Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore believes digital gaming and social media are among the biggest threats to keeping youngsters engaged in football.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live from the Premier League launch in Islington on Wednesday morning, Scudamore highlighted the modern-day obstacles but vowed the governing body would do everything it could to keep young people able to identify with the sport.
The rise of eSports, or competitive video gaming, is one such issue, with Premier League clubs West Ham and Manchester City even “signing” their own official eSports players.
Asked which league or sport he sees as the main competitors to the Premier League, he said: “I see it wider than that. I see gaming, all sorts of digital gaming, I see all sorts of young people spending time on their devices doing all sorts of things to entertain themselves, with social media generally.
“We don’t necessarily see other sports – I think that’s a little narrow, in terms of our competitors.
“We see what’s entertaining young people as being a competitor to try to make sure they stay interested in this type of thing, which is why the whole community-based activities, the whole interactive-based activities, are so important.
“We want people to be able to identify more readily with the game we love so much.
“For anyone who’s got young children, you see what they’re doing in their lives and they’re spending a lot of time engaging interactively – not just gaming, but social medial, interacting with their friends… I say ‘friends’ – people they know from across the world – whether they would pass the old definition of friends…
“The interesting bit about the future is whether this game will continue to engage them, and that’s why we have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure it does.”
The money involved in football may not help Scudamore’s mission to have youngsters relate to the game – Paul Pogba’s transfer a recent example.
Pogba completed his £89.6million move from Juventus to Manchester United in the early hours of Tuesday morning in a deal worth a reported £290,000 a week to the Frenchman.
Scudamore acknowledged the figures were hard to justify but defended the numbers by saying: “Of course it’s the market. As I’ve said on a number of occasions, you can’t just justify it – you can only really explain it.
“The market determines what the top talent has to be paid.
“You also know where that money’s going to go in terms of tax – it’s a big redistribution mechanism.
“It is eye-watering in terms of most people being able to appreciate it. But, across every industry in the world, the very very top talent are paid very top wages in order to attract them to their industry.”