The top tier of English football is now in its 28th season. Contested by 20 teams, the Premier League was formed in 1992, after a period of dissatisfaction with the state of English football. It features English and Welsh clubs, making it a cross-border challenge.
The league is one of the richest and most popular in the world. In 2018, the 20 member clubs were awarded a pot of £2.42 billion to split between them from central payment revenue.
As the most-watched sports league in the world, it has a TV deal worth £1 billion a year domestically, with broadcasting giants Sky and BT Group securing the rights to screen the games between them – Sky has the majority. Games are broadcast to 643 million homes in 212 territories worldwide, boosting the broadcasting revenue up to €2.2 billion per year in combined domestic and international television rights.
In terms of attendances on match day, in the 2018-19 season, the average attendance at a Premier League match was 38,181 – second only to the German Bundesliga, where the average match attendance was 43,500. Attendance at most top-flight UK stadiums is near capacity.
Problems of the 1980s
In the late 1980s, English football wasn’t in a good place. The top tier of football was the First Division at the time. After a period of success in Europe in the 1970s and early 1980s, English football slumped later in the decade.
Reports cited issues such as old stadiums crumbling and in need of refurbishment, fans enduring sub-standard facilities, and rampant hooliganism. English clubs were banned from European football tournaments for five years, after the Heysel Stadium disaster of 1985 when 39 supporters died during a match between Juventus and Liverpool.
Following an outbreak of violence in the stadium, a wall collapsed, leading to the fatalities. As a result, Liverpool FC was banned from Europe for six years, as well as the five-year blanket ban on all English clubs.
The First Division was falling behind other European leagues, such as Serie A in Italy and La Liga in Spain, in terms of revenues and attendances, while top English players were beginning to move abroad.
Launch of Premier League
Following discussions between the Football League, the players and the TV broadcasters, clubs in the First Division resigned from the league in May 1992 to join the newly formed Premier League. Its first season kicked off on Saturday 15th August.
The first and second seasons were won by Manchester United. A total of 49 clubs have played in the Premier League since it formed. The only teams who have participated every year to date are Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
Every season up to 2016-17, the Premier League had a sponsor. From 1993, it was called the FA Carling Premiership. In 2001, the sponsor changed to Barclaycard and it became the FA Barclays Premiership. From 2007, the name changed to the Barclays Premier League. It became simply the Premier League for the 2016-17 season.
Manchester United has been Premier League champion on a total of 13 occasions – the team has won the title more times than any other club. Blackburn won the title only once, in the 1994/95 season. Arsenal had three wins in 1998, 2002 and 2004. Chelsea have won five times in 2005, 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2017.
Manchester City have won four times, including their most dramatic win to date, when they beat QPR 3-2 on 13th May (the final day of the 2011-12 season) under manager Roberto Mancini.
A 92nd-minute goal from Edin Dzeko, followed by Sergio Aguero’s wonder goal well into the fourth minute of stoppage time, saw City snatch the title from rivals Manchester United literally in the dying seconds of the season.
Leicester were surprise winners in 2016 after their battle against relegation the previous year. The Premier League’s most successful manager to date has undoubtedly been Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson. He is also the record-holder for the Premier League’s longest-serving manager, having spent 21 years at Old Trafford before retiring at the end of the 2013 season.
This season, it looks set to be another closely fought battle between Liverpool and Manchester City, as it was in the 2018/19 season, when Manchester City narrowly beat their nearest rivals.
This is the first time Video Assisted Refereeing has been used in the Premier League and it has received a mixed reception from managers, players and fans. Despite some top managers being in favour of VAR, such as Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, others have been less than impressed.
Numerous goals have been subject to a VAR review – leaving players and fans unable to celebrate for up to two minutes until a decision is made on whether the goal was marginally offside, or whether any other infringements took place.
Fans have complained it takes the excitement and spontaneity out of the game, while it has also been accused of making some questionable decisions on the goals that have been disallowed. Most notably, Gabriel Jesus’ injury-time goal against Spurs was disallowed, amid claims the ball had been handled in the build-up. This led to claims of inconsistency in refereeing decisions, leaving the final score at 2-2, breaking Manchester City’s winning streak and putting Liverpool at the top of the table.
VAR looks set to continue as the main talking point this season, with some pundits saying it has “teething problems” and others going a step further and saying it is ruining the Premier League. Only time will tell as the season continues.
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