to 18 Clubs

Premier League Reform Plan Would Shrink League to 18 Clubs

To sweeten the deal, the plan also promises to share money with another key stakeholder: England’s Football Association. To secure its approval, or at least fend off its opposition, the F.A., which governs the sport in England, would receive a one-time payment of 100 million pounds ($130 million) to help mitigate the damage inflicted on its finances by the coronavirus pandemic.

That Liverpool and Manchester United are at the heart of the reform movement immediately led to criticism on social media, with fans and commentators suggesting the two clubs are looking to further entrench their interests and positions atop global soccer.

The push to reduce the league to 18 teams mirrors the views of Andrea Agnelli, the president of the Italian champion Juventus and the leader of the influential European Club Association, a lobby group for top division teams. Agnelli has said that he favors reducing the size of domestic leagues in order to create space for more meaningful games between Europe’s elite teams, but he also has been one of the biggest proponents of shifting power in European soccer to the clubs that dominate it.

One of the drivers behind the Premier League proposal, beyond increasing the power of the wealthiest teams, is to reduce cases of risk-taking by clubs in the second-tier Championship as they try to win promotion to the Premier League. Access can bring huge rewards, in the form of television and sponsorship revenues and even so-called parachute payments — worth tens of millions of dollars for years — if they are relegated back to the Championship.

The problem, English soccer has found, is eager teams have at times piled up huge losses in the hope of building a squad capable of reaching the Premier League or competing with rivals who have, reaped that windfall, and then returned.

Under the reform proposal, parachute payments would be scrapped, and the annual riches provided by the Premier League would be shared more equitably with the teams in the second tier. Clubs in the next two divisions would benefit as well, with about 25 percent of the total shared by the Premier League reserved for them.

The proposal also calls for the abolition of the League Cup, a cup competition reserved for professional teams that has long-lost its luster among elite clubs, and the Community Shield, the traditional curtain-raiser to the league season, which matches the previous campaign’s Premier League champion against the F.A. Cup holder.

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