Nobody has been more influential in making the Premier League what it is today than Richard Scudamore.
[ LIVE: Stream Premier League games ]
On Thursday the Premier League’s executive chairman announced he will step down from his role by the end of 2018, bringing an end to his stewardship of the league after an incredible 20 years of growth.
Scudamore, 58, summed it up best during his announcement that he will step down.
“The Premier League is in great shape and the future is bright, of course there are still many things to improve and constant challenges, but that is what makes it so exhilarating,” Scudamore said. “The Clubs put on the greatest show; fans, such an essential part of that show, love it both here and around the world. Because it so compelling, the League’s success will continue under new and re-invigorated leadership.”
[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]
Those that know him best say his leadership is firm but friendly, honest but sprinkled with laughter, and as he became the undisputed face of the league, off the pitch, he accelerated the Premier League’s growth following its inception.
His close relationship with club owners was key to his success as he led the PL with exemplary diplomacy while also having time for a wry smile and a friendly chat along the way.
When the Premier League arrived in 1992, it was the dawn of a new era in the English game.
Growing up in England during the early years of the Premier League’s formation, personally I look back fondly on heading to games across the country and seeing the top players on the planet every weekend, plus the extra razzmatazz and greater emphasis on the overall fan experience. As a youngster, I was hooked. I still am.
Since Scudamore took charge in 1999 (he spent a few years leading the Football League before the PL), the league has attracted the best talent from across the planet consistently and it has truly become a global league over the past two decades. Led by Scudmaore’s relentless, focused drive, the financial strength of the league has turned it into a behemoth known across the globe. From Brazil to Japan and the USA to Kenya, the 20 teams who compete each season in the PL are now global brands.
As well as massive commercial sponsorship coming to the league, funding from the domestic TV deal alone has also allowed the league to become the best soccer league on the planet. Scudamore has overseen a rise from a $900 million deal (1997-01) for four years of coverage when he took charge to the current three-year domestic deal which is now worth over $6.7 billion.
That’s not to mention the countries all over the world queuing up to televise the PL and the huge sums that will bring to all 20 Premier League clubs to invest in facilities, players and their communities.
Over the years that cash influx has led to Brazilian’s turning up en masse at Middlesbrough, the giants of English soccer attracting the best managers and players money can buy, state of the art stadiums popping up and wealthy investors from across the world wanting to help the PL grow further.
Merging huge financial clout with soccer prestige yet keeping authenticity has been one of Scudamore’s biggest achievements.
When you think of Great Britain, one of the first things you now think about is great soccer. The Premier League, and in particular Scudamore, has developed that notion and the PL is no doubt one of the UK’s finest exports.
Scudamore was key to all of this and having heard him speak at a small rooftop event in a swanky central London hotel just a few months ago, his enthusiasm and sense of adventure hadn’t diminished. At all.
But perhaps now, heading towards a nice round number of years in charge at the PL, seemed like the best time for a fresh challenge or just to relax a little more.
“Whilst I have no plans to retire, whatever I do next, I will carve out more time to support them in pursuit of their own passions … and to see more of Bristol City,” Scudamore said.
It is known that he is fond of spending time in the USA (when not willing his beloved Bristol City on to reach the Premier League for the first-time ever…) and it will be intriguing to see if Scudamore moves into a similar role within the American soccer community in the coming years. Scudamore worked in the U.S. as a senior executive at newspaper proprietor Thomson from 1994, managing 200 newspapers in 40 different states, and his ties with the nation are extensive.
If he does head back to the USA in the future, he would no doubt be a huge success.
His pursuit of perfection in everything from the way Premier League games are televised, to how the clubs are run day-to-day and pioneering ways to take the league across the globe will be revered for decades to come.
Scudamore is well and truly ‘Mr Premier League’ and he has laid the foundations almost perfectly for the league to continue to grow and build on his unbelievable success.
“It’s an absolute privilege to have been allowed to enjoy this role for so long, it is too much fun to be called a job,” Scudamore said. “Football is an intoxicating environment and therefore difficult to give up being so involved, but my passion for what football means to so many and the positive impact it can make will never diminish.”