Premier League deadlock deepens over football’s ‘new deal’

Premier League clubs have been asked to back a £44m upfront payment to their lower league counterparts in the latest bid to secure a landmark funding solution for the future of English football.

Sky News has learned that top clubs were asked to indicate at a Premier League shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday whether they would support an immediate payment within a wider package that could be worth less than originally envisaged.

Sources said the idea was not put to a formal vote among the clubs, meaning the ‘New Deal’ remains elusive despite months of intensive talks aimed at mitigating the threat of a funding solution that could be imposed by a new independent football regulator.

According to several sources briefed on the talks, the clubs were being looked into whether a £44m upfront payment to the English Football League (EFL) would gain their support as part of an overall six-year settlement worth around £875m .

An earlier plan had suggested the New Deal would be worth £915m to the EFL.

The continued impasse reflects the fact that the new funding arrangements will be conditional on clubs agreeing to future financial controls across the professional football pyramid, as well as agreement on how the top 20 clubs – which include Arsenal, Burnley, Liverpool and Manchester United – would share the costs between them.

Tuesday’s meeting came just a fortnight after another shareholder summit ended without meaningful progress.

The pressure is growing on the Premier League

In a statement after the latest collection broke down, the Premier League made no reference to the discussions on the new deal, instead announcing that rules on amortization of player registration costs would be reduced to a maximum of five years in line with UEFA rules .

It also said shareholders had approved a rule change to prevent clubs from signing players where transfer payments to other English clubs are still outstanding.

It was unclear how the Premier League intended to proceed with New Deal negotiations following recent discussions with its clubs.

Pressure has grown on the Premier League to reconcile fresh breaches over critical issues of financial and sporting integrity, even after it signed a four-year, £6.7bn domestic broadcasting rights deal with Sky, Sky News’ immediate parent.

Some club executives outside the ‘big six’ – comprising Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – have issued private warnings that the proposed New Deal settlement could cause them serious financial damage.

At least one club in the bottom half of the league is believed to have raised the prospect of having to borrow money this year to fund its potential share of the handout to the EFL.

Proposals for a bespoke licensing scheme put forward by the government have caused clear unease among a number of Premier League clubs, some of whom believe the new deal should remain unsigned until there is greater clarity on how the regulator will work.

Managers have also expressed concern over the absence of conditions attached to the funding, while pointing to the absence of an internal agreement on how the funding should be distributed between the 20 clubs.

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“We risk more clubs collapsing”

Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, has been talking since the summer about reaching a quick resolution to the New Deal and had hoped to put it to a formal vote last month.

Under a plan outlined for clubs during the fall and revealed by Sky Newsthe new deal will run for six years, with the deal worth £190m. to the EFL in the 2028-29 season, the final 12 months of the term.

The funding for clubs in the lower leagues will be in addition to existing annual solidarity payments of £110m. and additional funds earmarked for youth development.

In June, MPs from the culture, media and sport select committee said the Premier League and the EFL must urgently agree to provide funding across the English football pyramid or be forced into a settlement by the new regulator.

“Unless football authorities get their act together soon to agree a fairer share of revenue, we risk more clubs collapsing with the devastating impact that can have on local communities,” said Dame Caroline Dinenage, committee chair.

In a white paper published earlier this year, the government said: “The current distribution of revenue is not adequate, contributing to problems of financial unsustainability and having a destabilizing effect on the football pyramid.”

The document highlighted a gap of £4bn. between the total revenue of Premier League clubs and the revenue of Championship clubs in the 2020-21 season.

The push for a new regulator has gathered momentum since the Conservative Party’s 2019 general election manifesto, in which Rishi Sunak pledged to continue the reforms set in motion under Boris Johnson.

The Premier League declined to comment on Tuesday.

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