Bundesliga’s Chief Executive Isn’t Keen to Join Premier League
LONDON — The group entrusted with conducting the surprisingly difficult search for a candidate to run English soccer’s Premier League has received another rejection from an executive for whom the opportunity would appear to have been a step up.
Earlier this year, the league approached Christian Seifert, chief executive of Germany’s Bundesliga, to see if he would like to step into the shoes of Richard Scudamore, the towering figure under whose leadership England’s top flight managed to become by far the world’s most popular soccer league, not to mention its richest.
Seifert briefly thought about the idea before dismissing it, according to people with knowledge of his thinking. He is focused on managing the next set of broadcast rights sales as Germany’s league competes with Spain’s La Liga in the battle for second place behind the Premier League, said the people, who were not authorized to speak about it publicly.
A spokeswoman for the Bundesliga and Seifert declined to comment. A Premier League spokesman said the league did not comment on names linked to the role.
The search for Scudamore’s replacement has shined a harsh light on the search team, led by Chelsea’s chairman, Bruce Buck, entrusted to find the former advertising executive’s replacement. Last year, the group announced the appointment of Susanna Dinnage, a senior executive at Discovery Communications, before she abruptly changed her mind in late December. That left the league scrambling for a second option. A raft of names have since been linked to the post, but the search continues without any sign of an imminent appointment.
At a league board meeting, which was attended by a mix of owners and executives from the Premier League’s 20 teams, those in attendance were told that the search group, which has hired the U.K. headhunting firm Spencer Stuart to help with the process, has interviewed a final group of six candidates who will be shortlisted to three by the end of the month.
Scudamore’s replacement will find an increasingly busy inbox, as well as a challenging media climate, as the league attempts to at least keep pace with the multibillion-dollar deals that have fueled its rise. The Premier League recently joined counterparts across Europe in voicing concerns about plans by some of the continent’s top clubs to restructure the elite Champions League, changes that risk diminishing the value and relevance of domestic soccer.
The new boss must also manage tension between the league’s biggest clubs — a group of six that includes Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, who have owners from the United States and who are constantly fighting for a larger slice of income at the expense of the rest of the competition. He or she will also be faced with as yet unknown challenges created by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.
But even without a leader, the Premier League continues to provide a compelling product for its worldwide fan base, with this season’s title race set to go to the wire as Manchester City and Liverpool match each other point for point into the final games, while the next four teams are involved in an equally tight fight for the final two qualification places for next season’s Champions League.
The delay, though, has been frustrating for some of the league’s staff and companies that do business with it. They had grown used to Scudamore’s decisive management style. For instance, the Premier League recently scrapped a multimillion-dollar agreement with Facebook to broadcast games in four Asian countries after failing to finalize the agreement. An executive involved in the talks, who had completed contracts with Scudamore in the past, said the leadership void did not help the process.
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