Sam Wallace: Scudamore gives City excellence a seal of approval

 

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The Independent Online

Richard Scudamore will be at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, a decision he attributes to geographical convenience, although no one would blame the Premier League chief executive for taking the view that, on the balance of probability, the trophy presentation come 5pm will be in east Manchester.

The league's chairman, Sir Dave Richards, will travel from his Sheffield home to the Stadium of Light just in case Manchester United find themselves crowned champions for the 13th time. Scudamore protests that the choice was made weeks ago, with Manchester being closer than Sunderland to his home in the Cotswolds. It is part of his job to be diplomatic but the truth is that if this is to be Manchester City's first Premier League title it is right that he should be there.

The role of chief executive requires Scudamore, above, to walk a difficult line: managing 20 disputatious clubs with competing interests and also negotiating the most lucrative television contracts in world sport every three years. Tenders have now gone out for the next three-year deal, which will start with the 2013-2014 season.

So does Scudamore believe Sheikh Mansour's project, £800m and counting, has been good for English football? And the other question is: if City do become only the fifth club to win the Premier League in its 20 seasons, will the new Uefa rules on financial fair play mean that they are the last club to benefit from the transformative effect of a billionaire investor?

Scudamore says: "It might be the last time it [changing a club] can be done this quickly but it doesn't mean it will be the last time it can be done. We know exactly what FFP [the first monitoring period of which ends next summer] is; what none of us know is what impact it will have. You need one heck of a crystal ball and I can't begin to speculate.

"It might have the impact we hope, which is wage inflation and transfer inflation is capped and limited. We hope it doesn't have a negative impact in terms of willingness of people to invest. It might encourage people to invest; it might lock in the natural order, where the big clubs remain the big clubs and no one can break in.

"[An investor] can still come in and make investments in infrastructure. You could come in and build a fantastic stadium, capitalise on a big fan base and grow your natural revenues. You could make a huge development in youth and get a lot of good young players in, therefore achieving playing success by other means, still using your resources that the rules allow. But it would take longer to actually build that club into a title-winning club. But it won't stop people. It might even encourage people to invest, knowing that everyone is similarly restrained.

"What you won't be able to do is come in and bring in more talent than you need. You can't be as profligate as some have been, warehouse talent that you don't require and have huge squads. It [investing in a club] will be done in a more controlled way."

Scudamore is one of the few in English football to have met Sheikh Mansour, the fortysomething owner of the club who has attended only one City game since he acquired them in 2008. "What I can say is that Sheikh Mansour and the chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, when you look at all their other business interests, are committed to excellence," he says.

"We are glad to have them in that sense because they bring quality. They want to do what is right and what is good and what improves things. They don't leave a stone unturned and that has improved everybody; it means everyone ups their game.

"You look at what they have done for the infrastructure of the club, what they are doing with the academy, around the stadium with the fan zone, and the site itself, the [Etihad Campus] plans they have are fantastic. So the investments they have made aren't just in the playing squad."

The Premier League is a broad church, with 20 different clubs and 20 different approaches to achieving what each regards as success. Scudamore's priority, he says, is sustainability.

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