Premier League won't write blank cheque for EFL clubs, says Masters

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Leeds United v Fulham - Elland Road, Leeds, Britain - September 19, 2020 General view of a match ball before the match Pool via REUTERS/Laurence Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has told British MPs there will be no "blank cheque" for cash-strapped English Football League (EFL) clubs suffering during the pandemic.

Answering question from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday about the delay in agreeing a bailout package for the 72 EFL clubs, Master refuted suggestions the Premier League's response had been 'pitiful'.

The Premier League has offered 50 million pounds ($66.19 million) to Leagues One and Two (the third and fourth tier) -- 30 million as loans -- but agreement with second-tier Championship clubs has been a sticking point.

"The Premier League has engaged and wants to seek resolution but there can't be a blank cheque or an underwriting of losses," Masters said. "We believe our proposal is appropriate and goes to the heart of the problem and is in line with government policy on how it deals with other sectors.

"We believe we are stepping up and helping the pyramid of football, we have yet to reach an agreement but I am confident we can do that."

While Premier League clubs have lost around 700 million pounds in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic which has forced games to be played in empty stadiums, lucrative TV deals mean they are less impacted -- a point illustrated by a one billion pound outlay in the transfer window.

Clubs down the pyramid rely much more on match-day activity and according to DCMS chair Julian Knight MP 10 of them are struggling to make payroll.

Masters insisted the Premier League was there to help.

"I don't think our proposals are pitiful. We can make money available now to clubs that need it and we can work with the EFL to ensure that funds were going to the right places to ensure clubs don't suffer distress," he said.

"We are huge supporters of the pyramid and understand its importance."

Masters also confirmed that the Premier League's strategic review would be completed by March and that "change was coming" to the top flight, a situation given a sense of urgency after the leaking of the proposed Project Big Picture.

"We were also contemplating our own strategic review, then the pandemic came and changed everything," Masters said.

"What we have announced in the last two weeks is a revival of our strategic review but with a tighter timeframe and wider focus to deal with issues during the pandemic.

"I think the status quo is very unlikely to be unifying or the right way forward so I think change is coming.

"But change needs to be delivered with the development of all clubs and stakeholders."

Project Big Picture, a plan hatched by the owners of Liverpool and Manchester United and backed by EFL chairman Rick Parry, had proposed radical changes to the structure and financial re-distribution of the English game.

It was rejected by Premier League clubs after a meeting of the 20 members in October.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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