It is the Promised Land of English football, with all the riches and glory that entails. The Premier League is simply a marketing extension of the old First Division, but with hundreds of millions of pounds up for grabs for ascending to Premier League status and, most importantly, staying there, we can forgive anyone connected with the beautiful game in the UK for being giddy about the country’s top flight.
Contested by 20 teams, the make-up of the division is simple to formulate: it is simply the clubs that finished in the top seventeen of the previous campaign, with the trio in the bottom three falling through the trapdoor to the Championship; often never to be seen again. Football is truly a cruel, cruel business. These are then replaced by the top two teams from the division below and the winner of the play-off system.
A cool £100m awaits those able to eat at English football’s top table; nice work, if you can get it.
Premier League History
The Premier League, occasionally referred to as the EPL colloquially, has been in existence since the 1992/92 season, when the decision to make a standalone entity away from the Football League was voted in by a number of English football’s big cheeses, where at first 22 teams competed.
Some of those involved, including Wimbledon, Notts County, Luton Town and Oldham, are now plying their trade in the fourth tier of English football, which shows just how quickly fortunes can change in the ‘Best League in the World™’.
The inaugural winners were Manchester United, who would go on to lift the trophy in eight of the first eleven renewals, but this is a division that has in the past shown a propensity for shocks and surprises; see Leicester City’s triumph in 2016 and, perhaps less of a shock, moneybags’ Blackburn Rovers in 1994/95.
But generally it is the ‘big four’ of the two Manchester sides, Chelsea and Arsenal that have dominated proceedings, with 22 title wins between them.
Thanks to the Champions League and, to a lesser extent, the Europa League, there is plenty for all teams with any ambitions of success to sink their teeth into in the Premier League.
The title winners get all the glory and most of the prize money, but they and three others will take up their spots in the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious footballing competition. The fourth placed team has to win through a preliminary round match to take their place in the group stage, but that is usually against a very agreeable opponent.
Teams finishing from fifth to seventh are handed an invitation to take part in the Europa League, which is the George Lazenby to the Champions League’s Sean Connery, but hey: continental football of any sort helps to pay the bills.
Show Me the Money
The lure for footballers of all abilities around the world to ply their trade in the Premier League is obvious: many clubs are willing to pay grossly inflated wagers for some very ordinary players.
The reason for that is because there is so much money sloshing about at the top of the game. Even just for competing in the Premier League, a team can earn up to £60m in their share of the TV revenue, a ‘facility fee’ (answers on a postcard) ranging from £8m to £12m, plus their prize money based on performance. Even for finishing bottom, a club can trouser a cool £1.5m.
And that’s before we even consider external payments attached to participating in the division, such as sponsorships and commercial partnerships. The sums of money involved are enough to make your head spin.
It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s finest players have been tempted to UK shores to try their hand in English football – no doubt that financial incentive played some part in their decision.
Cristiano Ronaldo, winner of three Ballon D’Or medals, a European Championship and three Champions Leagues, spent his formative years at Manchester United, while the God given talents of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Gianfranco Zola and Patrick Vieira have all made a name for themselves on English soil. It is a legacy that keeps on giving.
It’s a trend that looks set to continue into the future too with a new billion-pound TV deal being signed in China. As that money cascades down into the coffers of the Premier League’s finest, we can expect wage demands to increase exponentially.
At least one positive of such commercialism is that the Premier League will remain one of the most exciting leagues on the planet for the foreseeable future.