Manchester United chief Ed Woodward has publicly warned the Premier League that the club have not given up on plans to reshape English football.
Project Big Picture, a radical overhaul of the domestic game drawn up and championed by United and Liverpool, was defeated in a vote of top-flight clubs last week.
Woodward called on the Premier League to show “strategic vision and leadership” to ensure that clubs at all levels could thrive, insisting that United would continue to push for reform.
The Manchester United executive vice-chairman said: “There will always be intense debate around any changes to the structure of football, just as there was before the formation of the Premier League 28 years ago.
“Now, at this critical juncture for the game, we must ensure that the huge success of the Premier League is reinforced while ensuring that the wider football pyramid continues to thrive in a rapidly-changing media environment.
“Achieving this will require strategic vision and leadership. We are pleased that the Premier League has committed to work together on a plan for the future structure and financing of English football.
“Now they must deliver on that promise. And we are committed to playing a leading role in pushing that process towards a successful outcome.”
Project Big Picture proposed the biggest overhaul of English football since the formation of the Premier League in 1992.
What is Project Big Picture?
The plans involved sharing more money with the lower leagues, including a £250m advance to help those clubs survive the effects of the pandemic.
They would also have scrapped the League Cup and Community Shield, and reduced the number of top-flight teams from 20 to 18.
But the most controversial proposal was to scrap the Premier League’s one club, one vote system and effectively hand power to make all key decisions to the six biggest clubs: United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
Woodward was speaking to investors on a conference call to discuss Manchester United’s annual financial results, which were severely affected by the affects of coronavirus.
“You may have read about the discussions taking place in English football about plans to address the near-term financial predicament created by the pandemic for clubs in the lower leagues,” he added.
“We’ve been playing an active role in those discussions because we strongly believe in supporting the English football pyramid, both in the short term to address issues created by Covid-19, and in the long term, to improve financial sustainability at all levels of the game.”
United ‘not in European breakaway league talks’
Woodward shot down suggestions that United had held talks over a possible breakaway competition with other leading European club sides.
But he said he was involved in negotiations with relevant governing bodies about a possible expansion of the Champions League’s 24-team format.
“I saw the reports on that and candidly don’t know where that story came from, but there isn’t really anything for us to say,” he added.
“We are engaged on a very regular basis through my role with the ECA [European Club Association] and with Uefa talking about potential changes to the Champions League, from 2024 onwards.
“You might have read, two or three days ago in the press, a story about whether the Champions League might go to 32 teams. They’re the conversations that we’re actively involved in.”