Manchester Utd. Slump Has Cost Premier League Viewers, CEO Says

Manchester United’s troubles are weighing on the rest of the English Premier League, according to the competition Chief Executive Officer Richard Scudamore.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Scudamore said yesterday in an interview in Johannesburg. “When your most popular club isn’t doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places.”

United, one of the world’s best-known sports brands, is 12 points out of a top-four Premier League place that would bring qualification for next season’s Champions League competition for the most successful European teams.

The record 20-time English champion’s performance has dipped this season under new manager David Moyes, the replacement for Alex Ferguson, who retired following a 26-year tenure. The team faces Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

“There’s lots of fans around the world who wish Man. United were winning it again,” Scudamore said, without detailing the effect on broadcast audiences. “But you have to balance that off against, generally, we’re in the business of putting on a competition and competition means people can compete.”

The team, known as the Red Devils, stands seventh in the league after 10 defeats from 31 matches and has been knocked out of the F.A. Cup and League Cup. It has 51 points, while Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea leads the league with 69, one ahead of Liverpool.

Mourinho criticized the scheduling of Premier League matches earlier this month, saying that players need more time to recover from European games before returning to league action.

“We have a 72-hour rule,” Scudamore said. “Wednesday and Saturday is a perfectly acceptable rotation, it’s been acceptable since the day the league started and I cannot see any practical way of doing it any other way. It’s just not going to happen. Managers have got a job to do.”

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