The competition formed as the FA Premier League on 20 February 1992 following the decision of clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from The Football League, which was originally founded in 1888, and take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. The Premier League has since become the world's most watched sporting league. It is the world's most lucrative football league, with combined club revenues of around £1.4 billion in 2005–06, which are expected to rise to around £1.8 billion for 2007–08 due to media revenues. It is also ranked first in the UEFA rankings of leagues based on performances in European competitions over the last five-years, ahead of Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A.
A total of 42 clubs have competed in the Premier League, but only four have won the title: Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, and Chelsea. The current champions are Manchester United, who won their tenth Premier League title in the 2007–08 season, the most of any Premier League team.
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 on the same terms as between the old First and Second Divisions.
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.
The Premier League sends representatives to UEFA's European Club Forum, the number of clubs and the clubs themselves chosen according to UEFA coefficients. The European Club Forum is responsible for electing three members to UEFA's Club Competitions Committee, which is involved in the operations of UEFA competitions such as the Champions League and UEFA Cup.
An exception to the usual European qualification system happened in 2005, when Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League, but did not finish in a Champions League qualification position in that season's Premier League. UEFA gave special dispensation for Liverpool to enter the Champions League, giving England five qualifiers. UEFA subsequently ruled that the defending champions of the trophy qualify for the competition the following year regardless of their domestic league placing. However, for those associations with four participants 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-ranked team in the league.
The Premier League was recently promoted to the top of the UEFA rankings of European leagues based on their performances 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. The UEFA president Michel Platini, had proposed taking one place from the Premier League's quota, and allocating this place to the FA Cup winners. This proposal though, was rejected in a vote at a UEFA Strategy Council meeting.
In the same meeting that Platini's suggestion that FA Cup winners should qualify for the Champion's League rather than the UEFA Cup was rejected, it was however agreed upon that the third-placed team in the Premier League would receive automatic qualification for the group stages, rather than entry into the Third Qualifying Round as at present, while the fourth-placed team would enter a redesigned two tiered qualification round against a team from a higher ranked nation than they had previously been under the old rules. This was part of Platini's plan to increase the amount of teams qualifying directly into the Group Stage, while simultaneously increasing the number of teams from lower-ranked nations in the competition proper.
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 eight Premier League clubs in the top 20 for the 2005–06 season. No other league has more than four clubs in this table, and while La Liga rivals Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona take up two of the top 3 places, no other Spanish clubs are listed in the top 20. 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.
Another significant source of regular income for Premier League clubs remains their revenue from stadium attendances, which, with the 2005–06 average attendance of 34,364 for league matches, is the fourth highest of any domestic professional sports league in the world, ahead of Serie A and La Liga, but behind the German Bundesliga. This represents an increase of over 60% from the average attendance of 21,126 recorded in the league's first season (1992–93). However, during the 1992–93 season the capacities of most stadiums were reduced as clubs replaced terraces with seats in order to meet the Taylor Report's 1994–95 deadline for all-seater stadiums. The 2005–06 figure, however, is lower than the Premier League's record average attendance of 35,464, set during the 2002–03 season.
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 European Leagues, including Serie A and 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 £191 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 2004–05 to 2006–07. 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% increase on the £105 million it paid for the previous three year period. Radio Telefís Éireann broadcast the highlights 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 £45 million a year from 2007 to 2010. They also receive smaller amounts from media rights for the domestic cups and in some cases substantial amounts from media rights for European matches.
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 Premier League is particularly popular in Asia, where it is the most widely distributed sports programme. For example, in the People's Republic of China, matches attract television audiences between 100 million and 360 million, more than any other foreign sport. Due to this popularity, the league has held three pre-season tournaments in Asia, the only Premier League affiliated tournaments ever to have been held outside England. In July 2003, the FA Premier League Asia Cup was held in Malaysia, featuring three Premier League clubs, Chelsea, Newcastle United and Birmingham City, and the Malaysia national team. In 2005 the Asia Trophy featured a similar format, held in Thailand and featuring the Thailand national team competing against three English clubs—Everton, Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers, the last of which won the trophy. In 2007, the Barclays Asia Trophy was held in Hong Kong and featured Liverpool, Portsmouth, Fulham and the Hong Kong FA Cup winning team, South China, with Portsmouth winning the competition.
The FA has faced difficulty fighting internet copyright infringement. In an effort to stop the broadcasting of streams of live games on the net they have hired NetResult, a company that specialises on protecting trademark rights online.
The Premier League distributes a small portion of its television revenue to clubs that are relegated from the league in the form of "parachute payments". Starting with the 2006–07 season, these payments are in the amount of £6.5 million over the club's first two seasons in lower leagues, although this rose to £11.2 million per year for clubs relegated in 2007–2008. Designed to help teams adjust to the loss of television revenues (the average Premier League team receives £45 million while the average Football League Championship club receives £1 million), critics maintain that the payments actually widen the gap between teams that have reached the Premier League and those that have not, leading to the common occurrence of teams "bouncing back" soon after their relegation.
The current Premier League trophy was created by Royal Jewellers Asprey of London. It weighs , and is tall, wide and 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 FA crest.png 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. The trophy has borne several names on its face since it was first created, when it read "The F.A. Premier League". The one Manchester United lifted in 2006–07 read "The Barclays Premiership", while the 2007–08 trophy simply read "Premier League". From the 2008–09 season onwards, the trophy will read "Barclays Premier League".
