English Premier League
Adorned with the biggest names, the largest clubs, the most vociferous fans, massive stadiums and glittering riches, the English Premier League is undoubtedly the most followed football competition in the world.
Manchester United is the most successful club in the competition with 13 titles to their name, followed by Chelsea and Manchester City who have both won it 5 times. Founded in 1992, it is currently broadcast to almost 5 billion people across the globe and rakes in over 2 billion Euros in broadcast revenue each year.
English Premier League featuring players of the ilk of Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, Sergio Aguero and so many more over the year, the English Premier League (EPL) is widely regarded as one of the most competitive football competitions in the world as well. Take this season for example – even though Manchester City only won the league last week, the race for the top 4 fight is still on and will be decided on the final day only – with Chelsea, Liverpool and Leicester City all in the running. The 5th and the 6th spot are even more intensely contested – Everton, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspurs and Leicester City will be hoping to hold their nerves and make the cut.
How did the English Premier League come to be?
Much in the vein of the European Super League, the English Premier League was actually a rebel league borne out of necessity to maximize revenue. Following the Heysel Disaster in 1985 and UEFA’s subsequent ban on English clubs, the-then “top five” clubs of English football came together to ideate the formation of the English Premier League. These clubs included Everton, Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and Spurs – who met Greg Dyke, the managing director of the London Weekend Television and went ahead to found the league. The Football Association (FA) supported the idea, as more members joined in, making it a total of 22 clubs.
It was BSkyB who picked up the broadcasting rights for the next 5 years at a record deal worth 304 million pounds. As the 104-year-old Football League came to an end, it was decided that the English Premier League would be open to promotion and relegation, exchanging with the erstwhile First Division. Brian Deane scored the first-ever English Premier League goal, with Sheffield United registering a 2-1 win over Manchester United in that game.
The rise of the English Premier League: Tracking its journey in the late 90s and 2000s
It is unquestionable that the English Premier League’s glitzy packaging made it a product that received incredible attention right away. The fact that England has almost always been a hub of the biggest names in the sport always helped its cause. Manchester United grew leaps and bounds during this phase, despite having gotten off to a slow start. These years also saw the rise of the “Top 4” – Manchester United, as mentioned, coupled with Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. The “Top 4” spot was made even more significant by the rising popularity of the UEFA Champions League, in which clubs finishing in the first four spots on the English Premier League table received entry. The broadcasting revenues from playing in the Champions League made it a particularly titillating option for the English clubs, making the fight an even bigger spectacle.
Some iconic rivalries were also forged in this era, such as Sir Alex Ferguson against Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez vs Sir Alex, Jose Mourinho against Wenger and so on. On the pitch, we saw United do the treble in 1999 i.e win the league, the Champions League and the FA Cup; Arsenal go an entire season unbeaten; Liverpool script that unforgettable victory against AC Milan in Istanbul; Chelsea winning the first league title in 50 years and so on.
Players entered into folklore as well, with Alan Shearer retiring as the player with the most English Premier League goals, a record that is untouched to this day. United’s Class of 92 engineered their treble victory, and forever decimated the myth that “you won’t win anything with kids”. Wenger’s arrival helped Arsenal forge their identify of playing irrepressible, flowing football and turned the likes of Patrick Viera, Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Ian Wright into legends. Mourinho came in, backed with large financial muscle and disrupted the balance of the league – onboarding players of the caliber of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech and Ashley Cole. Liverpool’s Champions League triumphs in 2001 and 2005 cemented the legacies of Michael Owen, Sami Hyppia, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. With Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez at the forefront, United again won the Double in 2008, and made it to the final in 2009.
Apart from the Top 4, who continued to excel in the Premier League and overseas, there were occasional forays from the lesser-known clubs during this phase. Leeds United, Newcastle United, Spurs and Everton all entered the Top 4 club at one point or the other, but could never really sustain the challenge. All in all, as the clubs excelled and bought in one world-class player after the other, they shaped the sport and developed stories and myths that are still widely reminisced by the fans. All in all, the English Premier League was a beast that kept growing each season, as the 2010s rolled in.
English Premier League in the 2010s: The rise of Man City and Spurs
With Sheikh Mansour investing in Man City in 2009, the Cityzens became the first team outside the “Top Four” to win the league in 2012, since Blackburn Rovers in 1994/95. Before that, Spurs broke into the top four in the 2009/10 as well. The rise of Manchester City coupled with the departure of Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger upset the power structure in the English Premier League.
Following City’s debut title triumph, United and Liverpool have finished out of the top four thrice so far, Chelsea finished tenth once while Arsenal are currently ninth, with one matchday to go. However, the story of the decade belonged to Leicester City, who became the first non-Big six club to win the title in more than 20 years in 2015/16. The Foxes have also won the FA Cup this year, which underlines that with the right administration and transfer policies any underdog can make their mark in the league.
The romance of the English Premier League: Some great stories, some fascinating characters
Apart from the competitive angle, the English Premier League has always been a hotbed of stories, controversies and legends. Right from Cantona kicking a Crystal Palace fan for racial abuse, to Alan Shearer powering Rovers to the league title, to Beckham scoring a goal against Wimbledon from his own half, to Aguero’s last-gasp winner against QPR – the legends in the league are endless and only grow day by day.
In recent years, “Jamie Vardy’s having a party”, Mourinho’s arrival at United, the sensational wizardry of Bruno Fernandes and Kevin de Bruyne for the Manchester clubs, the brilliance of Heung Min Son and Harry Kane for Spurs, and the cumulative impact of Salah-Mane and Firmino for Liverpool are sure to enter into the history books.
And long may the glorious English Premier League continue!
Some relevant stats from the English Premier League:
|Sl. No||Club Name||Most Premier League titles|
|4||Blackburn/Liverpool/ Leicester City||1|
|Sl. No||Player||Goals scored in the Premier League|
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