Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and it captivates billions of people across the globe. Its incredible popularity means soccer generates billions of dollars every year and soccer players, at least those at the very top, can earn incredible sums of money. But the popularity of the sport has now taken some other directions too.
With soccer being so popular, it is often the center of attention on social media. And while there can be insightful conversations on social media about soccer, there is also a lot of bragging and, more recently, plenty of mocking. Some of the best players in the world are often ridiculed on social media when they have a bad game, but another phenomenon caught the attention of many – the term ‘Farmer’s League’, used to derogatively describe certain soccer leagues.
The term ‘Farmers League’ is used to jokingly suggest that a certain competition is made up of people who are farmers in their day jobs and are playing soccer only on the amateur basis. Clearly, this is far from the reality, but this term has often been used in relation to the French top tier Ligue 1, while some use it to describe the German Bundesliga.
What Is the Meaning of the ‘Farmer’s League’ term?
“Farmer’s League” is a derogatory term used by soccer fans most predominantly on social media, to describe a soccer league which they think is not competitive enough. This term makes the insinuation that the soccer players playing in that league are local farmers, not the elite professional players.
There are similar terms also in use on social media, describing some of the top European leagues as “Sunday League” or “Pub League”, as a way of belittling it or insulting those who follow it more closely.
What Is a ‘Farmer’s League’?
A league that lacks quality and competition is known as a “Farmer’s League,” a term that was primarily coined by internet soccer enthusiasts.
Thus, a farmer’s league is a league where one or a limited number of great clubs predominate, with the remaining teams being small, hopeless teams with extremely low expectations and without realistic chances of winning the league any time soon. More English Premier League supporters, who overwhelmingly believe their league to be the finest domestic competition in sports, tend to use this terminology.
In fact, many Premier League fans use the term “Farmer’s League” to describe some of the other Big Five European domestic leagues. The Big Five consists of England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France, but it is the latter two’s leagues that are most often described with this modern term.
Why is French Ligue 1 Known as a ‘Farmer’s League’?
A short and simple research on the internet will show you that the league most often described as the “Farmer’s League” is the French Ligue 1. This is the top competition in the French soccer pyramid and it is currently the fifth best league in Europe, according to UEFA‘s complex coefficient scoring system.
Ligue 1 has been increasingly called “Farmer’s League’ since 2017, when Neymar made a record-breaking transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain. He made a move worth 222 million euros in transfer fee. When a year later PSG managed to snatch Kylian Mbappe from rivaling AS Monaco for around 180 million euros, the arguments started to pile up for how Ligue 1 is increasingly becoming dominated by a single club.
PSG won 10 French titles in the club’s history up until the summer of 2022, but of them they won in the past decade. Only Monaco in 2017 and Lille in 2021 managed to win the league and even then, PSG were in second place, shockingly missing out on the trophy. PSG are dominating the league even more so financially, with the club’s Qatari owners being able to spend virtually as much money as they want to sign the world’s best players.
All of this means Ligue 1 is in the shadow of PSG, who are by far and away top favorites to win the league every single season. And all of that led to fans around Europe coining the term “Farmer’s League” in relation to Ligue 1, claiming it is far from the depth provided in leagues like the Premier League.
Which Other Leagues Are Called ‘Farmer’s League’?
Other leagues occasionally called “Farmer’s League” are the German Bundesliga and to a lesser extent Italian Serie A.
The term “Farmer’s League” is not used as much to describe the German Bundesliga as it is for the Ligue 1, but there is one argument for which certain soccer fans like to use this term for it as well.
In Germany, Bayern Munich are the greatest club in history, but in the past decade they have almost made their domestic league competition obsolete – Bayern won the title 10 times in a row. The entire Germany is unable to stop the Bavarians for a full decade now and the financial muscle of this club makes that even harder for them.
It is because Bayern often pick out the best players across the Bundesliga and sign them after they show promise that they could be useful in their team and dangerous if they remain playing for their rivals. Even Bayern’s greatest rivals Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen are unable to stop their players leaving them for Bayern Munich. Another important fact to note just how powerful Bayern are is Borussia Dortmund’s near bankruptcy in 2004. It was then that the Bavarian club helped them financially, in order to prevent them going out of business.
The Italian top flight is even less so mentioned as the “Farmer’s League” by the fans who think the Premier League is the greatest league competition in the world. But it didn’t escape such fate entirely. This is because Turin giants Juventus were champions of Italy nine years in a row, between 2011-12 and 2019-20. Since then, they have been far from winning it again, with Inter and AC Milan getting it back from the ‘bianconeri’.
But maybe some of the other reasons why fans would call Serie A the “Farmer’s League’ is because it has fallen far from its greatest days in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was then that Italian football led Europe. In more recent years, fans were describing Serie A as slow, too tactical and too rigid when compared to the English Premier League or Spanish La Liga.
However, with two Milanese clubs winning the league in 2021 and 2022, and Napoli being the serious title contenders, it is hard to make the case that Serie A could be described as the “Farmer’s League”, even jokingly.
Why ‘Farmer’s League’ Is The Wrong Term For These Leagues?
Ultimately, every league we mentioned is wrongly called “Farmer’s League” by the soccer fans. While it was mostly meant as a joke and a put down of sorts, it should only remain that way. There are no logical reasons for why this term would apply to any of the leagues we talked about.
French Ligue 1, German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A are three of the five best leagues not only in Europe, but the world. Only the very best soccer players can play for the clubs competing in them and just because certain clubs have dominated the national landscape in some of these countries, does not mean these leagues don’t hold any value.
In fact, the reasons why certain clubs such as PSG and Bayern are able to hold such sway over their domestic leagues lay in their financial power and lack of proper financial regulations in top European leagues. Maybe more rules, such as those in American sports, would make the gap between the clubs smaller. Still, soccer fans around the world would probably find their reasons to call a certain competition “Farmer’s League” anyway.