The 2000–01 season saw Nike take over as match ball supplier, introducing the Nike Geo Merlin ball, which had been used in the UEFA Champions League. The Geo Merlin was used for four seasons before being replaced by the Nike Total 90 Aerow, which ran for another two seasons. The 2004–05 season also saw the introduction of a yellow "Hi-Vis" ball for use in the winter months. Next came the Nike Total 90 Aerow II, which featured an asymmetrical design to help goalkeepers to judge the flight of the ball. Most recently, as of the 2008–09 season, the official ball of the Premier League is the Nike Total 90 Omni, which features yet another pattern in dark red and yellow and a modified panel design.
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.
|First season in|
|Number of seasons|
in top division
|First season of|
current spell in
|Hull Cityc||3rd; Championship||2008–09||1||2008–09||0||n/a|
|Stoke Cityc||2nd; Championship||1888–89||53||2008–09||0||n/a|
|West Bromwich Albion||1st; Championship||1888–89||72||2008–09||1||1919–20|
|West Ham United||10th||1923–24||52||2005–06||0||n/a|
At the inception of the Premier League in 1992–93, just eleven players named in the starting line-ups for the first round of matches were 'foreign' (players hailing from outside of the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland). By 2000–01, the number of foreign players participating in the Premier League was 36%. In the 2004–05 season the figure had increased to 45%. On 26 December 1999, Chelsea became the first Premier League side to field an entirely foreign starting line-up, and on 14 February 2005 Arsenal were the first to name a completely foreign 16-man squad for a match. No English manager has won the Premier League; the four managers to have won the title comprise two Scots (Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United, ten wins) and Kenny Dalglish (Blackburn Rovers, one win)), a Frenchman (Arsène Wenger, Arsenal, three wins) and a Portuguese (José Mourinho, Chelsea, two wins).
In response to concerns that clubs were increasingly passing over young British players in favour of signing less-expensive foreign players, in 1999, the Home Office tightened its rules for granting work permits to players from countries outside of the European Union. Currently a non-EU player applying for the permit must have played for his country in at least 75% of its competitive 'A' team matches for which he was available for selection during the previous two years, and his country must have averaged at least 70th place in the official FIFA world rankings over the previous two years. If a player does not meet those criteria, the club wishing to sign him may appeal if they believe that he is a special talent and "able to contribute significantly to the development of the game at the top level in the UK."
Over 260 foreign players compete in the league, and 101 players from England's domestic leagues competed in the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan. At the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, the Premier League was the most represented league with more than eighty players in the competition, including 21 of the 23 players in England's squad.
As a result of the increasingly lucrative television deals, player wages rose sharply following the formation of the Premier League. In the first Premier League season the average player wage was £75,000 per year, but subsequently rose by an average 20% per year for a decade, peaking in the 2003–04 season, when the annual salary of the average Premier League player was £676,000.
The record transfer fee for a Premier League has been broken several times over the lifetime of the competition. Prior to the start of the first Premier League season Alan Shearer became the first British player to command a £3 million-plus transfer fee. The record rose steadily in the Premier League's first few seasons, until Alan Shearer made a world record breaking £15 million move to Newcastle United in 1996. This stood as a British record for four years until it was eclipsed by the £18 million Leeds paid West Ham for Rio Ferdinand. Manchester United subsequently broke the record three times by signing Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastián Verón and Rio Ferdinand. Chelsea broke the record in May 2006, when they signed Andriy Shevchenko, from AC Milan. The exact figure of the transfer fee was not disclosed, but was reported as being around £30 million. This was eclipsed by Manchester City's transfer of Robinho from Real Madrid on 1 September 2008 for £32.5 million.
|8||Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink||128|
|As of 3 October 2008 (Bold denotes players still in Premier League), (Italics denotes players still playing professional football).|
Players in the Premier League can compete for the informal competitions of Goal of the Month and Goal of the Season. Other titles players compete for include the top-scorer for a season. Former Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer holds the record for most Premier League goals with 260. Shearer finished among the top ten goal scorers in 10 out of his 14 seasons in the Premier League and won the top scorer title three times. During the 1995–96 season he became the first player to score 100 Premier League goals.
Since the first Premier League season in 1992–93, 13 different players have won or shared the top scorers title. Thierry Henry won his third consecutive and fourth overall scoring title by scoring 27 goals in the 2005–06 season. This surpassed Shearer's mark of three titles which he won consecutively from 1994–95 through 1996–97. Other multiple winners include Michael Owen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who have won two titles each. Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer hold the record for most goals in a season (34) - for Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers respectively. Cole's record came in the 1993–94 season, while Shearer's came in 1994–95, both of which were 42-game seasons. Shearer's mark of 31 goals from a 38-game season in 1995–96 was equalled in the 2007–08 season by Cristiano Ronaldo, a mark which surpassed the record of most goals by a midfielder in a season.
Manchester United became the first team to have scored 1,000 goals in this league after Cristiano Ronaldo scored, in a 4–1 defeat by Middlesbrough, in the 2005–06 season, having been the first team to have conceded a Premier League goal following the League's inception. Arsenal are the only other team to have reached the 1,000 goal mark. The highest-scoring match to date in the Premier League occurred on 29 September 2007 when Portsmouth defeated Reading 7–4.
Since forming in 1993 the Women's Premier League has been dominated by Arsenal, who have won nine of the fifteen league titles. The women's game has a much lower profile than that of the Premier League, with Women's Premier League teams typically playing matches at grounds owned by non-league men's clubs.