Liverpool FC Chief Executive Rick Parry looks on during the draw of the quarter-finals of the soccer Champions League at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon March 20, 2009. The quarter-finals will be played April 7 and 8 and the return legs on April.14 and 15, the semi-finals will be played April 28 and 29, the second legs to be staged May 5 and 6, the final is to be played May 29, 2009 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse (SWITZERLAND SPORT SOCCER)
1. How has football changed since you were CEO of the Premier League?
I left in 1997 so we were just starting to see the impact of the Bosman judgment. In England that impact has been enormous with over 70% of the Premier League players coming from overseas. Let’s see what Brexit does! And then around 1998 we had the changes in the format of the UEFA Champions League. This has changed the landscape of European competition and every top club wants to compete regularly in the Champions League.
2. You have also been CEO of Liverpool. What is the most difficult to manage in a football team?
Managing a club is certainly more complex, and I would say more difficult, than managing a league. For a club like Liverpool with such a history of success, the fundamental aim is to win trophies. In the highly competitive environment we have in England, that is not easy.
3. More and more investors, especially from China, are buying football teams in Europe. What do you think about of this trend? Are football teams a profitable investment?
More than half the Premier League clubs are in foreign ownership. We certainly never envisaged this when we first discussed the formation of the new league back in 1990. I think the owners have different motivations. For some it is about glory, for some it is about promoting their country and for others it is a financial investment. I suspect China is a little different as there is clearly a desire right from the top to establish the country as a major football power. With its population – which is very important – and economic strength, who would bet against that happening?
4. Why Premier League is the richest league in Europe?
There are two reasons for the success of the Premier League. We were able to start with a blank piece of paper so we put in place governance structures that are fit for the twenty first century and embrace the principles of transparency, accountability, independence and consistency. Too many in sport see good governance as a hindrance; for the Premier League it was the bedrock of its success. And we were very fortunate that the formation of the league coincided with the birth of Sky TV. Pudng our faith in Pay TV in the early 1990’s took some courage but it was clearly the right decision. The Premier League and Sky have grown in partnership – Sam Chisholm, former CEO of Sky, described it as the “greatest corporate romance of all time”.
5. How can change or improve the league with the new television contract?
Most of the money inevitably finds its way to the players. As it should! The key is to make sure it is not all focused on the short term and that the next generation of players is nurtured. And it is very important to keep the stadiums full. The atmosphere and the noise is part of the spectacle. So the quality of the stadiums, and the price of tickets, are very important factors.
6. Nonetheless, Manchester United has shown that having more money is not synonymous of trophies?
It is not for me to comment on Manchester United but their success of the life of the Premier League has been extraordinary and something we all envy. Nothing is forever and whilst money is essential, it is even more important to use it wisely. Having the right people in the key positons is essential.
7. Are you one of those who defend the national leagues or would you like to see and European Super League in the future?
I am a very strong believer in the national leagues. The pyramid system, the right to dream of future success, is essential and it separates football from some other sports.
8. President Spanish League, Javier Tebas, says that without funds in football, banned by UEFA and FIFA, Premier League will have all the great players. What is your opinion?
The Spanish clubs continue to outperform the English in European competition. Between 2005 and 2009 the English clubs regularly reached the finals and semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League but despite the big increases in recent TV deals, their performance has worsened. Perhaps because the Premier League is so demanding and so competitive. And to date, the Premier League has not attracted the world’s very best players.
9. You have been appointed as a member of the Financial Fair Play Committee of UEFA few days ago. How Fair Play has improved the economy of the clubs?
It is certainly making clubs more responsible and more sustainable.
10. What will be your role in the Committee?
I will have to see! I have only just joined it. But I hope I can bring a perspective from having run a major league and a major club.
11. Technology has made the world smaller. Football leagues not only compete with each other, for example by sponsorships, they also compete with NBA, NFL and other sports. What is the main value and the main poten&al of football over other sports?
Football has a universality that the others don’t have and never will. It is popular on every continent. I’ve already touched on the importance of the pyramid and the growing popularity of the women’s game is very important.
12. What is your opinion about events like World Football Summit?
It is more important than ever to go on leaning and to share knowledge. Events that bring people together, particularly on an international basis, have a great role to play.
13. Are this events a good plalorm to get know how and to do networking? Why?
These events are a great plalorm both to listen and to meet people. Gathering people in one place means you can have conversations in a couple of days that might otherwise take months to organise. And people come willing to share.