Why the Premier League Is the Most Powerful League in the World

Sam Pilger@sampilgerContributing Football WriterFebruary 6, 2014


The Bundesliga has recently become fashionable and boasts the reigning European champions. La Liga currently plays host to the vast majority of the most recent World Cup winners as well as the two most outstanding players of this generation.

Despite all this, the English Premier League remains the most powerful league in the world. 

It is easy to snipe at the Premier League for its perceived lack of quality and uncultured football, the unrelenting influx of foreign players and owners and the constant failure of its home nation to make any impact on the international stage. 

But nearly 22 years after its launch, the Premier League is still the template for all others for generating both the most wealth and the most excitement around the world. It derives most of its power from the simple truth that more people want to watch it than any other league.

On average, each Premier League game has a global audience of 12.3 million people, per Football-Marketing.com's 2011 data, which far outstrips La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A.

In fact, if you added together the average global audience per game for these leagues—La Liga with 2.2 million (via EPFL-Euroleagues.com), the Bundesliga (via 2012's economic report) with two million and Serie A (via Alessandro Baroncelli and Raul Caruso) with 4.5 million—it still wouldn’t overtake the all-powerful Premier League.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 26:  Jesse Rodriguez of Real Madrid CF duels for the ball with Adriano Correia of FC Barcelona during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou on October 26, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Davi
David Ramos/Getty Images

As reported by the Daily Mirror's Martin Lipton in 2011, the German-based SPORT+MARKT found that the Premier League commands the biggest television audience in the world. Based on the 2010-11 season, the Premier League’s cumulative audience was an enormous 4.7 billion people in 212 countries and territories, per PremierLeague.com.

This exposure gives the Premier League an unprecedented power to negotiate both its centralised television-rights deal and the clubs' individual sponsorship deals.

The Premier League’s television-rights deal overshadows all its European competitors. At the start of the 2013-14 season, it began a new domestic television deal worth £3.018 billion for the next three seasons, a vast £1.25 billion increase over the previous deal.

The rest of Europe lags behind the Premier League, with Serie A commanding £721 million, La Liga £511 million and the Bundesliga £417.4 million.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore explained its appeal and success to The TimesSarah Ebner last year.

We’ve got two fantastic things in our advantage. One is our heritage, culture, history and the authenticity of it all. People crave that authenticity, whether it is a British landmark or a crest on a football shirt that goes back to the 19th century.

Greenwich Mean Time is [also] very much in our favour. People underestimate the importance of GMT, but when you’re operating a business, it means you sit right in the middle. You can deal with the Far East and California in the same day.

Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

This worldwide appeal (and access) plays a significant role in the Premier League having more teams than any other league in the top-20 richest football teams, a list which is published annually by Deloitte Football Money League.

While La Liga contributes just three teams and Serie A and the Bundesliga account for four teams each, once again the Premier League comes out on top with six teams: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham.

On the actual pitch, the Premier League is not as dominant. For all its global appeal, astronomical television deals and the wealth of its sides, the majority of the very best players in the world still seek to ply their trade elsewhere.

The quality of a player is of course subjective, but over the course of three different surveys, the Premier League trails behind its rivals.

It fares well in the Guardian’s list of the best 100 players in the world from last year, contributing 29 compared to 26 from La Liga, 18 from the Bundesliga and 17 from Serie A. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  Willian of Chelsea marshalls Yaya Toure of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on February 3, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Bott
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

But the Premier League suffers with the statistical analysis of Opta and Football Observatory published by the Daily Mirror's Richard Beech. It sought to find the top 50 players in Europe’s leading five leagues broken down into the best 10 strikers, attacking midfielders, defensive midfielders, central midfielders and full-backs.

The Premier League comes in at the bottom of the five leagues with just seven players represented, compared to 14 from La Liga, 11 from Serie A, nine from the Bundesliga and eight from France’s Ligue 1.

What do the players themselves think? The best way to judge that is by reviewing their votes for the FIFPro World XI "Team of the Year" since it began in the 2005-06 season.

Once again, it makes for sorry reading for the Premier League, which has only been represented in the FIFPro World XI Team of the Year 18 times, compared to La Liga, which has had a player in the team 52 times. Serie A has contributed 13 players, and the Bundesliga has only been represented on three occasions.

The great success of the Premier League is that it manages to be the best league in the world without the best players.

Scott Heppell/Associated Press

The power and enduring appeal of the Premier League is not in the quality of its football but rather in the excitement it provides and its inherent competitiveness.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has coached in the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga, and it was clear which one he thinks is the best when he spoke to The Telegraph, per Paul Hayward. 

In England, you don’t do 100 points, [and] you don’t score 125 goals unless Manchester City can do it this season. But normally the evolution of a player needs difficulty and the difficulties help the development of a player. You reach your maximum with difficult situations. The big push comes. After that you have choices, stay in the most beautiful league to play or go where it is easier to succeed.

You go to Spain and there are two big clubs [Barcelona and Real Madrid]. You go to Germany and they have one big club [Bayern Munich] and a little bit more. In Italy now there is one big team [Juventus], although obviously more than one big club. So it is easier to succeed.

This season, the Premier League is fulfilling Mourinho’s words and proving just why it has a greater appeal than the other leagues.

At this stage of the season, the gap between the top five in the Premier League is by far the smallest of any of the leading European leagues.

Just 10 points separate Arsenal in first and Everton in fifth position, while in La Liga this gap is 17 points, in the Bundesliga it is 20 and in Serie A it grows to a mammoth 24 points.

The Premier League is far from perfect, but when you take into account its global audience, sponsorship appeal, wealth generated through television rights and competitiveness, it can still call itself the most popular and powerful league in the world.