Believe it or not, arguably the best league in the world has existed for only a bit over three decades. You’re probably familiar with the fact that football has been played all across England for a little bit over one and a half century now, so how come the Premier League is so young?
The Premier League was formed back on February 20, 1992. The reason was simple – clubs in England’s top tier, the First Division, felt like forming a competition that was a bit different compared to the one formed all the way back in 1888 – the Football League.
Who were the founding members of the Premier League?
At the start of the season 1992/93, there were 22 clubs in the Premier League. Compare that to today, and you’ll see a slight difference compared to the 20 clubs that are currently part of the top tier of English football.
Those 22 clubs are, in alphabetical order:
- Aston Villa
- Crystal Palace
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Nottingham Forest
- Sheffield United
- Sheffield Wednesday
If you’re familiar with the list of clubs that formed the English Football League in 1888, you might notice that some of them have made history by being founding members of not one, but two top tiers of English football.
Here’s the list:
- Aston Villa
- Blackburn Rovers
- Bolton Wanderers
- Derby County
- Notts County
- Preston North End
- Stoke (as they were known at the time)
- West Bromwich Albion
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
You’ll notice that the names that have come up two times are Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, and Everton.
What’s the reason behind the formation of the Premier League?
The Premier League was founded with the primary goal of maximizing the commercial potential of English football. The idea was to enhance its global appeal by branding both the league and the clubs.
There were, of course, not one, but several different reasons that led to its formation:
- Financial Reasons: The existing top-flight league in England at the time was known as the Football League First Division. It was well-known that it faced financial struggles. Clubs sought to increase their revenue and negotiate more lucrative television rights deals to compete with other European leagues, particularly Italy’s Serie A which was probably amongst the best ones in Europe at the time. Many Italian clubs were placing quite high in European Championships as well.
- Television Rights: The transformation of the football broadcasting landscape played a crucial role here. The emergence of satellite television and the potential for increased revenues through broadcasting rights led to a desire for restructuring the league to, again, secure more lucrative deals. By forming a new league, the clubs aimed to negotiate collectively and attract substantial broadcast contracts.
- Club Power and Autonomy: The leading clubs in England desired more control over their commercial interests and sought to break away from the Football League’s centralized decision-making structure. The Premier League gave them greater autonomy in negotiating sponsorship deals, merchandising agreements, and other commercial ventures.
- Globalization and Marketability: The Premier League aimed to enhance the marketability of English football on an international scale. The participating clubs sought to capitalize on the ever-growing popularity of the sport worldwide – The largest new markets being Asia and the Americas.
- Competitive Balance: The founding clubs sought to establish a more competitive and exciting league. Starting from the season 1994/95, the Premier League’s format included a reduction in the number of teams from 22 to 20, allowing for more frequent matches between high-profile clubs. This change aimed not only to attract higher attendance, but also increase television viewership, and hence generate more interest in English football worldwide.
To summarize everything, the idea behind the formation of the Premier League was a desire to maximize revenue, improve club autonomy, increase global appeal, and create a more competitive and marketable top-tier league in English football, with its association located in Lancaster Gate.
Assuming you’re an English football enthusiast, you’ve probably noticed the constant growth of the League – not only in popularity but also in many aforementioned factors.
The difference between the Premier League and the rest of the big five has been constantly increasing, especially in the past 10 years or so. There are arguably more people all over the world who support bottom-table teams than there are those who support top-table teams from, let’s say, Italy, Germany, or Spain.
The significance the founding members made a bit over 30 years ago is clear. They set the foundation of a league whose constant growth is yet to reach its potential.