The Premier League is an English professional league for association football clubs. At the top of the English football league system, it is the country's primary football competition. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with The Football League. The Premier League is a corporation in which the 20 member clubs act as shareholders. Seasons run from August to May, with teams playing 38 matches each, totalling 380 matches in the season. Most games are played on Saturdays and Sundays, with a few games played during weekday evenings. It was known as the Premiership from 1993 to 2007. It is currently sponsored by Barclays Bank and therefore officially known as the Barclays Premier League.
Despite significant European success during the 1970s and early 1980s, the late '80s had marked a low point for English football. Stadia were crumbling, supporters endured poor facilities, hooliganism was rife, and English clubs were banned from European competition for five years following the events at Heysel in 1985. The Football League First Division, which had been the top level of English football since 1888, was well 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. However, by the turn of the 1990s the downward trend was starting to reverse; England had been successful in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, reaching 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) and the Taylor Report on stadium safety standards, which proposed expensive upgrades to create all-seater stadia in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, was published in January of that year.
Television money had also become much more important; the Football League received £6.3 million for a two-year agreement in 1986, but when that deal was renewed in 1988, the price rose to £44 million over four years. The 1988 negotiations were the first signs of a breakaway league; ten clubs threatened to leave and form a "super league", but were eventually persuaded to stay.As stadia improved and match attendance and revenues rose, the country's top teams again
At the close of the 1991 season, a proposal for the establishment of a new league was tabled 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 would have commercial independence from the Football Association and the Football League, giving the FA Premier League license 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.
In 1992 the First Division clubs resigned from the Football League en masse and on 27 May 1992 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 and was originally composed of 22 clubs. The first ever Premier League goal was scored by Brian Deane of Sheffield United in a 2–1 win against Manchester United. The 22 inaugural members of the new Premier League were Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, and Wimbledon. 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.
As of the end of the 2010–11 season, there had been 19 completed seasons of the Premier League. Due to insistence by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), the international governing body of football, that domestic leagues reduce the number of games clubs played, the number of clubs was reduced to 20 in 1995 when four teams were relegated from the league and only two teams promoted. 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. The league changed its name from the FA Premier League to simply the Premier League in 2007. The Welsh club Swansea City were promoted to the Premier League for the 2011–12 season. They were the first non-English team to compete in the Premier League. On 20 August 2011, the first Premier League match to be played outside England was between Swansea City and Wigan Athletic at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, Wales.
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 a total of 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. At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned champion. If points are equal, the goal difference and then goals scored determine the winner. 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.The three lowest placed teams are relegated into the Football League Championship, and the top two teams from the Championship, together with the winner of play-offs involving the third to sixth placed Championship clubs, are promoted in their place. Qualification for European competitions
As of the 2009–10 season qualification for the UEFA Champions League changes, the top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the UEFA Champions League, with the top three teams directly entering the group stage. Previously only the top two teams qualified automatically. The fourth-placed team enters the Champions League at the play-off round for non-champions and must win a two-legged knockout tie in order to enter the group stage. The team placed fifth in the Premier League automatically qualifies for the UEFA Europa League, and the sixth and seventh-placed teams can also qualify, depending on the winners and runners-up of the two domestic cup competitions. If one of the cup winners qualifies for Europe through their league position, the sixth-placed team in the Premier League will qualify for the Europa League unless a runner-up qualifies instead. If both of the cup winners qualify for the Champions League through their league position, the sixth and seventh-placed teams in the Premier League will qualify for the Europa League if neither runner-up takes a spot. If either domestic cup competition is contested between teams outside the top four league positions, the winner will automatically qualify for the UEFA Europa League regardless of their final league position, and the runner-up will not qualify. A further place in the UEFA Europa League is also available via the Fair Play initiative. If the Premier League has one of the three highest Fair Play rankings in Europe, the highest ranked team in the Premier League Fair Play standings which has not already qualified for Europe will automatically qualify for the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round.
An exception to the usual European qualification system happened in 2005, after Liverpool won the Champions League the year before, but did not finish in a Champions League qualification place in the Premier League that season. UEFA gave special dispensation for Liverpool to enter the Champions League, giving England five qualifiers.UEFA subsequently ruled that the defending champions qualify for the competition the following year regardless of their domestic league placing. However, for those leagues with four entrants in the Champions League, this means that if the Champions League winner falls outside of its domestic league's top four, it will qualify at the expense of the fourth-placed team in the league. No association can have more than four entrants in the Champions League.
