Alan Hubbard ©ITG

Anyone who watches Sky TV will be aware that increasingly sport is becoming a whole new women’s world, with  a host of female presenters, newscasters, reporters and correspondents. They even have a female fronting their boxing on big fight nights.

And that’s certainly not a bad thing. The more the merrier say I. For too long sport was a predominantly a male bastion.

But the extent of just how much things are changing has been heavily underscored with the shock appointment of a woman - and a feisty, glamorous and highly accomplished one at that - of the United Kingdom's number one  sporting citadel, football’s Premier League.

Susanna Dinnage has been named as the new chief executive of the Premier League, replacing long-serving and much-respected Richard Scudamore, 59, who is stepping down after 19 years.

Dinnage joins from media organisation Discovery, where she was the global president of the Animal Planet channel.

Prior to joining Discovery in January 2009, Dinnage worked for 10 years at Channel Five and she started her career at MTV.

When she takes up her role in the New Year, the 51-year-old will  become the most senior female leader in the world's major professional sports. And because of the commercial wealth, global popularity and cultural influence of the Premier League, arguably the most powerful figure in British sport.

The only female leader of a top football league is France’s Nathalie Boy de la Tour, President of the Lige de Football Professionnel .[

Dinnage becomes  the third person to lead the Premier League, after Scudamore and his predecessor Rick Parry.

Her appointment comes as major surprise as she was not mentioned among the early contenders, who are said to have included former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Susanna Dinnage will become the most high-profile woman in British sport when she takes over as chief executive of the Premier League, joining from the Discovery television channel ©Getty Images
Susanna Dinnage will become the most high-profile woman in British sport when she takes over as chief executive of the Premier League, joining from the Discovery television channel ©Getty Images

"We are very pleased to appoint such a capable leader to this important role," said Bruce Buck, Chelsea's chairman and head of the Premier League's Nominations Committee, told the BBC.

"We had a very strong field, but Susanna was the outstanding choice given her track record in managing complex businesses through transformation and digital disruption.

"She is a leading figure in the broadcasting industry, a proven business executive and a great developer of people. She is ideally suited to the role and we are confident she will be able to take the Premier League on to new heights."

Although she is a Fulham season-ticket holder, Dinnage does not have experience within the football industry, where there are three other women - West Ham United's Karren Brady, Susan Whelan of Leicester City and Everton’s Denise Barrett-Baxendale - who hold similar top positions at club level. In all, 10 clubs have female board members, including Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

A huge task is ahead the Premier League's new head honcho, with a decrease in the value of the latest domestic television rights deal, and new digital challengers emerging in the market, Dinnage's experience of tough negotiations at Discovery should also be an asset...

However, with the biggest clubs jostling for more of a share of overseas TV revenue, the task of emulating outgoing Scudamore and keeping the  league's many billionaire owners happy will be a critical one.

With Brexit looming (perhaps!) relations with the English Football Association and the Government will be priorities, along with the regulation of agents, and reviewing the sport's controversial close relationship with the gambling industry.

And after the recent collapse of the sale of Wembley Stadium to Fulham owner Shahid Khan, many in the game will hope that Dinnage also persuades the clubs to invest more of their wealth towards grassroots facilities and player welfare at academies.

Dinnage joined Discovery in 2009 and previously ran its British and Irish operation, which included responsibility for Eurosport.

During her time at Discovery, Eurosport was linked with a bid for Premier League broadcast rights and it snapped up the European rights for the Olympics between 2018 and 2024. Under her stewardship, Discovery signed a contract with the International Olympic Committee last June, which will see Eurosport become the continent's Olympic broadcaster.

In a statement, Dinnage said: "I am excited at the prospect of taking on this fantastic role. The Premier League means so much to so many people.

"It represents the pinnacle of professional sport and the opportunity to lead such a dynamic and inspirational organisation is a great privilege. With the support of clubs and the team, I look forward to extending the success of the League for many years to come."

Richard Scudamore has overseen a period of riches for English Premier League clubs thanks mainly to television revenue, and now it will be up to his successor to ensure that continues ©Getty Images
Richard Scudamore has overseen a period of riches for English Premier League clubs thanks mainly to television revenue, and now it will be up to his successor to ensure that continues ©Getty Images

Buck described her as "the outstanding choice  from a very strong field" of candidates.

"She is a leading figure in the broadcasting industry, a proven business executive and a great developer of people," he said.

It has been s reported by the Daily Mail that Buck had asked the 20 Premier League clubs to all contribute £250,000 each to give Scudamore a £5 million send-off as thanks for his work in repeatedly negotiating inflation-busting broadcast deals.

Rather ironically, as Dinnage is about the become British sport’s premier female figurehead, the women who has held that position for the last eight years is stepping down.

The redoubtable Liz Nichol, chief executive of UK Sport, says she is relinquishing the role next summer "to spend more time with my family".

Nicholl joined the organisation as director of elite sport in 1999, two years after its establishment, and was made chief executive in September 2010.

Her 20-year career at UK Sport has spanned 10 Olympic and Paralympic Games, including London 2012.

In her 20 years with UK Sport, 863 medals have been won by British athletes at the Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Having joined three years after Britain picked up just one gold medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, Nicholl oversaw Team GB's record haul of 67 medals at Rio 2016 - 27 of which were gold.

Led by Nicholl, UK Sport played an integral part in bringing the International Association of Athletics Federation World Championships to London in 2017, as well as two Tour de France Grand departs' and stages.

Under Liz Nicholl, due to step down next summer as chief executive of UK Sport, Team GB has gone from winning one Olympic gold at Atlanta 1996 to finishing second overall in the medals table at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images
Under Liz Nicholl, due to step down next summer as chief executive of UK Sport, Team GB has gone from winning one Olympic gold at Atlanta 1996 to finishing second overall in the medals table at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

So after the departures of Tracey Crouch as Sports Minister on a point of principle over gaming. and Jennie Price as head of Sport England this year, sport’s changing of the guard continues.

As the head of an organisation that has invested billions of pounds of public funding into governing bodies' high-performance programmes, Nicholl has arguably been the most powerful figure in British sport since 2010.

Her tenure has coincided with the country's emergence as an Olympic and Paralympic powerhouse.

But in the last two years the former netball international's leadership has also come under scrutiny.

Nicholl has always fiercely defended her organisation's strict no-compromise policy of linking funding to medal potential. But there has also been mounting criticism from those sports that lost out on funding, and increased pressure for a new more flexible approach, which also considers sports' popularity when money is handed out.

The search for a successor has already begun. However, just as the woman from Discovery will discover after Scudamore’s highly productive tenure with the Premier League, Liz Nicholl will be a hard act to follow.