Premier League

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Founded
20 February 1992
Country England
Confederation UEFA
Number of teams 20
Level on pyramid 1
Relegation to EFL Championship
Domestic cup(s) FA Cup
FA Community Shield
League cup(s) EFL Cup
International cup(s) UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa League
UEFA Europa Conference League
Current champions Manchester City

The Premier League often referred to as the English Premier League or the EPL (legal name: The Football Association Premier League Limited), is the top level of the English football league system. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the English Football League (EFL). Seasons run from August to May with each team playing 38 matches (playing all 19 other teams both home and away). Most games are played on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

The competition was founded as the FA Premier League on 20 February 1992 following the decision of clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from the Football League, founded in 1888, and take advantage of a lucrative television rights sale to Sky. From 2019-20, the league’s accumulated television rights deals were worth around £3.1 billion a year, with Sky and BT Group securing the domestic rights to broadcast 128 and 32 games respectively. The Premier League is a corporation where chief executive Richard Masters is responsible for its management, whilst the member clubs act as shareholders. Clubs were apportioned central payment revenues of £2.4 billion in 2016–17, with a further £343 million in solidarity payments to English Football League (EFL) clubs. 

The Premier League is the most-watched sports league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to 643 million homes and a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion people. For the 2018–19 season, the average Premier League match attendance was at 38,181, second to the German Bundesliga’s 43,500, while aggregated attendance across all matches is the highest of any association football league at 14,508,981. Most stadium occupancies are near capacity. The Premier League ranks first in the UEFA coefficients of leagues based on performances in European competitions over the past five seasons as of 2021. The English top-flight has produced the second-highest number of UEFA Champions League/European Cup titles, with five English clubs having won fourteen European trophies in total.

Fifty clubs have competed since the inception of the Premier League in 1992: forty-eight English and two Welsh clubs. Seven of them have won the title: Manchester United (13), Chelsea (5), Manchester City (5), Arsenal (3), Blackburn Rovers (1), Leicester City (1) and Liverpool (1). 

History

  • Origins

Despite significant European success in the 1970s and early 1980s, the late 1980s marked a low point for English football. Stadiums were crumbling, supporters endured poor facilities, hooliganism was rife, and English clubs had been banned from European competition for five years following the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985. The Football League First Division, the top level of English football since 1888, was behind leagues such as Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga in attendances and revenues, and several top English players had moved abroad. 

By the turn of the 1990s, the downward trend was starting to reverse. At the 1990 FIFA World Cup, England reached the semi-finals; UEFA, European football’s governing body, lifted the five-year ban on English clubs playing in European competitions in 1990, resulting in Manchester United lifting the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1991. The Taylor Report on stadium safety standards, which proposed expensive upgrades to create all-seater stadiums in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, was published in January 1990. 

During the 1980s, major English clubs had begun to transform into business ventures, applying commercial principles to club administration to maximise revenue. Martin Edwards of Manchester United, Irving Scholar of Tottenham Hotspur, and David Dein of Arsenal were among the leaders in this transformation. The commercial imperative led to the top clubs seeking to increase their power and revenue: the clubs in Division One threatened to break away from the Football League, and in so doing they managed to increase their voting power and gain a more favourable financial arrangement, taking a 50% share of all television and sponsorship income in 1986. They demanded that television companies should pay more for their coverage of football matches, and revenue from television grew in importance. The Football League received £6.3 million for a two-year agreement in 1986, but by 1988, in a deal agreed with ITV, the price rose to £44 million over four years with the leading clubs taking 75% of the cash. According to Scholar, who was involved in the negotiations of television deals, each of the First Division clubs received only around £25,000 per year from television rights before 1986, this increased to around £50,000 in the 1986 negotiation, then to £600,000 in 1988. The 1988 negotiations were conducted under the threat of ten clubs leaving to form a “super league”, but they were eventually persuaded to stay, with the top clubs taking the lion’s share of the deal. The negotiations also convinced the bigger clubs that in order to receive enough votes, they needed to take the whole of First Division with them instead of a smaller “super league”. By the beginning of the 1990s, the big clubs again considered breaking away, especially now that they had to fund the cost of stadium upgrade as proposed by the Taylor Report. 