In 2007, the Premier League became the highest ranking European League based on the performances of English teams in European competitions over a five-year period. This broke the eight-year dominance of the Spanish league, La Liga. The top three leagues in Europe are currently allowed to enter four teams into the Champions League. Michel Platini, the UEFA president, had proposed taking one place from the top three leagues and allocating it to that nation's cup winners. This proposal was rejected in a vote at a UEFA Strategy Council meeting. In the same meeting, however, it was agreed that the third-placed team in the top four leagues would receive automatic qualification for the group stage, rather than entry into the third qualifying round, while the fourth-placed team would enter the play-off round for non-champions, guaranteeing an opponent from one of the top 15 leagues in Europe. This was part of Platini's plan to increase the number of teams qualifying directly into the group stage, while simultaneously increasing the number of teams from lower-ranked nations in the group stage.
The current Premier League trophy was created by Royal Jewellers Asprey of London. It weighs 4 st (25 kg; 56 lb), and is 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. Malachite's green colour is also representative of 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 symbolised 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.In 2004, a special gold version of the trophy was commissioned to commemorate Arsenal winning the title without a single defeat.
The Premier League has been sponsored since 1993. The sponsor has been able to determine the league's sponsorship name. There have been three sponsors since the league's formation.
- 1993–2001: Carling (FA Carling Premiership)
- 2001–2004: Barclaycard (Barclaycard Premiership)
- 2004–2007: Barclays (Barclays Premiership)
- 2007–present: Barclays (Barclays Premier League)
As well as sponsorship for the league itself, the Premier League has a number of official partners and suppliers.The official ball supplier for the league is Nike who have had the contract since the 2000–01 season when they took over from Mitre.
The Premier League has the highest revenue of any football league in the world, with total club revenues of €2.479 billion in 2009–10, and is the second most profitable after the German Bundesliga. In 2010 the Premier League was awarded the Queen's Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Premier League was recognised for its outstanding contribution to international trade and the value it brings to English football and the United Kingdom's broadcasting industry. The Premier League's gross revenue is regularly the fourth highest of any sports league worldwide, behind the annual revenues of the three most popular North American major sports leagues (the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association), but ahead of the National Hockey League.
In terms of world football, the Premier League clubs are some of the richest in the world. Deloitte, who annually release figures on club revenues through its "Football Money League", listed seven Premier League clubs in the top 20 for the 2009–10 season. No other league has more than four clubs in this table. Premier League teams have dominated the list for many years, and even topped the list for almost a decade until the 2004–05 season. After the Premier League's new TV deal went into effect, the league-wide increase in revenues is expected to increase the Premier League clubs' standing in the list, and there is a possibility that a Premier League club will be top of the list.
Television has played a major role in the history of the Premier League. The money from television rights has been vital in helping to create excellence both on and off the field. The League's decision to assign broadcasting rights to BSkyB in 1992 was at the time a radical decision, but one that has paid off. At the time pay television was an almost untested proposition in the UK market, as was charging fans to watch live televised football. However, a combination of Sky's strategy, the quality of Premier League football and the public's appetite for the game has seen the value of the Premier League's TV rights soar.
The Premier League sells its television rights on a collective basis. This is in contrast to some other European Leagues, including La Liga, in which each club sells its rights individually, leading to a much higher share of the total income going to the top few clubs. The money is divided into three parts: half is divided equally between the clubs; one quarter is awarded on a merit basis based on final league position, the top club getting twenty times as much as the bottom club, and equal steps all the way down the table; the final quarter is paid out as facilities fees for games that are shown on television, with the top clubs generally receiving the largest shares of this. The income from overseas rights is divided equally between the twenty clubs.
