Blow for Premier League as Dinnage pulls out of CEO role

The English Premier League has restarted its search for a chief executive after Susanna Dinnage withdrew from the job before starting work leading the world’s richest soccer competition.

Having announced in November that Dinnage would start in early 2019, the league disclosed Sunday that the broadcasting executive had now rejected the chance to succeed Richard Scudamore.

Dinnage has decided to stay in broadcasting at Discovery, Inc., where she has been serving as global president of the Animal Planet brand, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the reasons for her not taking up the league job were not being publicly discussed.

Dinnage had said last month that it was going to be a “great privilege” to work at “the pinnacle of professional sport” leading the Premier League.

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“Despite her commitment to the Premier League in early November, Susanna Dinnage has now advised the nominations committee that she will not be taking up the position of chief executive,” the league said Sunday.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, who led the recruitment of Dinnage and called her “the outstanding choice,” has resumed the process.

“The (nominations) committee has reconvened its search and is talking to candidates,” the league said. “There will be no further comment until an appointment is made.”

Dinnage’s TV experience, which also included MTV and Britain’s Channel Five, was seen as a key asset in the current era of blockbuster deals for live soccer rights and a diverging market.

Scudamore has overseen the value of the Premier League’s broadcasting rights soaring 12-fold to more than 8 billion pounds ($10 billion). Comcast-owned British pay-TV operator Sky is the league’s biggest TV partner but Scudamore has sold live domestic rights for the first time to an internet streaming service — Amazon — from the 2019-2020 season.

Scudamore has run English football’s top flight since 1999, initially as CEO, and stepped down as executive chairman earlier this month. Controversy surrounded Scudamore’s departure after clubs agreed to farewell payment of 5 million pounds ($6 million), which will be spread over three years to prevent him working for a rival competition.

The leadership of the league is again splitting into two roles: a CEO and chairman.

A looming issue for the league is linked to Britain’s planned departure from the European Union in March, which impacts the work permit process. The league is currently engaged in a dispute with the English Football Association, which wants to restrict teams to 13 non-homegrown players in squads. The league doesn’t want the ability of its 20 teams to recruit foreign players weakened by a governing body whose main focus is running successful England national teams.

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