When Richard Scudamore left his role as chief executive of the Premier League at the end of 2018, it created an opportunity for someone new to step into the position for the first time in 19 years.
Cue the hundreds of applications, cue numerous public declarations of interest in the job, right? Not quite. It does, in fact, seem to be regarded as something of a poisoned chalice at the moment.
Firstly, Susanna Dinnage was earmarked as the perfect replacement but mere weeks before she was to take on the PL chief executive’s role, Susanna announced she would no longer be filling Scudamore’s shoes.
Right from the first moment when Dinnage was announced as the PL’s new chief executive, the aim the PL was hoping to take became very clear. Dinnage would be coming with over 10 years’ broadcasting experience having served her time as a leading executive with US tv company, Discovery. Eurosport is also one of Discovery’s channels or brands. Dinnage’s personal experience includes the last year which she has spent in the role of global president for Discovery’s Animal Planet brand.
It seemed that the PL was looking for someone vastly experienced in the broadcasting sector, someone who could lead the organisation in terms of negotiating TV packages. Dinnage then changed her mind in late-December, opting to remain in her current role with Discovery.
The PL released its official statement on the matter, commenting that: “Despite her commitment to the Premier League in early November, Susanna Dinnage has now advised the nominations committee that she will not be taking up the position of chief executive. The committee has reconvened its search and is talking to candidates. There will be no further comment until an appointment is made.”
The second name linked with the position was that of Tim Davie from the BBC. Davie is the chief executive of BBC Studios so, again, would bring with him many years of practice in TV broadcasting.
The PL’s focus on personnel with a strong background in television added weight to the comment from The Guardian’s article that the PL “is first and foremost a media-rights-selling organisation that happens to provide 20 clubs with a platform, referees and a ball.”
Davie also said no to the position. It was now mid-January and the PL’s recruitment process was becoming slightly embarrassing for the most popular professional football league on the planet. No-one wanted the job.
What exactly was so uninviting about this job with its seven-figure salary? Scudamore can take this all as the highest possible praise for the job he did. In short, it looks as though many potential candidates feel that Scudamore brought the PL as far as it can go in terms of earnings.
Scudamore’s £5 million golden handshake which caused so much controversy when it was announced in November seems to have come with a non-compete clause. As a result, the former PL chief executive cannot bring his contacts, talents and expertise to use to the benefit of La Liga or Serie A, for example.
In the 19 years Scudamore was in the role, the PL’s earnings from TV rights have increased over 25 times from £0.191 billion in 1992-97 to the current 2016-19 deal which totals £5.136 billion. Scudamore took over in 1999 when the contract was still worth under £1 billion for a four-year period. He has overseen every successful deal since.
However, not all is rosy in the PL offices now and the reasons for people wanting to avoid the tasks that come with this job become quite clear upon closer inspection.
Firstly, there is no way the TV broadcasting deals will continue to increase at such a rate, if at all. It will be very interesting to see what comes of the next PL TV deal as online streaming becomes more the norm with the likes of Sky’s NOW TV option and Amazon’s entrance into the football streaming marketplace.
Also, there is the ever-growing issue of illegal IPTV streaming providers who, with improving broadband services worldwide, can give viewers what they want for a fraction of the cost of a Sky Sports or BT Sport subscription.
Add to that the growing unrest as the PL’s ‘big six’ of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal are all crying out for a larger slice of the pie from the TV money.
The league’s revenue-sharing model was drawn up by Rick Parry, the PL’s first chief executive in 1991. Manchester City, in particular, have been asking for a review of the structure of how the PL’s TV income is shared out among its participants.
So, just who wants to step into what could be a lose-lose situation as the PL’s new chief executive? It will be very, very difficult for the next in line to be viewed as a success. The earnings will slow down for all clubs as the next TV deal is sure to be of a lower value than the current behemoth. Say no to the big six about the larger dividends and you’ll turn thousands against you. Say yes, and you’ll be disrespecting the other 14 clubs and their fans.
The PL needs someone, and fast, but as they’ve found out already, it’s not going to be easy to get the right person who also actually wants to take on the challenges mentioned.
Maybe there is a diamond out there yet to declare his or her interest? They will need to bring some new ideas to the table, however, as the PL faces its first potentially difficult period since its inauguration almost 27 years ago.