Undoubtedly the most popular football league in the world, the English Premier League is consistently voted the Best League in the World by fans, players and pundits alike. No other league can boast the same mix of flair, tough-tackling, and speed of movement than the Premier League.
In the first part of an ongoing series, I'll be looking at what makes the Premier League so special—from its inception in the early 90's to the ascendancy of the League's popularity abroad, and even look at what the future may hold for the League. This time around, it's the formation of the Premier League itself.
A New Beginning for English Football
The Premier League was founded in 1992 and was originally known as the FA (Football Association) Premier League. The reasoning behind it was simple: in the previous decade, English clubs had been banned from European football due to crowd violence, which reached its tragic peak at the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster in Italy.
Couple this with domestic crowd violence that led families to stay away from matches, and the English game was obviously in turmoil. TV figures were down and the old English First Division (the top league in England) was seeing its biggest stars leave to play abroad.
The 90's, however, saw a reversal in fortunes for English football. The five year European football ban dished out to English clubs following Heysel was lifted, the English national team had a very successful run in the 1990 World Cup, and there was a new TV service called Sky Television that had money to burn and was looking at football to headline its sports coverage.
Cue the biggest change in English football since all-seater stadiums were introduced. The leading teams in the English First Division decided to break away from the Football League and start their own "premier elite" division, and on May 27, 1992 the FA Premier League was formed.
All Hail the FA Premier League
The new Premier League was an instant success. Buoyed by the incredible take-off of Sky Television, and more relevant Sky Sports, the first season saw both TV and match day figures rate highly.
The presentation of Sky Sports made a huge difference. Previously, football matches had been covered by the two main terrestrial TV stations in the UK: BBC Television and ITV. Yet the formats by these stations were prehistoric, to say the least.
Sky Sports introduced multiple viewing angles, half-time expert analysis by respected figures in the game, and the beloved Andy Gray Football Table for stats and play-by-play analysis. The future of football had arrived and it hasn't looked back since.
The first season of the new league saw 22 teams compete and was won by Manchester United, who would go on to defend it successfully the following year. There are currently 20 teams in the league, and the FA moniker was dropped in 2007 so that the competition is simply known now as the Premier League.
With revenue of more than $1.8 billion for the 2007-2008 season, the English Premier League is the most lucrative and most watched football league in the world. Its success has seen both the Spanish La Liga and the Italian Serie A usurped as the leagues where the world's best players want to perform.
It may still have its faults—the dominance of the Big Four, for example—but for all its minute bad points, the plus factors of the Premier League make it, without a doubt, the best football league on the planet today.
Hopefully you've enjoyed this look at the inception of the Premier League. If so, stick around as the series grows and I look at:
- The greatest characters of the Premier League. From Eric Cantona to Harry Redknapp, I'll be looking at the players and managers who bring a smile to the faces of fans everywhere.
- The greatest managerial battles. Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Kevin Keegan—all have had some great battles, both on the pitch and off. I look at some of the best.
- The classic matches. Who can ever forget the 4-3 Newcastle versus Liverpool classic? Or the 6-3 drubbing of Manchester United by little Southampton? I recall some of the best-ever matches in the Premier League's history.
These are just some of the featured articles to come. If you have a suggestion or idea on what you'd like to see covered, drop me a line or message and I'll do my best to accommodate. Until the next time...