The first Sky television rights agreement was worth £304 million over five seasons. The next contract, negotiated to start from the 1997–98 season, rose to £670 million over four seasons. The third contract was a £1.024 billion deal with BSkyB for the three seasons from 2001–02 to 2003–04. The league brought in £320 million from the sale of its international rights for the three-year period from 2004–05 to 2006–07. It sold the rights itself on a territory-by-territory basis. Sky's monopoly was broken from August 2006 when Setanta Sports was awarded rights to show two out of the six packages of matches available. This occurred following an insistence by the European Commission that exclusive rights should not be sold to one television company. Sky and Setanta paid a total of £1.7 billion, a two-thirds increase which took many commentators by surprise as it had been widely assumed that the value of the rights had levelled off following many years of rapid growth. Setanta also hold rights to a live 3 pm match solely for Irish viewers. The BBC has retained the rights to show highlights for the same three seasons (on Match of the Day) for £171.6 million, a 63 per cent increase on the £105 million it paid for the previous three-year period. Raidió Teilifís Éireann broadcast the highlights package in Ireland. Sky and BT have agreed to jointly pay £84.3 million for delayed television rights to 242 games (that is the right to broadcast them in full on television and over the internet) in most cases for a period of 50 hours after 10 pm on matchday. Overseas television rights fetched £625 million, nearly double the previous contract. The total raised from these deals is more than £2.7 billion, giving Premier League clubs an average media income from league games of around £40 million a year from 2007 to 2010.
The TV rights agreement between the Premier League and Sky has faced accusations of being a cartel, and a number of court cases have arisen as a result. An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading in 2002 found BSkyB to be dominant within the pay TV sports market, but concluded that there were insufficient grounds for the claim that BSkyB had abused its dominant position. In July 1999 the Premier League's method of selling rights collectively for all member clubs was investigated by the UK Restrictive Practices Court, who concluded that the agreement was not contrary to the public interest. The BBC's highlights package on Saturday and Sunday nights, as well as other evenings when fixtures justify, will run until 2013. Television rights alone for the period 2010 to 2013 have been purchased for £1.782 billion. On 22 June 2009, due to troubles encountered by Setanta Sports after it failed to meet a final deadline over a £30 million payment to the Premier League, ESPN was awarded two packages of UK rights containing a total of 46 matches that were available for the 2009–10 season as well as a package of 23 matches per season from 2010–11 to 2012–13.
Promoted as "The Greatest Show On Earth", the Premier League is the world's most watched sporting league, being broadcast to over 600 million people in over 200 countries worldwide, often on networks owned and/or controlled by NewsCorp, which owns BSkyB and thus the primary UK and Ireland TV rights. In the United States, coverage is shared between Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer Plus and ESPN; NewsCorp sometimes buys pitch-side advertising boards with the Fox Soccer Channel logo replacing that of Sky. In Canada, Rogers Sportsnet owns the Premier League rights for three years from the 2010–11 season.In Australia, Fox Sports shows the games with a Viewers Choice option for up to five live games and up to nine games live on any given game-week.
The Premier League is particularly popular in Asia, where it is the most widely distributed sports programme. In India, the matches are broadcast live on ESPN and Star Sports. In the People's Republic of China, data from 2003 suggested that matches were attracting television audiences between 100 million and 360 million, more than any other foreign sport. However, when the Chinese rights to Premier League matches were sold to a subscription channel in 2007, the number of viewers proved to be in the tens of thousands. Due to its popularity in Asia, the league has held four pre-season tournaments there, the only Premier League affiliated tournaments ever to have been held outside England.The Premier League Asia Trophy has been played in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and China and involves three Premier League clubs playing against a local team from the host nation, often the national side.
Figures from UK tourism body VisitBritain suggest that 750,000 visitors to Britain attended a Premier League match in 2010, spending a total £595 million and an average of £766. Visitors from Norway are most likely to come to watch Premier League football, with one in 13 Norwegian tourists travelling specifically to attend matches. Second on the list is the United Arab Emirates. For those visiting family and friends, the most likely to watch a football match are from Japan, China and Australia.
A total of 45 clubs have played in the Premier League from its inception in 1992 up to and including the 2011–12 season. Seven clubs have been members of the Premier League for every season since its inception. This group is composed of Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur.
The following 20 clubs are competing in the Premier League during the 2011–12 season
in [http:// 2010–11]
|First season in|
|Number of seasons|
in top division
|Number of seasons|
in the Premier League
|First season of|
current spell in
|Last top division title|
|West Bromwich Albion||01111th||1888–89||73||6||2010–11||1||1919–20|
|Queens Park Rangers||0211st in the Championship||1968–69||22||5||2011–12||0||n/a|
|Norwich City||0222nd in the Championship||1972–73||22||5||2011–12||0||n/a|
|Swansea City||0233rd in the Championship||1981–82||3||1||2011–12||0||n/a|