Welcome to Yorkshire's Gary Verity understood to be surprise candidate for vacant Premier League chief executive job

Sir Gary Verity, the man who brought the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014, has emerged as a surprise candidate for the vacant Premier League chief executive job, The Yorkshire Post understands.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 2:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st January 2019, 2:18 pm
Sir Gary Verity.

The 54-year-old businessman has been chief executive of tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire for the last decade, during which time he has used sport to promote England's largest county.

As well as the 2014 Grand Depart in Yorkshire, Verity has played a key role in setting up the annual Tour de Yorkshire bike race, the Leeds stage of the 2016 World Triathlon Series and cycling's 2019 Road World Championships, which will be based in Harrogate this September.

Knighted in 2015 for services to tourism and the success of Grand Depart, the Leeds fan has also been a director at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and owns a sheep farm in the Yorkshire Dales.

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The Premier League has been looking for a new boss ever since Richard Scudamore announced his intention to stand down after nearly 20 years in charge last summer.

In November, it seemed the search was over, as Discovery's Susanna Dinnage was named as Scudamore's replacement, but she stunned the league shortly after Christmas by saying she had reconsidered and no longer wanted the job.

That forced the league's recruitment panel, led by Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, to return to the shortlist prepared by executive search firm Spencer Stuart only for that to fail too, when BBC Studios boss Tim Davie is understood to have said he was not interested in being second choice.

It is not known if the other name mentioned initially, ITV's director of strategy Tom Betts, also turned the league down but it is known that the recruitment process has been reopened.

Prior to Verity's entry into the race to replace Scudamore, who earned £2.5m last year in salary and bonuses, as well as his controversial £5m leaving gift, the most likely candidates were all media executives.

It is understood that a new list includes UKTV chief executive Darren Childs and ex-YouView boss Richard Halton, while some club bosses want the league to approach Gavin Patterson, who has just stepped down as chief executive of BT, or former Channel 5 boss Dawn Airey.

Patterson, however, has expressed no interest in the role so far and his previous role might be an issue for the league's main domestic broadcast partner Sky. Airey has not given any indication of wanting the job, either.

At the start of the process, the clubs believed the new chief executive should have a strong understanding of the changing media landscape, as last year's auction of the 2019-22 domestic broadcasting rights failed to bring in the huge uplift in revenue the league has grown used to.

But online giant Amazon did take a small package of rights to stream 20 games a season and it is hoped they will eventually be joined in the market by the likes of Facebook, Google and perhaps even Netflix.

Verity's lack of experience in this area makes him an outside candidate at this stage, but his proven ability to work with sports governing bodies and government could make him more attractive if the league continues to struggle to find a media executive, who understands the game and wants the job.

While the search continues, Richard Masters will remain as the league's acting chief executive, while Claudia Arney is the interim chair of the board.

The Premier League, however, is not the only major player in the game looking for a new leader, as Thursday is the closing date for applications to replace Martin Glenn as the Football Association's chief executive.