PHIL Gartside is at the forefront of controversial new plans to split the Premier League in two.

The Wanderers chairman is set to make his proposals to Thursday’s chairman’s meeting after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

A long-term advocate of a two-tier top flight, Gartside’s blueprint proposes two Premier League divisions, each of 18 teams and including Glasgow giants Celtic and Rangers.

There would be promotion and relegation of two clubs between the divisions, while one club would be relegated from Premier League 2 to be replaced by a club from the Football League.

With the top flight reduced from 20 clubs, there’s also a proposal for a winter break. There would also be a new Premier League knockout competition and a possible salary cap.

The Reebok chief, one of the longest-serving chairmen in the top flight and an influential member of the Football Association’s board, is concerned at the growing gulf in riches between England’s elite and the rest of football and believes this is a move which would safeguard the futures of the likes of clubs like Wanderers.

His plans are believed to have been backed by at least seven Premier League clubs as well as leading Football League clubs, while current Premier League chairman Dave Richards, sees merits in the change.

Gartside and his supporters need 14 top-flight clubs to back his blueprint, as well as getting the Football League, Football Association and UEFA on board.

Significantly, the Big Four of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are almost certain to oppose the move.

It is thought the introduction of Celtic and Rangers – and subsequent increase in broadcasting revenues as a result – would compensate the financial shortfall that would inevitably follow the addition of an extra 16 teams to the current 20.

Presently the Premier League make parachute payments to relegated clubs of £11.5m a season for two seasons if they fail to bounce back in those seasons.

A Premier League spokesman said: “We haven’t seen any proposal and therefore are unable to comment.”