In 1990, the managing director of London Weekend Television (LWT), Greg Dyke, met with the representatives of the “big five” football clubs in England (Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Arsenal) over a dinner. The meeting was to pave the way for a breakaway from The Football League. Dyke believed that it would be more lucrative for LWT if only the larger clubs in the country were featured on national television and wanted to establish whether the clubs would be interested in a larger share of television rights money. The five clubs agreed with the suggestion and decided to press ahead with it; however, the league would have no credibility without the backing of The Football Association, and so David Dein of Arsenal held talks to see whether the FA were receptive to the idea. The FA did not enjoy an amicable relationship with the Football League at the time and considered it as a way to weaken the Football League’s position. The FA released a report in June 1991, Blueprint for the Future of Football, that supported the plan for Premier League with FA the ultimate authority that would oversee the breakaway league. 

  • Foundation (1990s)

At the close of the 1990–1991 season, a proposal was tabled for the establishment of a new league that would bring more money into the game overall. The Founder Members Agreement, signed on 17 July 1991 by the game’s top-flight clubs, established the basic principles for setting up the FA Premier League. The newly formed top division was to have commercial independence from The Football Association and the Football League, giving the FA Premier League licence to negotiate its own broadcast and sponsorship agreements. The argument given at the time was that the extra income would allow English clubs to compete with teams across Europe. Although Dyke played a significant role in the creation of the Premier League, he and ITV (of which LWT was part) lost out in the bidding for broadcast rights: BSkyB won with a bid of £304 million over five years, with the BBC awarded the highlights package broadcast on Match of the Day. The First Division clubs resigned en masse from the Football League in 1992, and on 27 May that year the FA Premier League was formed as a limited company, working out of an office at the Football Association’s then headquarters in Lancaster Gate.

This meant a break-up of the 104-year-old Football League that had operated until then with four divisions; the Premier League would operate with a single division and the Football League with three. There was no change in competition format; the same number of teams competed in the top flight, and promotion and relegation between the Premier League and the new First Division remained the same as the old First and Second Divisions with three teams relegated from the league and three promoted. 

The league held its first season in 1992–93. It was composed of 22 clubs for that season (reduced to 20 in the 1995–96 season). The first Premier League goal was scored by Brian Deane of Sheffield United in a 2–1 win against Manchester United. Luton Town, Notts County, and West Ham United were the three teams relegated from the old First Division at the end of the 1991–92 season, and did not take part in the inaugural Premier League season. 

Corporate structure

The Football Association Premier League Ltd (FAPL) is operated as a corporation and is owned by the 20 member clubs. Each club is a shareholder, with one vote each on issues such as rule changes and contracts. The clubs elect a chairman, chief executive, and board of directors to oversee the daily operations of the league. The Football Association is not directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the Premier League, but has veto power as a special shareholder during the election of the chairman and chief executive and when new rules are adopted by the league. 

The current chief executive is Richard Masters, who was appointed in December 2019, whilst the chairman is Gary Hoffman, appointed in April 2020. Both men succeeded Richard Scudamore, who held the combined position of “Executive Chairman” from November 1999 until his retirement in November 2019. 

The Premier League sends representatives to UEFA’s European Club Association, the number of clubs and the clubs themselves chosen according to UEFA coefficients. For the 2012–13 season the Premier League has 10 representatives in the Association: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. The European Club Association is responsible for electing three members to UEFA’s Club Competitions Committee, which is involved in the operations of UEFA competitions such as the Champions League and UEFA Europa League. 

Competition format

  • Competition

There are 20 clubs in the Premier League. During the course of a season (from August to May) each club plays the others twice (a double round-robin system), once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents’, for 38 games. Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference, and then goals scored. If still equal, teams are deemed to occupy the same position. If there is a tie for the championship, for relegation, or for qualification to other competitions, a play-off match at a neutral venue decides rank.

  • Promotion and relegation

A system of promotion and relegation exists between the Premier League and the EFL Championship. The three lowest placed teams in the Premier League are relegated to the Championship, and the top two teams from the Championship promoted to the Premier League, with an additional team promoted after a series of play-offs involving the third, fourth, fifth and sixth placed clubs. The number of clubs was reduced from 22 to 20 in 1995, when four teams were relegated from the league and only two teams promoted. The top flight had only been expanded to 22 teams at the start of the 1991–92 season – the year prior to the formation of the Premier League. 

On 8 June 2006, FIFA requested that all major European leagues, including Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga, be reduced to 18 teams by the start of the 2007–08 season. The Premier League responded by announcing their intention to resist such a reduction. Ultimately, the 2007–08 season kicked off again with 20 teams. 

Clubs

50 clubs have played in the Premier League from its inception in 1992, up to and including the 2021–22 season.

