Premier League screens media chiefs as Scudamore? successor

Sky News ?has learnt that Tim Davie, who runs BBC Studios, and Tom Betts, ITV’s strategy director, are among three contenders to become chief executive of the world’s richest domestic football competition.

A five-person panel, led by the Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, is expected to recommend a preferred candidate to a meeting of Premier League clubs in mid-November.

The search for new leadership at the Premier League was ?triggered in June by Mr Scudamore’s decision to step down after nearly 20 years at the top of an organisation whose commercial template has become admired by sports rights-holders around the world.

For the last four years, Mr Scudamore has combined the roles of chairman and chief executive.

The Premier League is expected to begin looking for a new non-executive chairman ?once a chief executive has been selected.

The presence on the shortlist of Mr Davie, who has spearheaded the BBC’s commercial activities since 2013, and Mr Betts, ITV’s director of corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions, may come as little surprise given the nature of the Premier League role.

Most of its income is generated from domestic and overseas broadcast rights, while its move away from having a single title sponsor to multiple partnerships with the likes of Barclays, Cadbury, Coca-Cola ?and Nike has also reaped rich rewards.

It was unclear this weekend who the other candidate is to become the Premier League’s new chief executive, with some insiders suggesting that an American media industry figure may be in the frame.

Mike Darcey, a former executive at Sky, the owner of Sky News, is a rumoured contender, while Gavin Patterson, a keen Liverpool supporter who will shortly step down as BT Group’s chief executive, is thought to have indicated that he is not interested in the role.

?Mr Davie, who has held a series of senior roles at the BBC, including a six-month stint as acting director-general six years ago, has been linked with other big media jobs in the past, including roles running ITV and Channel 4.

Key deals signed on his BBC watch include a partnership struck in 2014 with AMC resulting from the partial sale of BBC America, an increasingly important market for Premier League audiences.

Although he is understood to be involved in the Premier League’s search process, an insider suggested this weekend that “he loves the BBC and is highly unlikely to move anytime soon”.

Both the BBC and ITV declined to comment.

One media industry source said the Premier League could opt to pick a replacement for Mr Scudamore with more direct experience of negotiating sports ?rights deals than Mr Davie and Mr Betts.

During Mr Scudamore’s two decades at the helm, the Premier League has seen broadcasting and other commercial revenues soar as some of the world’s best players have flocked to England, attracted by the prospect of wages fuelled by bumper TV rights deals.

Revenues have risen more than 40-fold since 1999, when he took over, although his tenure has also been divisive on a number of key issues, including the ?distribution of money among the 20 Premier League clubs as well as its financial contribution to the wider English game.

The search for a new chief executive is being handled by headhunters at Spencer Stuart, ?which reports to a five-person panel led by Mr Buck.

Its other members are ?Mike Garlick, chairman of Burnley FC; Susan Whelan, Leicester City FC chief executive; and Claudia Arney and Kevin Beeston, the Premier League’s two independent non-executives.

Some clubs are said to be unhappy that they will be presented with one recommended name at the November meeting of shareholders, rather than being able to select from several shortlisted candidates.

Whoever is appointed to succeed Mr Scudamore will have to contend with a shifting media rights landscape in which internet giants are increasingly competing with more established TV companies.

This year’s auction of the rights to show 200 matches for three years from next season saw Amazon gatecrash the existing duopoly of Sky and BT by acquiring a limited package of matches.

However, it also witnessed the first reduction in overall UK rights revenues from £5.14bn to £4.55bn, prompting media commentators to suggest that an era of frenzied bidding for Premier League football rights was finally cooling.

A Premier League spokesman declined to comment this weekend on its search for a new chief executive.

2018-10-13T00:00:00+00:00