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Premier League clubs face battle with government over PPV plans and Project Big Picture

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 13/10/2020 Tom Morgan

Fabian Schar et al. playing football on a field: ewcastle United vs Manchester United is among the first round of Premier League PPV matches - REUTERS © REUTERS ewcastle United vs Manchester United is among the first round of Premier League PPV matches - REUTERS

Premier League clubs are on a collision course with Government over their controversial pay-per-view broadcast plans as well as Project Big Picture, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Sources close to discussions say relations between ministers and England's top tier will be hanging by a thread if Wednesday’s crunch meeting between shareholders fails to appease simmering anger in Whitehall.

The lobbying power of Richard Masters, the league's chief executive, has so far been aided by Boris Johnson's spokesman attacking "backroom dealing" that could lead to sweeping new powers for the big six. The Government has also so far declined to condemn the league itself when it emerged on Friday that clubs are planning to charge £14.95 to allow supporters to watch matches during the pandemic.

Video: Dowden announces the premier league will restart (The Independent)

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However, the Daily Telegraph understands that the scheme went down badly within Government during a week that fresh lockdown measures threaten to plunge swathes of the nation into the financial abyss. Ministers are instead giving the league time to sort the issue out internally. If clubs fail to climb down, or at least announce a significant price reduction, clubs could come under fresh attack.

Never since the inception of the modern top tier in 1992 have relations with Whitehall been so fraught. Masters is under huge pressure to see off a civil war between his 20 clubs over Project Big Picture, which has been interpreted by the Government as naked opportunism.

a man holding a sign posing for the camera: Premier League chief executive Richard Masters - GETTY IMAGES © Provided by The Telegraph Premier League chief executive Richard Masters - GETTY IMAGES

The Premier League has yet to confirm that the broadcasting arrangement will be discussed during crunch talks on Wednesday which are set to be dominated by revolutionary proposals led by Liverpool, Manchester United and Rick Parry, the English Football League chairman.

However, there remains hope within Whitehall that the majority of clubs may see fit to agree upon a U-turn over PPV at the same time as coming out in opposition of the Big Six blueprint unearthed by the Daily Telegraph on Sunday. The world's richest league confirmed two days earlier that half of games for the rest of this month and start of next would be sold individually to viewers on Sky Sports and BT Sport's Box Office in an attempt to claw back some of the millions of pounds a week its clubs are losing from playing behind closed doors. Only Leicester City voted against the initiative at a meeting on Monday, through their chief executive, Susan Whelan. Ed Woodward, the Manchester United executive vice-chairman, failed to join her despite arguing it placed an unfair burden on supporters.

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The Government, meanwhile, is already threatening to launch an immediate review of football regulation if the Premier League cannot agree a rescue package with the English Football League "within the existing measures”.

In proposals disclosed in a world exclusive by the Daily Telegraph on Sunday, the most lucrative sports league in the world would be reduced to 18 teams, and controlling power would be in the hands of the biggest clubs. In return for tearing up many of the rules that have governed the game since the Premier League's inception in 1992, there would be a £250million rescue package for the English Football League to see them through the Covid crisis.

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