The Premier League brings people together like no other football competition. It's the most watched football league on earth and a proud part of Britains social fabric. Premier League tickets are always in demand, with top clubs recording above 99% capacity at their home ground each season.
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Launched in 1888 as the Football League First Division way behind Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga in terms of appeal, to say the Premier League has massively evolved for the better since being rebranded in 1992 would be a major understatement. The top flight of English football is now widely known as the biggest, and most exciting, league in the world today because of the amount of money injected into it since that lucrative TV deal was signed in 2015.
Sky and BT paid £5.136bn for rights to broadcast Premier League games from 2016 to 2019, with the former investing almost 80% of that money, which has seen revenue for clubs soar in a short space of time. Funding now available for the 20 Premier League clubs to spend has resulted in higher-quality players, facilities and academies being introduced, making the draw factor bigger than it will ever be.
The first FA Premier League season took place with 22 teams involved, with only nine of those included in the 2017-18 roster, however reduced to 20 at the request of FIFA in order to reduce fixture congestion. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur all featured in the inaugural campaign; while Crystal Palace, Everton and Southampton were also in the fray.
There could’ve been a further reduction to just 18 teams in 2006 when FIFA submitted another request which was quickly rejected by the Premier League, keeping the number of contestants at 20 until the present day. The division simply became the Premier League instead of the FA Premier League in 2007 and has grown stronger by the year since.
‘The Big Six’ are the six clubs expected to battle it out for the title every season, they are: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. United have won the trophy a record 13 times in the Premier League era, and are barely followed by Chelsea with five, but have failed to impress since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 – being unable to finish higher than fourth since completing their 13th triumph.
The Reds’ tally increases to 20 if you include their Football League First Division success, and regaining the crown in the 2012-13 season meant leapfrogging Liverpool as the most successful club the country has ever seen. Despite winning the top flight 19 times prior to the introduction of the Premier League, Liverpool have never won the former – actually, only six clubs ever have; those being Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City.
The latter’s historic winning campaign under Claudio Ranieri came in 2015-16 when Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez spearheaded what many consider the greatest worldwide sporting accomplishment of all time. Leicester were heavily touted for relegation in August 2015, but nine months later defied the 2500/1 odds and lifted the prominent award ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
The Foxes have since secured their mid-table status and now look fully prepared for a long stay in the top flight, and Ranieri added to the long list of Italian managers to conquer England. He joined the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Mancini, who have all won the Premier League once, but there are only three men to win the title on more than one occasion – Sir Alex, Arséne Wenger and current Manchester United boss José Mourinho.
Arséne Wenger, appointed by Arsenal in October 1996, replaced Sir Alex Ferguson as longest reigning Premier League manager after the Scot’s retirement and has now been at the helm for over 20 years. However, a huge chunk of the Gunners’ fan base has been calling for him to leave the club because of his poor record against other top sides and underwhelming trophy haul.
No one can take away the 2003-04 season though, when Wenger steered his Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ to the league title, the club’s latest, without being defeated. The Frenchman had stars like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Viera at his disposal, picking up 26 wins and 12 draws and the unbeaten run extended into the 2004-05 campaign, surpassing Nottingham Forest’s record of 42 games before losing 2-0 to Manchester United – leaving the record at 49 to this day.
Legendary Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs held the record for most appearances in the league’s history, before Gareth Barry broke that record by playing his 633rd match whilst representing West Bromwich Albion early on in the 2017-18 season against Arsenal. Barry’s not the most prolific of goalscorers, but as far as goalscorers go, the Premier League has seen lots.
Alan Shearer currently holds a seemingly unbreakable record of 260 goals from his stints at Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United – and his only co-star in the 200 club is Wayne Rooney. The heights of the rankings are dominated by English talent, with Andy Cole, Frank Lampard, Robbie Fowler, Jermain Defoe, Michael Owen, Les Ferdinand and Teddy Sheringham all making the top 10.
A decade after the Premier League was launched, from 2000-2009, ‘The Big Four’ completely dominated the country. Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal were untouchable, with United and Arsenal not dropping out of the Champions League places at all while Chelsea and Liverpool finished no lower than 6th. In 2010, Tottenham Hotspur became the first team since Everton in 2005 to break into the top four – and have since been joined by United’s ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City as permanent occupants around the top of the league table.