Sky could lose Premier League rights, admits Scudamore
Published 09:00 21/03/12 By MirrorFootball
Premier League Richard Scudamore has admitted Sky's 20 years of coverage of England's top flight will count for nothing if they are outbid by Al Jazeera for the next three years of television rights.
Industry experts have speculated that Al Jazeera's financial clout, which has already seen the Middle East-based broadcaster wrest the French league rights from Canal Plus, could provide a serious threat to Sky.
Sky have held the majority of the domestic packages during all 20 years of the Premier League's existence but Scudamore said they were bound to abide by competition regulations - and that means selling to the highest bidder if all criteria are fulfilled.
Scudamore said: "Loyalty counts in many senses. But, remember, our current arrangements - and I see no reason why our future arrangements won't have to be - are regulated, and are regulated heavily.
"Our packages are put out into the open market and we have to have an open tender for those packages.
"We have to sell to the highest compliant bidder.
"Whilst, of course, we have a huge regard and respect and Sky's made a fantastic impact on our business, ultimately whatever umbilical cord there might be as an ongoing, working, commercial relationship, that gets severed once that tender gets issued.
"There's nothing they can do other than be the best bidder to win those rights."
Scudamore also disclosed the Premier League are actively considering selling their next set of TV rights across the whole of Europe rather than just Britain.
PL officials are deciding whether selling the rights on a pan-European basis would provide more income and protection.
The deliberations are taking place against the background of a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on the case of Portsmouth landlady Karen Murphy last year, which stated that the Premier League could not give "broadcasters territorial exclusivity on a member state basis".
Meanwhile, Scudamore conceded Sir Dave Richards' gaffe in Qatar last week had caused embarrassment but said the clubs would decide on the future of the PL chairman who is due to step down anyway next year.
Richards caused a storm when he claimed FIFA and UEFA "stole" football from the English and warned his hosts to relax their alcohol laws for the 2022 World Cup or face a fan boycott.
To cap it all, the Yorkshireman - who is also a Football Association board member - then fell into a water feature on the way to dinner.
Speaking at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club, Scudamore said: "He said what he said, he knows it wasn't right to say it, he's apologised to the people he's apologised to and I'm moving on.
"He's in exactly the same position as me, we are there by the grace of our employers, the 20 clubs.
"The 20 clubs will decide when it's time that they've had enough of me, and they'll decide exactly the same with him."
Scudamore has also told QPR to forget about scrapping the pre-match handshake before John Terry's next reunion with Anton Ferdinand.
Terry and Ferdinand are due to come face to face next month for the first time since a trial date was set into allegations the Blues captain racially abused his fellow defender during October's west London derby.
The Football Association agreed to cancel the pre-match handshake before January's FA Cup clash between the sides after it emerged the QPR team were planning to snub Terry - who denies any wrongdoing - en masse.
The sides meet again in the Barclays Premier League at Stamford Bridge on April 29, more than two months before Terry's court case.
QPR's players may well decide again not to acknowledge Terry but Scudamore said the Premier League were fundamentally opposed to scrapping the ritual itself.
He said: "It's not a handshake that says everybody loves everybody else. It's a handshake that says 'whatever crap's gone on before now and whatever crap will go on after this game is over, for the next 90 minutes, let's just play a game of football'.
"It's nothing more symbolic than that, which is why in our view, they should continue - period."