Richard Scudamore on the Premier League, Bristol City and English football

  • Watch Alex Wood's interview with former Premier League boss Richard Scudamore

The former boss of the Premier League has revealed how his West Country roots may have helped him land the top job.

Richard Scudamore was put in charge of England’s top-flight of football in 1999 after previously working in the newspaper industry.

It was a position he held for 20 years, during which the Premier League established itself as the most-watched football competition in the world.

He oversaw the league’s growth and helped negotiate television rights deals worth more than £5billion.

Scudamore was Executive Chairman of the Premier League from 1999 to 2018. Credit: PA

In a wide-ranging interview with ITV News West Country, Scudamore said his Bristolian background may have helped him secure the job.

“I was born in Bristol in 1959, I was the middle one of three boys,” he said.

“We were raised in a place called Soundwell, which is sandwiched between Staple Hill and Kingswood. 

“Along came a guy from Bristol and I think in some ways, it was pretty neutral because nobody in that football circle - that hierarchy - really took Bristol that seriously.

“Therefore it was like there was some neutrality. It was like being the Switzerland of football politics in some ways.”

When he took charge of the Premier League in 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were champions, Liverpool’s Michael Owen was top goalscorer and Manchester City were competing in the First Division.

It was a very different era of football, which presented its own unique challenges.

Sir Alex Ferguson led Manchester United to their historic treble success in 1999, when Scudamore took charge. Credit: PA

“When I got there, the Premier League had started well,” he said.

“Despite all of the critics and the cynics in 1992/1993, they’d had a good start. They had just renewed their domestic television deal for a few years hence and so the strategy when I arrived was to try and see if there was international scope and international expansion and international opportunity for it.”

Under Scudamore’s stewardship from 1999 to his retirement in 2018, the Premier League became the most-watched competition in world football.

He said the league’s popularity was largely down to its players, managers and box-office entertainment.

Scudamore chats to ITV News West Country's Alex Wood.

“When I started, we had the Manchester United-Arsenal duopoly,” he said, reflecting on the rivalry between Sir Alex and his Gunners counterpart Arsene Wenger.

“Then along came Chelsea and they interrupted that, with Mr Abramovic and his investment.

“Then along came Manchester City. I just think it’s very competitive, it’s very compelling and that’s what people want to watch.”

A total of 47 teams were promoted to and relegated from the Premier League while Scudamore was in charge.

Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho pictured after rejoining the Blues as manager in 2013.
Manchester City won back to back Premier League titles in 2019.

But his beloved Bristol City - or any other side from the West Country - was not among them.

“Bristol City are the biggest team from the biggest city that’s never been in and so of course on one level, it’s a source of absolute frustration,” he said.

“But I know it’s also a source of frustration to our owner and benefactor Steve who nobody, no Bristol City fan can have any criticism of the way he has run that club. 

“We got to the playoffs. We were only a Dean Windass overhead kick from the Premier League at that point and so we can get close again.”