The English Premier League, the State of the Game

Brian RhodesSenior Analyst IJanuary 25, 2009

It is sad to see that a fan looses their allegiance and love of the beautiful game as one of our Bleacher Report colleagues has, but I have to say that I agree about the Premier League to an extent.

It isn't football that is the problem but the Premier League that has ruined English football. The money that it generates for the top clubs is ridiculous and although a lot is distributed down to the Football League and other teams in the lower divisions it is designed so the top clubs can retain their preeminence.

You only have to look at the teams that have won the Premiership in it's first 16 seasons of existence. Only four teams have won it. Manchester United 10 times, Arsenal three times, Chelsea twice and in the early days Blackburn Rovers once.

Now if you look at the 20-years before the emergence of the Premiership,  Liverpool won the title 11 times, Arsenal twice, Everton twice, Leeds twice, Derby, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa once each. Eight teams in total. Now as you can see there was a major team of dominance during that time frame as well in Liverpool Football Club but the mix was different.

The runners up tell just as much about English football as anything. Arsenal were runners up four times, Manchester United and Chelsea three times, Newcastle United twice and Aston Villa and Blackburn just once each during the Premiership years.

Before the Premiership yet again more variety in teams were involved in the championship race. Liverpool as the dominant team of the period were runners up seven times, Manchester United three times, Ipswich Town twice, Arsenal once along with Nottingham Forest, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Leeds United, Queens Park Rangers, Watford, Everton and finally Southampton.

Now the fact that each generation or so generates great teams is with out question. From the turn of the 21st Century it has been Manchester United before them through the 80's and 90's it was Liverpool. The 70's which is arguably one of the best periods of English football was a great mix. That era saw the dawn of the great Liverpool side that also ruled over Europe. The 60's were the domain of Manchester United, the 50's Wolverhampton Wanderers, the 40's well we won't go there. In the 30's Arsenal ruled the roost, in the 20's it was Huddersfield Town, etc etc

That one team is usually dominant is invariably because of a great managers rather than the actual teams. Sir. Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Liverpool's Paisley and Shankley. Brian Clough at both Nottingham Forest and Derby County in the 70's. In the 1960's Manchester United were under Sir Matt Busby, Wolves were marshaled by Stan Cullis, Arsenal by Herbert Chapman but before he moved south to Arsenal he took Huddersfield Town to three Football League Championships.

Now the Premiership has not changed the dominance of particular teams and that will always happen but what it has done is reduced it to a race for the super wealthy teams. The only teams that can keep up with Manchester United or Arseanl's of this world are ones that have rich benefactors.

Chelsea were a good mid-table team that were bought by a mega-rich oligarch from Russia and over night they were challenging for the Premier League title. That is the only way to break into the top of the table party anymore. Manchester City are currently trying this very same route with mixed results. Would Chelsea ever have won a title with out Mr Abramoich as their owner? It is very doubtful.

For fans of teams like Hull City (my team), Spurs, Fulham etc will we ever reach the zenith of English football? Probably not in this era of super rich clubs and the Premier League that is a closed shop to any team other than the top four.

The saddest part of this is that when other European leagues have for much of their pasts been two or three horse races the English top tier has been a mixed bag of teams vying for the title. In England 23 different clubs have won the title. In Italy it is 17 with an over all dominance of Juventus, AC Milan and Internationale. In Spain it is only nine different teams with Real Madrid and Barcelona the dominant teams.

This demonstrates that instead of improving the game for the better with more competition the Premiership has diluted the game into a set of mini leagues within the Premiership. There is the top four of five with includes Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, plus a super rich benefactor club or two. Then the second tier of the Premiership is the teams that may be able to get a UEFA Cup spot, then followed by the relegation fodder mini league that will 99% of the time be fighting it out for survival.

If our Bleacher friend who wrote The Premier league is a Premier Turn off is struggling to find a place to hang his football loving hat, he should look at the Football League Championship. England's second tier is a much more interesting football division than any of Europe's elite leagues. At least his team will stand a chance.