We look at the rise of the richest, most watched, and almost certainly best football league in the world, the English Premier League.
The creation of the Premier League in England in the early 1990s was to change the landscape of football not just in the home of football itself but across the world. The top flight teams had taken a radical step in face of mounting financial pressure, a tarnished public reputation and the clear understanding that a change was necessary to cure some of the issues ailing the football league.
The late eighties saw infrastructural problems at grounds across the country, stadiums woefully dated or in disrepair and just enough of a whiff of hooliganism still lingering to put off Johnny Punter from an afternoon out at the match. The five year ban of English clubs from European competition after the Heysel Stadium disaster perhaps the final nail in the coffin of arguments for the continuance of the status quo.
In 1988 there were the first signs of strife within the then First Division during the negotiations over the fees for coverage of matches the broadcasters would have to pay. Some of the biggest teams threatened to leave and set up their own “super league” after the sums involved didn’t seem to match their expectations or needs. They were, on that occasion, persuaded to stay within the league but as attendances grew and facilities improved the idea once again rose up in the minds of the money men.
An agreement to set up the FA Premier League was signed between the founder members on the 17th of July, 1991, but it didn’t have the backing of the FA until after David Dein of Arsenal held talks with the FA about gaining their support in the venture. The FA, who had a rather tetchy relationship with the football league agreed promptly partly because it looked like a profitable venture but mostly because it would annoy the football league.
The Radical Super League
The First Division’s Replacement
• Mobile betting on the Premier League popular
• Has the Premier League been good for English football?
• Will the “Big Four” dominate the league forever?
The Premier League played its first season in 1992 with all the razzamatazz it could muster in 50 stadiums across England that were, following the Taylor Report, all seater. This was a departure from the traditional ‘stands’ but it wasn’t the only departure from the accepted wisdom of the old days. The television coverage was awarded to a small company at the time BskyB.
This really was radical thinking for the time as uptake of satellite television although steady was hardly booming at the time, but the financial considerations made this the best offer for the teams at the time and through the innovations at Sky saw the introduction of new technology in the presentation of the sport. The Murdoch empire also allowing a world wide audience.
The Premier League is today shown around the world to 600 million people and touted as “The Greatest Show On Earth” and with total club revenues of 2.48 billion EUR it is almost certainly the richest. This has attracted massive investment in the Premier League from the middle and far east and has brought in huge injections of cash that have seen teams and facilities hugely improved.
Not that it has all been plain sailing. The gulf between Premier and first division clubs has widened in terms of finances and resources to the point where any newly promoted team that arrives in the Premier League is likely as not to be relegated by the end of the first season. It has also been pointed out that there has been a concentration of victory around just four teams with one, Manchester United winning the Premier League 13 times in the 22 seasons played so far.
World Wide Opportunities
With 600 million people watching the best football in the world it was always going to be big gambling news, and across the world the Premier League is one of the most bet upon sports on the planet. The drama, the excitement, the heartache and the theatrical showmanship of the television presentation means that the sites offering in-match betting, like Bet365 or BetVictor, can offer gripping opportunities for gamblers.
The summer tours by teams to the middle and far east drum up business for Ladbrokes and the like as Japanese gambling laws, for instance, are easily circumvented on the internet. This is a massive industry with bets of every description offered to willing punters across the globe. Manchester United this year played five games in the USA to attract more market to its brand, teams these days a commodity beyond just being a team of football players.
Whilst internet betting in the UK is big business, it’s not as big as it is abroad with huge markets stoked by promotions and media hype, given ubiquitous presence by mobile technology and made massively attractive by the skills, and sometimes even personalities, of the players. The best players want to play in the Premier League because it’s the best league to play in, and because the great players come to play, people pay to watch them even half a world away.
The Premier League might have begun as a greed driven money making scheme cooked up between already successful teams looking to translate their fame into fortune, but the spread of the coverage across the globe, the great quality of football players on display, keep the Premier League in its premier position, and there seems little chance of anyone else stealing that crown for a long time to come.
Read more about the FA Premier League past, present and future here.