The Premier League is an English professional league for association football clubs. At the top of the English football league system, it is the country's primary football competition. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Football League. The Premier League is a corporation in which the 20 member clubs act as shareholders. Seasons run from August to May, with teams playing 38 matches each, totalling 380 matches in the season. Most games are played in the afternoons of Saturdays and Sundays, the other games during weekday evenings. It is currently sponsored by Barclays Bank and thus officially known as the Barclays Premier League. Outside
commonly referred to as the English Premier League (EPL). The Premier
League have two teams in the top five UEFA rankings: England is 5th, and Manchester United is 3rd. Chelsea
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. This deal will be worth £3 billion as of 2013–14, with BSkyB and BT Group securing the rights to broadcast 116 and 38 games respectively. The Premier League is the most-watched football league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to an audience of 643 million viewers. In the 2010–11 season the average Premier League match attendance was 35,363, the second highest of any professional football league other than the German Bundesliga, and stadium occupancy was 92.2% capacity. The Premier League ranked first in the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) coefficients of leagues based on performances in European competitions over the last five years.
Since 1888, a total of 23 clubs have been crowned champions of the English football system. Of the 45 clubs to have competed since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, five have won the title:
Manchester United (12
titles), Arsenal (3), Chelsea (3), Blackburn
Rovers (1) and (1). The current
champions are Manchester
City , who won the title
in the 2011–12 season. Manchester
Despite significant European success during the 1970s and early 1980s, the late '80s had marked a low point for English football. Stadia were crumbling, supporters endured poor facilities, hooliganism was rife, and English clubs were banned from European competition for five years following the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985. The Football League First Division, which had been the top level of English football since 1888, was well behind leagues such as
Serie A and 's
La Liga in attendances and revenues, and several top English players had moved
abroad. However, by the turn of the 1990s the downward trend was starting to
had been successful in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, reaching the semi-finals. UEFA,
European football's governing body, lifted the five-year ban on English clubs
playing in European competitions in 1990 (resulting in Manchester United
lifting the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1991) and the Taylor Report on stadium
safety standards, which proposed expensive upgrades to create all-seater stadia
in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, was published in January of that
Television money had also become much more important; the Football League received £6.3 million for a two-year agreement in 1986, but when that deal was renewed in 1988, the price rose to £44 million over four years. The 1988 negotiations were the first signs of a breakaway league; ten clubs threatened to leave and form a "super league", but were eventually persuaded to stay. As stadia improved and match attendance and revenues rose, the country's top teams again considered leaving the Football League in order to capitalise on the growing influx of money being pumped into the sport.
At the close of the 1991 season, a proposal for the establishment of a new league was tabled that would bring more money into the game overall. The Founder Members Agreement, signed on 17 July 1991 by the game's top-flight clubs, established the basic principles for setting up the FA Premier League. The newly formed top division would have commercial independence from The Football Association and the Football League, giving the FA Premier League licence to negotiate its own broadcast and sponsorship agreements. The argument given at the time was that the extra income would allow English clubs to compete with teams across
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 the same as the old First and Second Divisions with three teams relegated from the league and three promoted.
The league held its first season in 1992–93 and was originally composed of 22 clubs. The first ever Premier League goal was scored by Brian Deane of Sheffield United in a 2–1 win against Manchester United. 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.
and West Ham United were the three teams relegated from the old first division
at the end of the 1991–92 season, and did not take part in the inaugural
Premier League season. Notts County
Due to insistence by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), the international governing body of football, that domestic leagues reduce the number of games clubs played, the number of clubs was reduced to 20 in 1995 when four teams were relegated from the league and only two teams promoted. On 8 June 2006, FIFA requested that all major European leagues, including
Italy's Serie A and 's La Liga be reduced to 18
teams by the start of the 2007–08 season. The Premier League responded by
announcing their intention to resist such a reduction. Ultimately, the 2007–08
season kicked off again with 20 teams. The league changed its name from the FA
Premier League to simply the Premier League in 2007. Welsh club Spain were promoted to the Premier League
for the 2011–12 season. They were the first non-English team to compete in the
Premier League. On 20 August 2011, the first Premier League match to be played
outside Swansea City England was between Swansea City
and Wigan Athletic at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea,
The Premier League is operated as a corporation and is owned by the 20 member clubs. Each club is a shareholder, with one vote each on issues such as rule changes and contracts. The clubs elect a chairman, chief executive, and board of directors to oversee the daily operations of the league. The current chairman is Sir Dave Richards, who was appointed in April 1999, and the chief executive is Richard Scudamore, appointed in November 1999. The former chairman and chief executive, John Quinton and Peter Leaver, were forced to resign in March 1999 after awarding consultancy contracts to former Sky executives Sam Chisholm and David Chance. The Football Association is not directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the Premier League, but has veto power as a special shareholder during the election of the chairman and chief executive and when new rules are adopted by the league.