International competitions

  • Qualification for European competitions

The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the subsequent season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. The winners of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League may earn an additional qualification for the subsequent season’s UEFA Champions League group stage if they are not in the top four. If this means six Premier League teams qualify, then the fourth-placed team in the Premier League instead plays in the UEFA Europa League, for any single nation is limited to a maximum of five teams in UCL.

The fifth-placed team in the Premier League, as well as the winner of the FA Cup, qualifies for the subsequent season’s UEFA Europa League group stage, but if the winner also finished in the top five places in the Premier League or has won one of UEFA’s major tournaments, then this place reverts to the team that finished sixth. The winner of the EFL Cup qualifies for the subsequent season’s UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, but if the winner already qualified for a UEFA competition via their performance in another competition, then this place reverts to the team that finished sixth in the Premier League, or seventh if the FA Cup result already caused the sixth-placed team to qualify. The number of places allocated to English clubs in UEFA competitions is dependent upon the position a country holds in the UEFA country coefficients, which are calculated based upon the performance of teams in UEFA competitions in the previous five years. Currently, the ranking of England (and de facto the Premier League) is second, behind Spain.

  • Performance in international competition

Between the 1992–93 and the 2020–21 seasons, Premier League clubs won the UEFA Champions League six times (and had seven runners-up), behind Spain’s La Liga with eleven wins, and ahead of, among others, Italy’s Serie A with five wins and Germany’s Bundesliga with four wins. The FIFA Club World Cup (originally called the FIFA Club World Championship) has been won twice by a Premier League club (Manchester United in 2008 and Liverpool in 2019), with two runners-up (Liverpool in 2005 and Chelsea in 2012), behind Spain’s La Liga with seven wins, Brazil’s Brasileirão with four wins, and tied with Italy’s Serie A with two wins.

  • Worldwide

The Premier League is the most-watched football league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to 643 million homes and a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion people,.[7] The Premier League’s production arm, Premier League Productions, is operated by IMG Productions and produces all content for its international television partners. 

The Premier League is the most widely distributed sports programme in Asia. In Australia, Optus telecommunications holds exclusive rights to the Premier League, providing live broadcasts and online access (Fox Sports formerly held rights). In India, the matches are broadcast live on STAR Sports. In China, the broadcast rights were awarded to Super Sports in a six-year agreement that began in the 2013–14 season. As of the 2019–20 season, Canadian broadcast rights to the Premier League are owned by DAZN, after having been jointly owned by Sportsnet and TSN from 2013 to 2014. 

The Premier League is broadcast in the United States by NBC Sports, a division of Sky parent Comcast. Acquiring the rights to the Premier League in 2013 (replacing Fox Soccer and ESPN), NBC Sports has been widely praised for its coverage. NBC Sports reached a six-year extension with the Premier League in 2015 to broadcast the league until the end of the 2021–22 season in a deal valued at $1 billion (£640 million). In November 2021, NBC reached another six-year extension through 2028 in a deal valued at $2.76 billion (£2 billion). 

The Premier League is broadcast by SuperSport across sub-Saharan Africa. Broadcasters to continental Europe until 2025 include Canal+ for France, Sky Sport for Germany and Austria, Match TV for Russia, Sky Sport for Italy, Eleven Sports for Portugal, DAZN for Spain, beIN Sports to Turkey, and NENT to Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, and Norway), Poland and the Netherlands. In South America, ESPN covers much of the continent, with coverage in Brazil shared between ESPN Brasil and Fox Sports. SKY México broadcasts the league in Central America. 

Stadiums

As of the 2017–18 season, Premier League football has been played in 58 stadiums since the formation of the division. The Hillsborough disaster in 1989 and the subsequent Taylor Report saw a recommendation that standing terraces should be abolished. As a result, all stadiums in the Premier League are all-seater. Since the formation of the Premier League, football grounds in England have seen constant improvements to capacity and facilities, with some clubs moving to new-build stadiums. Nine stadiums that have seen Premier League football have now been demolished. The stadiums for the 2017–18 season show a large disparity in capacity. For example, Wembley Stadium, the temporary home of Tottenham Hotspur, has a capacity of 90,000 while Dean Court, the home of AFC Bournemouth, has a capacity of 11,360. The combined total capacity of the Premier League in the 2017–18 season is 806,033 with an average capacity of 40,302. 

