PHIL PARKINSON has urged the Premier League not to underestimate the gravity of the financial situation in the lower reaches of the EFL, and called on the top-flight to come up with an improved bailout package for the Football League.

The Premier League’s initial financial support package was rejected on Thursday, with the EFL’s 72 clubs refusing to back a proposal they regarded as an attempt to split them into various camps.

After ‘Project Big Picture’ plans were scrapped earlier this week, the Premier League offered to make £50m available to clubs in Leagues One and Two via a combination of grants and interest-free loans, but refused to commit any cash to teams in the Championship, stating that talks over the second tier were still ‘ongoing’.

The EFL’s decision to reject the offer puts the ball back in the Premier League’s court, with the Government continuing to insist the top-flight should be using its resources to support lower-league clubs.

Sunderland’s financial position is relatively secure, but it has been suggested that other clubs in the bottom two divisions could be a month or so away from bankruptcy, and Parkinson has warned against underestimating the seriousness of the situation.

“It’s logical isn’t it? There’s no money coming in, but wages and bills have to be paid,” said the Sunderland boss. “To do that, you either need an owner who’s prepared to keep putting his hand in his pocket to pay things out on a monthly basis – if clubs have those particular owners, then great – or you need an alternative source of money because it’s not everybody who’s got that kind of cash.

“There are people owning football clubs who are having tough times themselves in the business world because of the pandemic. It’s just logical – there is no money coming in, but there is money going out. Somewhere along the line, something’s got to give because that can’t continue.”

The 20 clubs in the Premier League spent a combined total of more than £1bn on transfers this summer, a sum the Government consistently quotes as a reason for why public money should not be spent on propping up clubs in the Football League.

Clubs in the EFL are hugely important parts of their local community and have been integral elements of the fabric of the game for generations, but as well as altruistic reasons for offering their support, Parkinson feels there are also practical benefits to Premier League clubs propping up the lower leagues.

Even the biggest clubs continue to rely on lower-league teams as breeding grounds for talent or nurseries for their own youngsters via the loan system, and Parkinson feels it is incumbent on the Premier League to ensure Football League clubs do not disappear.

“In terms of a bailout, the sustainability of lower-league football is absolutely crucial for the pyramid and structure of the English game,” said the Sunderland boss. “It’s good there are talks around that, but the reality is there has to be a bailout. There is a lot of money at the top end of the game, and I feel the people in charge of those club have a duty to the rest of the country to make sure football continues and clubs stay in business.”

At the start of the week, Sunderland chief executive Jim Rodwell offered his support to the controversial ‘Project Big Picture’ plan that would have seen a £250m fund forwarded to the EFL in exchange for radical reforms that would have resulted in a concentration of power and income in the hands of the so-called ‘big six’.

The proposal was rejected at an emergency board meeting of the Premier League, and while Parkinson remains adamant that some form of support is needed, he understands why ‘Project Big Picture’ died an early death.

“I thought it was quite dangerous for a small group of clubs to get more power,” he said. “Equally, though, for a lot of EFL clubs, I can see why it was tempting to sway towards it because we’re looking at the short-term rather than long-term view. The worry was that a small group of clubs were going to gain a lot of power, but equally there has to be a solution to the short-term problem.”