The Premier League sends representatives to UEFA's European Club Association, the number of clubs and the clubs themselves chosen according to UEFA coefficients. For the 2010–11 season the Premier League had 10 representatives in the Association: Arsenal, Aston Villa,
Chelsea, Everton, Fulham,
Liverpool, , Manchester United,
Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. The European Club Association 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 Europa League. Manchester
There are 20 clubs in the Premier League. During the course of a season (from August to May) each club plays the others twice (a double round-robin system), once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents, for a total of 38 games. Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference, and then goals scored. At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned champion. If points are equal, the goal difference and then goals scored determine the winner. If still equal, teams are deemed to occupy the same position. If there is a tie for the championship, for relegation, or for qualification to other competitions, a play-off match at a neutral venue decides rank. The three lowest placed teams are relegated into the Football League Championship, and the top two teams from the Championship, together with the winner of play-offs involving the third to sixth placed Championship clubs, are promoted in their place.
Qualification for European competitions
Arsenal against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League in 2011
As of the 2009–10 season qualification for the UEFA Champions League changed, the top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the UEFA Champions League, with the top three teams directly entering the group stage. Previously only the top two teams qualified automatically. The fourth-placed team enters the Champions League at the play-off round for non-champions and must win a two-legged knockout tie in order to enter the group stage. The team placed fifth in the Premier League automatically qualifies for the UEFA Europa League, and the sixth and seventh-placed teams can also qualify, depending on the winners and runners-up of the two domestic cup competitions. Two Europa League places are reserved for the winner of each of the domestic cup competitions; if the winner of the FA Cup qualifies for the Champions League, then that place will go to the runner-up, and if the runner-up is also already qualified, then that place will go to the next-best placed finisher in the Premier League. If the winner of the League Cup has already qualified, that place goes to the next-best placed team in the league. A further place in the UEFA Europa League is also available via the Fair Play initiative. If the Premier League has one of the three highest Fair Play rankings in Europe, the highest ranked team in the Premier League Fair Play standings which has not already qualified for
will automatically qualify for the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round.
An exception to the usual European qualification system happened in 2005, after
won the Champions League the year before, but did not finish in a Champions
League qualification place in the Premier League that season. UEFA gave special
dispensation for Liverpool to enter the Champions League, giving five
qualifiers. UEFA subsequently ruled that the defending champions qualify for
the competition the following year regardless of their domestic league placing.
However, for those leagues with four entrants in the Champions League, this
meant that if the Champions League winner finished outside the top four in its
domestic league, it would qualify at the expense of the fourth-placed team in
the league. No association can have more than four entrants in the Champions
League. This occurred in 2012, when Chelsea – who had won the Champions League
the previous year, but finished sixth in the league – qualified for the
Champions League in place of Tottenham Hotspur, who went into the Europa
In 2007, the Premier League became the highest ranking European League based on the performances of English teams 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. Michel Platini, the UEFA president, had proposed taking one
place from the top three leagues and allocating it to that nation's cup
winners. This proposal was rejected in a vote at a UEFA Strategy Council
meeting. In the same meeting, however, it was agreed that the third-placed team
in the top four leagues would receive automatic qualification for the group
stage, rather than entry into the third qualifying round, while the
fourth-placed team would enter the play-off round for non-champions,
guaranteeing an opponent from one of the top 15 leagues in Europe.
This was part of Platini's plan to increase the number of teams qualifying
directly into the group stage, while simultaneously increasing the number of
teams from lower-ranked nations in the group stage.
The current Premier League trophy was created by Royal Jewellers Asprey of London. It consists of a trophy with a golden crown and a malachite plinth base. The plinth weighs 33 lbs (15 kg) and the trophy weighs 22 lbs (10 kg). The trophy and plinth are 76 cm (30 in) tall, 43 cm (17 in) wide and 25 cm (9.8 in) 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 Three Lions 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. In 2004, a special gold version of the trophy was commissioned to commemorate Arsenal winning the title without a single defeat.
The Premier League has been sponsored since 1993. The sponsor has been able to determine the league's sponsorship name. There have been three sponsors since the league's formation.
- 1993–2001: Carling (FA Carling Premiership)
- 2001–2004: Barclaycard (Barclaycard Premiership)
- 2004–present: Barclays (Barclays Premiership (until 2007) then Barclays Premier League)
As well as sponsorship for the league itself, the Premier League has a number of official partners and suppliers. The official ball supplier for the league is Nike who have had the contract since the 2000–01 season when they took over from Mitre.