The '13-14 Premier League season, which kicked off on Saturday, marks the start of the league's new £3B ($4.7B), three-year domestic TV contract with Sky and BT as well as the initiation of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, which will come into full effect this season. EPL CEO RICHARD SCUDAMORE talked to SBD Global about the league's new int'l TV contracts, financial regulations in football and the issue of racism on and off the pitch.
Q: In addition to the league’s new domestic TV deal with BT and Sky, the Premier League has also expanded and increased its int'l TV exposure. In terms of int’l TV deals, what are the league’s criteria for selecting new markets? And what markets are the top priorities of the EPL?
Richard Scudamore: When selling our international broadcast rights we have tender processes for individual broadcast markets that, for the new three-season term starting '13-14, have led to 80+ individual contracts being agreed. Those agreements will see Barclays Premier League matches broadcast to 804 million homes in 212 territories. Last season, 217,000 hours of Premier League programming were broadcast across the world and that could increase in the upcoming season. We are fortunate in the Premier League to have some stellar clubs that are well known around the world. That leads to interest in the competition from all corners of the globe and that interest is growing significantly in several countries including the U.S., India and Indonesia.
Q: Do you also try to increase the league’s TV exposure in other European countries that have top-notch football leagues such as Italy, France, Germany and Spain?
Scudamore: We work hard with all of our broadcast partners, in Europe and the rest of the world, to make Premier League coverage as comprehensive and innovative as possible. It all starts with the fast and exciting football on the pitch and the vibrant atmosphere at our grounds. Our clubs work extremely hard to ‘put on the show’ that is the Barclays Premier League and our broadcast partners are very good at making that translate through audio-visual broadcasts.
Q: How is the league’s current exposure in China and India?
Scudamore: The interest in the Premier League is increasing significantly in both regions. In China, we have a broadcast and marketing agreement with an agency that sees Premier League matches available on a series of free-to-air regional TV stations, IPTV and Internet sites that generate enormous traffic. In India, Star Sports is a long-term broadcast partner of the Premier League and will this season offer broadcasts of Premier League matches in Hindi for the first time.
Q: Many big-spending clubs in Europe and in the Premier League will have trouble to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules. What’s the EPL’s take on UEFA’s financial regulations?
Scudamore: UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules apply to clubs that compete in UEFA competitions and basically state that clubs cannot spend more than they earn in revenue, save for spending in certain areas including youth development, community work and infrastructure development. We have our own financial regulations that limit losses over a three-season period, while allowing for some owner equity investments. They also limit the amount of new centrally generated revenue that can be spent on player costs. We believe that our new regulations strike the right balance between allowing clubs to invest while encouraging good financial management.
Q: Could it help improve the quality of England’s national team if clubs were forced to count on their youth academies and play more English players?
Scudamore: The work that our clubs carry out in their youth academies is of a very high standard and we already have rules that require them to include at least eight home-grown players in their 25-man senior squads. We are currently one year into a huge youth development program called the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). We have committed £340 million ($532M) over four seasons to the EPPP and it will see enhancements to all elements of player development in our club’s youth academies. The No. 1 stated aim of the Plan is to develop more and better home-grown players. The likes of Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, Jack Wilshere at Arsenal, Kyle Walker at Spurs and many other top English and British players have come through the system. The clubs are working hard to develop more of that standard of players and the EPPP is front and center of that.
Q: The Premier League, together with The FA, tries to fight the issue of racism in professional football. How important is it to get racism out of the game and, maybe even more important, to get it out of the stands?
Scudamore: Last season we had players competing in our league from 71 different countries and we celebrate that diversity. It is part of what encourages fans from all over the world to take an interest in the league and in our clubs and long may that continue. Premier League crowds are more diverse than they ever have been, with fans from black and minority ethnic communities accounting for 11% of attending fans last season. And at grassroots and community levels we have a number of good-cause programs, including many run in partnerships with our club foundations, for young people that encourage inclusion and anti-discrimination in all walks of life. While we celebrate all of that, there is always work to be done in this area. While working with our clubs and our partners at the FA and anti-racism groups “Kick It Out” and “Show Racism the Red Card,” we will continue to encourage and celebrate diversity throughout the sport.