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Premier League Reform Plan Would Shrink League to 18 Clubs

That Liverpool and Manchester United are at the heart of the reform movement immediately led to criticism on social media, with fans and commentators suggesting that the two clubs are looking to further entrench their interests and positions atop global soccer.

The push to reduce the league to 18 teams mirrors the views of Andrea Agnelli, the chairman of the Italian champion Juventus and the leader of the influential European Club Association, a lobby group for top division teams. Agnelli has said that he favors reducing the size of domestic leagues to create space for more meaningful games between Europe’s elite teams, but he has also been one of the biggest proponents of shifting power in European soccer to the clubs that dominate it.

One of the drivers behind the Premier League proposal, beyond increasing the power of the wealthiest teams, is to reduce cases of risk-taking by clubs in the second-tier Championship as they try to win promotion to the Premier League. Access can bring huge rewards, in the form of television and sponsorship revenues and even so-called parachute payments — worth tens of millions of dollars for years — if they are relegated back to the Championship.

The problem, English soccer has found, is eager teams have at times piled up huge losses in the hope of building a squad capable of reaching the Premier League or competing with rivals who have, reaped that windfall, and then returned.

Under the reform proposal, parachute payments would be scrapped and the annual riches provided by the Premier League would be shared more equitably with the teams in the second tier. Clubs in the next two divisions would benefit as well, with about 25 percent of the total shared by the Premier League reserved for them.

The proposal also calls for the abolition of the League Cup, a cup competition reserved for professional teams that has long lost its luster among elite clubs, and the Community Shield, the traditional curtain raiser to the league season, which matches the previous campaign’s Premier League champion against the F.A. Cup holder.

It also discusses financing for a women’s professional league independent of the Premier League and the Football Association. And perhaps fearful of a fan backlash, those behind the proposals have added elements aimed at winning the support of match-going spectators, including a cap of $26 on ticket prices for visiting fans, a commitment to introducing safe standing areas in stadiums and subsidized travel for supporters who attend away matches.

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