Breaking news: 5 things you should know about the history of the Premier League
The Premier League is one of the most watched football competition in the world and was established in 1992.
The 2016-17 season marks the 25th year of the Premier League and since its inception a quarter of a century ago has become the most viewed sports event across the world. Millenials who are into the sport have grown up watching the first division English league and for so many of us, it embodies the very idea of how football should be.
Fast, physical, competitive and oh so entertaining, the Premier League has been a best friend on the idiot box, and now live streams, for almost all our lives.
Growing up alongside the most watched league in the world, have you ever stopped to consider how much you actually know about its history? Sure, we all know that there are 20 teams every year, the top four qualify for the Champions League and the bottom three get relegated to the Championship.
If you’re a diehard or even a casual fan of the Premier League, here are the 5 things you must know about its history:
#5 It wasn’t always 20 teams
The Premier League has always had 20 teams playing out 38 games every season, right? Well, no. Considering how long the system has been in place, it’s a little hard to believe that when the league embarked on its inaugural season, there were 22 clubs. This was, in fact, directly taken from the old first division where each team played the 21 other clubs twice in the season.
However, the system changed from 1995-96 when the number of clubs was reduced to 20 on the insistence of FIFA who stipulated that clubs had to decrease the number of domestic games they were playing.
Thanks to their directive, four clubs from the top division were relegated that year, while only two were promoted. FIFA tried to reduce the number further in 2007-08 by suggesting that only 18 teams participate in the league but the Premier League remained firm in their resolve to retain the 20 team quota.
#4 There would have been no Premier League without the FA
With proverbial dollar signs in their eyes (or should it be pounds?), the top clubs of England were eager to break away from the Football League in order to enjoy more popularity and profits but there was a chink in their plans.
They, especially, the ‘big five’ realised they would have no credibility without the backing of the old league and saw no way forward. However, Vice-Chairman of Arsenal, David Dein thought it might be worthwhile to approach the FA for their support.
At that time, the FA shared a difficult relationship with the Football League and Dein saw his opportunity to make the most of that animosity. He coaxed the FA into supporting them and his plan worked well as the FA saw the proposal as a way of undermining the old league’s status. The Association even agreed to let the new league use their name in the official title.
#3 The influence of Sky Sports
When LWT egged on the top clubs in England to break away, ITV must have thought they had it made. They were about to come into a lot of money once the deal for broadcasting rights to the Premier League went through. But that’s not how things worked out.
While ITV was making their bid, Rupert Murdoch-owned Sky Sports completely “blew them out of the water” with their very own offer.
Sky offered the members of the soon-to-be Premier League £304 million and despite their inhibitions about signing a deal with a company that was non-terrestrial, it was just too much money for them to say no. So, while ITV got the ball rolling, they were eventually left out in the cold. Irony much?
Sky Sports has been the official television partner for the league ever since and are currently involved in a deal worth £5 billion for 2016-19.
#2 The formation of the Premier League was necessary
The Premier League was visualised as a solution to many of the problems facing the Football League in the late 1980s. Even though English football had experienced considerable success in the decade and a half prior to that, the later part of the 80s was a low point. The quality of domestic football in the first division was a far cry from what it is now and there was in desperate need for some change.
Fans suffered because hooliganism and vandalism were rife, stadium quality was poor and in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster and the five-year ban from European competition as a direct result of the Heysel Stadium disaster of 1985, the establishment of a new order became imperative.
The English league had also fallen behind its counterparts in Spain and Italy in terms of revenue and match attendance. Around 1988, 10 first division clubs even threatened to secede and form a ‘super league’ but the break was mitigated by an improved television deal.
#1 Before the Premier League, it was the Football League
The Premier League has been around for just 25 years since it kicked off on 15 August 1992. Considering England has been playing footballs for aeons, how do they have such a young league? Spain’s La Liga has been around since 1929 and the Italian Serie A is well over a century old, so what is it that England did?
Before the Premier League was established as the first division of English football, they had what was known as the Football League which has been around since 1888! The Football League was designed as a pyramid, starting from the first to the fourth division where all professional football clubs participated based on their performance.
Aston Villa director, William McGregor took it upon himself to write to the heads of all the clubs and figure out a system where they could decide all their own fixtures and bring some semblance of order to the sport. Their first meeting was held the night before the FA Cup Final in March 2, 1888 and the Football League was subsequently formed and named as such the next month.