West Ham have announced that they are against radical plans by Liverpool and Manchester United to reform the English football pyramid, according to a club source.
The Project Big Picture proposals have been put together by Liverpool owner John Henry and United co-chairman Joel Glazer.
Everton, Southampton and West Ham would be granted special status in the plans, along with the so-called ‘big six’.
However, a Hammers insider has told BBC Sport they are “very much against” it.
It is understood the club were unaware of the proposals, even though they were named in them – and were shocked when they emerged into the public domain on Sunday.
The source said they were of the view Liverpool and United were the instigators but that they had been told talks have been going on since January and what has emerged is the 17th version of the proposal. The plans also include special status for Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday the plans would “undermine the trust in football’s governance”.
“In terms of support for clubs we have been given assurances by the Premier League and English Football League that they have no intention to let any EFL club go bust due to Covid-19 and we know they have the means to prevent that from happening within existing mechanisms.
“We strongly urge the Premier League and EFL to continue to work constructively to come up with a package of support for the whole football family.”
The Hammers feel the obvious negatives – the loss of two home games – will hit their finances, while at the same time creating space for more European games and lucrative pre-season friendlies, which would disproportionately benefit the ‘big six’.
The plans include reducing the Premier League to 18 clubs and scrapping the EFL Cup.
In return, the EFL would get 25% of all future TV deals, which would be negotiated jointly, plus the £250m bail-out many clubs have been demanding since May.
This is the fourth season in a row where the ‘big six’ have all qualified for European football. In the past 10 seasons, one of them has missed out on only four occasions.
Over the past decade, West Ham have had two European campaigns, both of which ended during the qualifying rounds. Southampton and Everton have also qualified for Europe twice in the same period.
“The big six are using Covid-19 for a power grab,” said the West Ham source. “If this goes through, over time they will just use more and more for themselves.”
It is not known what will happen if the plan – which has drawn criticism from supporters’ groups, the government and the Premier League executive – is rejected.
The Premier League said “individual proposals” in the plan “could have a damaging impact on the whole game”, and that it would continue its own work on a “resolution to the requirement for Covid-19 rescue funding” for the EFL.
However, one theory – which EFL chairman Rick Parry refused to dismiss when questioned specifically about it twice on Sunday – is that the six clubs have been told they could play within the Football League if their Premier League status was threatened.
One source with detailed knowledge of running clubs at both Premier League and EFL level says the plan has merit but the fear of how the ‘big six’ might rewrite the rule book – potentially including halting relegation or blocking new owners whose investment may threaten their own status – was likely to be regarded as too big a price for many to accept.