Stadium attendances are a significant source of regular income for Premier League clubs. For the 2016–17 season, average attendances across the league clubs were 35,838 for Premier League matches with an aggregate attendance of 13,618,596. This represents an increase of 14,712 from the average attendance of 21,126 recorded in the Premier League’s first season (1992–93). However, during the 1992–93 season, the capacities of most stadiums were reduced as clubs replaced terraces with seats in order to meet the Taylor Report’s 1994–95 deadline for all-seater stadiums. The Premier League’s record average attendance of 36,144 was set during the 2007–08 season. This record was then beaten in the 2013–14 season recording an average attendance of 36,695 with an attendance of just under 14 million, the highest average in England’s top flight since 1950. 

Managers

Managers in the Premier League are involved in the day-to-day running of the team, including the training, team selection, and player acquisition. Their influence varies from club to club and is related to the ownership of the club and the relationship of the manager with fans. Managers are required to have a UEFA Pro Licence which is the final coaching qualification available and follows the completion of the UEFA ‘B’ and ‘A’ Licences. The UEFA Pro Licence is required by every person who wishes to manage a club in the Premier League on a permanent basis (i.e., more than 12 weeks, the amount of time an unqualified caretaker manager is allowed to take control). Caretaker appointments are managers that fill the gap between a managerial departure and a new appointment. Several caretaker managers have gone on to secure a permanent managerial post after performing well as a caretaker, including Paul Hart at Portsmouth and David Pleat at Tottenham Hotspur.

Arsène Wenger is the longest-serving manager, having been in charge of Arsenal in the Premier League from 1996 to his departure at the conclusion of the 2017–18 season, and holds the record for most matches managed in the Premier League with 828, all with Arsenal. He broke the record set by Alex Ferguson, who had managed 810 matches with Manchester United from the Premier League’s inception to his retirement at the end of the 2012–13 season. Ferguson was in charge of Manchester United from November 1986 until his retirement at the end of the 2012–13 season, meaning he was manager for the last five years of the old Football League First Division and all of the first 21 seasons of the Premier League. 

There have been several studies into the reasoning behind, and effects of, managerial sackings. Most famously, Professor Sue Bridgewater of the University of Liverpool and Dr. Bas ter Weel of the University of Amsterdam, performed two separate studies which helped to explain the statistics behind managerial sackings. Bridgewater’s study found clubs generally sack their managers upon dropping below an average of one point per match. 

Awards

  • Trophy

The Premier League maintains two trophies – the genuine trophy (held by the reigning champions) and a spare replica. Two trophies are held for the purpose of making the award within minutes of the title being secured, in the event that on the final day of the season two clubs are still within reach of winning the League. In the rare event that more than two clubs are vying for the title on the final day of the season, a replica won by a previous club is used. 

The current Premier League trophy was created by Royal Jewellers Asprey of London. It consists of a trophy with a golden crown and a malachite plinth base. The plinth weighs 33 pounds (15 kg) and the trophy weighs 22 pounds (10.0 kg). The trophy and plinth are 76 cm (30 in) tall, 43 cm (17 in) wide and 25 cm (9.8 in) deep. 

Its main body is solid sterling silver and silver gilt, while its plinth is made of malachite, a semi-precious stone. The plinth has a silver band around its circumference, upon which the names of the title-winning clubs are listed. The green of the malachite represents the green field of play. The design of the trophy is based on the heraldry of Three Lions that is associated with English football. Two of the lions are found above the handles on either side of the trophy – the third is symbolized by the captain of the title-winning team as he raises the trophy, and its gold crown, above his head at the end of the season. The ribbons that drape the handles are presented in the team colours of the league champions that year. In 2004, a special gold version of the trophy was commissioned to commemorate Arsenal winning the title without a single defeat. 

  • Player and manager awards

In addition to the winner’s trophy and the individual winner’s medals awarded to players who win the title, the Premier League also issues other awards throughout the season.

A man-of-the-match award is awarded to the player who has the greatest impact in an individual match.

Monthly awards are also given for the Manager of the Month, Player of the Month and Goal of the Month. These are also issued annually for Manager of the Season, Player of the Season. and Goal of the Season. The Young Player of the Season award is given to the most outstanding U-23 player starting from the 2019–20 season. 

The Golden Boot award is given to the top goal scorer of every season, the Playmaker of the Season award is given to the player who makes the most assists of every season, and the Golden Glove award is given to the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets at the end of the season. 

From the 2017–18 season, players also receive a milestone award for 100 appearances and every century there after and also players who score 50 goals and multiples thereof. Each player to reach these milestones is to receive a presentation box from the Premier League containing a special medallion and a plaque commemorating their achievement. 

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