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Volume 6 No. 197

Leagues and Governing Bodies

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.

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.

Clubs appear to have finally settled their differences with the National Rugby League "over funding for next year after the game's governing body agreed to provide each of them with an additional" A$450,000 ($410,000), according to Brent Read of THE AUSTRALIAN. There "is a caveat, however." While the clubs can apply for the additional funding for '14, the money "must be repaid on a monthly basis thereafter for the next three years." The clubs will also be required to pay a service fee of A$20,000 on the money, which the NRL "is describing as an advance but amounts to little more than an interest-free loan." Clubs had initially been offered A$7.1M by the NRL for next season but "held out for the additional amount to cover the total cost of the salary cap" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/20). In Sydney, Adrian Proszenko reported NRL COO Jim Doyle said that "transfer windows and fees will be considered for players seeking a compassionate release as part of a review of the salary-cap system." The issue "is a sensitive one for the clubs and individuals involved as, under the rules, the holding club is likely to be severely disadvantaged should they part with one of their most-prized assets." Doyle, who is heading a steering committee to review the salary cap along with Australian Rugby League Commission Head of Football Todd Greenberg, said that "the possibility of adversely affected clubs being paid compensation was being investigated" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/20).

The Gaelic Athletic Association "has stood down" HawkEye techonology "following an error" during the All-Ireland minor hurling semifinal at Croke Park, according to the IRISH INDEPENDENT. HawkEye was brought in by GAA chiefs this year -- making its debut at the All-Ireland Club Finals on St. Patrick's Day in Croke Park. The system, which is sponsored by retailer Specsavers, "was in full use for the All-Ireland championships." An "investigation into how the error occurred is underway" (IRISH INDEPENDENT, 8/18). In Dublin, Kevin Doyle reported the GAA is using HawkEye "on a trial basis in Croke Park with a view to rolling it out around the country." It "is thought to have cost the GAA in the region" of  €200,000 ($266,940), although "the actual figure has never been confirmed." Until Sunday, HawkEye "had been praised as a positive development in the game" (IRISH HERALD, 8/19). The RTE reported it is expected that HawkEye "will be in full working order" for next Sunday's minor and senior football semifinals (RTE, 8/18).

The "threat of a Supreme Court injunction" by Australian Football League side Essendon coach James Hird's legal team "has been alleviated at the 11th hour with the AFL granting the Essendon coach extra time to fight his conduct unbecoming charges," according to Caroline Wilson of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The decision by the AFL to "grant an extension was greeted on Monday night as a victory by the Hird camp." The other individuals facing charges -- Danny Corcoran, Mark Thompson and club doctor Bruce Reid -- "were also planning to take up the AFL's offer of extra time." Essendon is "determined to take part in the 2013 finals series, and the decision by the AFL to grant the four individuals extra time may allow for that possibility." Essendon as a club "neither sought nor received an extension." The commission did not respond to Hird's attempt "to have his charges heard by another body." Nor was there a "public response to Hird's push" to remove AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou from the commission panel (SMH, 8/20).