Premier League reform plan looks like power grab, UK minister says

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden arrives at Downing Street, in London, Britain October 7, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - The minister who oversees sport in Britain said on Monday he feared a plan by Liverpool and Manchester United to restructure the English Premier League was a power grab that could prompt a deeper look at the governance of the sport.

The two clubs are backing a plan to radically change the Premier League's structure, giving more power to the big clubs, reducing it to 18 teams from 20 for the 2022-23 season, and scrapping the League Cup and Community Shield.

The plan would see the Premier League commit to providing 25% of the league's revenue to English Football League (EFL) clubs and a 250 million pounds rescue fund to help with the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Asked on Sky News if the proposal was a good plan or a power grab, Oliver Dowden, the minister for culture, media and sport, said: "I fear it's the latter and I'm quite sceptical about this."

He added: "If we keep having these back room deals going on, we'll have to look at the underlying governance of football. We promised in the manifesto a fan led review, and I must say the events that I've seen in the last few weeks have made this seem more urgent again."

The plan, which has been backed by the EFL, has already drawn opposition from the Premier League on the grounds that a number of individual proposals within it could have a damaging impact on the game.

The Football Supporters' Association (FSA) has also opposed the plan.

"Unless the clubs, the Premier League and the EFL can get together urgently... it does raise genuine questions about the governance of the sport," Dowden added.

"I'm sure many fans ... will be thinking to themselves why can't this sport get its act together at the Premier League and the EFL level in order to help."

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and James Davey; Additional writing by Simon Jennings in Bangalore; editing by Michael Holden/Peter Rutherford)

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