Premiership Primer: Foundations of the Premiership

Its time now for the second edition of Premiership Primer. In today’s edition we’ll focus on the Premier League itself. We’ll touch on its founding, its role in European football, and what to call the darned thing.

Part One: Promotion and Relegation

The English Premier League as we know it was founded after the 1991 season for the reason that anything is done in football: money. The top English soccer clubs wanted money in order to compete with other European football clubs. Take for example, the European Cup (now UEFA Champions League). Unlike the late 70s and early 80s when English sides dominated the competition (winning it six straight times from 1976-77 to 1981-82), English representation in the finals had dropped off. Liverpool’s runners up performance in 1985 was the last by an English side until Manchester United won it in 1998. (of course, some of that was due to a five-year ban from European competition imposed by UEFA after the Heysel Stadium disaster. UEFA was not pleased hooliganism). Other stadia were not in good standing, (such as Hillsborough) and changes were needed to English football to ensure that it could maintain its place amongst the elite leagues in Europe.

There had been rumblings about a new league prior to 1991. In 1988, ten clubs threatened to create a "super league" but did not. Maybe they were persuaded to stay due to a huge jump in the tv revenue. The Football League received 6.3 million pounds for a two-year TV deal in 1986. In 1988, it went up to 40 million pounds.

However, that TV revenue had to be split up between the Football League, which consisted of four divisions. Wanting a league that would keep all that money for itself, the bigger clubs in England decided to break away. In 1992, the top flight clubs resigned from the Football League and set up the 22-team Premier League. (It was later reduced to the current 20 teams in 1995 due to FIFA wanting clubs to play shorter seasons. The Premier League resisted a request in 2007-08 to go to 18 teams) It maintained a tentative connection to the football league for promotion and relegation, but it was independent and could sell its own TV rights and keep that revenue. The first contract went to Sky Sports for 304 million pounds over five seasons. Current television rights have gone for 1.782 billion pounds.

If you recall from the first Premiership Primer, teams that are new to the Premier League don’t fare so well. That is due to the television revenue. The top flight clubs don’t have to share that money with lower divisions, and as a result Premiership teams get an average of 45 million pounds per season. Your typical football league team receives one million pounds. That’s a 44 million pound difference in finances that can go towards players, coaches, scouting, and more. Newly promoted sides are literally short stacked when they get to the table.

The tactic has worked, as the Premier League is arguably the best league in the world. The 2007-08 UEFA Champions League title was contested by two English teams, the first time that had happened in the competition’s history. The league has a coefficient of 85.785, highest in Europe. The coefficients come from a formula that comes from UEFA. It takes a league’s club’s performances in a Champion’s League, awarding two points for a win, one point for a draw, and receiving bonus points for reaching certain stages (four for reaching the group stage, five for reaching the second round, and then a bonus point each for reaching the quarter, semi, and final of either the Champions League or the Europa League). In the past UEFA Champion’s League, the Premier League saw four teams enter, three teams make the quarterfinals and one reach the final. This resulted in a coefficient of 18.357, second highest (Portugal, which put two teams in the Champion’s League and saw them play in the final of the Europa League, received a co-efficient of 18.800. Portugal will get an additional team in the 2012-12 addition of the Champions League). The coefficient, while confusing, does give a good indication of which league produces the highest quality clubs. The Premier League has the highest coefficient of any league in Europe, with a five-year total of 85.785, besting Spain’s La Liga who comes in at 82.329.

That success has made the Premier League a money making machine. The league’s annual gross revenue is the highest in Europe, and only trails North America’s National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association. Six of the world’s 20 richest clubs reside in the Premier League. In 2010, Newcastle United was ranked 20th (according to Forbes) and had been in the list of richest clubs in the world until their relegation. Perhaps a few seasons of top flight football will see the club return to the list (not that being wealthy has won Newcastle many trophies, but that’s another topic for another day).

So, the Premier League is rich and it boasts of good clubs. What do you call it? Officially, it is the Barclay’s Premier League. Others call it the English Premier League, the English Premiership, the Premier League or simply the Premiership. Throughout this fanpost I’ve used the Premier League, but really anything will do. Personally, I stay clear of EPL. The ever reliable Yahoo Answers (that is sarcasm) declares it should be the Premier League. While there are other Premier Leagues (Scotland’s top flight is called that for example), you’re probably safe referring to it as the Premier League or Premiership. Especially here. We’ll have a good idea what you’re referring to.

Thanks for reading. Got an idea for a Premiership Primer, leave it in the comments.

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