History of the English Premier League
William McGregor statue © Action Images
What is now known as the English Premier League
has its roots in an earlier league, called the Football League, which
was originally founded in 1888.
The Football League, also known as the npower Football League
for sponsorship reasons, is a league competition featuring professional
association football clubs from England and Wales.
Founded in 1888, it
is the oldest such competition in world football. It was the top level
football league in England from its foundation until 1992.
Since 1995 it has had 72 clubs evenly divided into three
divisions, which are currently known as The Championship, League One
and League Two. Promotion and relegation between these divisions is a
central feature of the League and is further extended to allow the top
Championship clubs to exchange places with the lowest placed clubs in
the Premier League.
A director of Aston Villa, William McGregor, was the first to
set out to bring some order to a chaotic world where clubs arranged
their own fixtures. On March 2, 1888, he wrote to the committee of his
own club, Aston Villa, as well as to those of Blackburn Rovers, Bolton
Wanderers, Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion, suggesting the
creation of a league competition that would provide a number of
guaranteed fixtures for its member clubs each season.
The first meeting was held at Anderson's Hotel in London on
March 23, 1888, on the eve of the FA Cup Final. The Football League was
formally created and named in Manchester at a further meeting on April
17 at the Royal Hotel.
In 1992, the First Division clubs resigned from the Football
League to take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal and on
May 27, 1992, the Premier League as we know it today was formed.
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 on the same
terms as between the old First and Second Divisions.
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.
A total of 43 clubs have played in the Premier League from its
inception in 1992 until the end of the 2009/10 season. Two other clubs
(Luton Town and Notts County) were signatories to the original
agreement that created the Premier League, but were relegated prior to
the inaugural Premier League season and have not subsequently returned
to the top flight.
Seven clubs have been members of the Premier League for every
season since its inception. This group is composed of Arsenal, Aston
Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham
Due to insistence by Fifa 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
On June 8, 2006, Fifa requested that all major European
leagues, including Italy's Serie A and Spain'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.
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At the inception of the Premier League in 1992/93, just 11
players named in the starting line-ups for the first round of matches
were 'foreign' (players hailing from outside of the United Kingdom or
Republic of Ireland).
By 2000/01, the number of foreign players participating in the
Premier League was 36 per cent. In the 2004/05 season the figure had
increased to 45 per cent. On December 26, 1999, Chelsea became the
first Premier League side to field an entirely foreign starting
line-up, and on February 14, 2005, Arsenal were the first to name a
completely foreign 16-man squad for a match.
No English manager has won the Premier League; the five
managers to have won the title comprise two Scots (Alex Ferguson
(Manchester United, 11 wins) and Kenny Dalglish (Blackburn Rovers, one
win), a Frenchman (Arsène Wenger, Arsenal, three wins), an Italian
(Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea, one win), and a Portuguese (José Mourinho,
Chelsea, two wins).
The record transfer fee for a Premier League has been broken
several times over the lifetime of the competition.
Prior to the start of the first Premier League season, Alan
Shearer became the first British player to command a transfer fee of
more than £3 million. The record rose steadily in the Premier League's
first few seasons, until Alan Shearer made a world record breaking £15
million move to Newcastle United in 1996.
This stood as a British record for four years until it was
eclipsed by the £18 million Leeds paid West Ham for Rio Ferdinand.
Manchester United subsequently broke the record three times by signing
Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastián Verón and Rio Ferdinand.
Chelsea broke the record in May 2006, when they signed Andriy
Shevchenko, from AC Milan. The exact figure of the transfer fee was not
disclosed, but was reported as being around £30 million. This was
eclipsed by Manchester City's transfer of Robinho from Real Madrid on
September 1, 2008 for £32.5 million. The Robinho transfer remains the
largest ever paid by a Premier League club.
The record transfer in the sport's history had a Premier
League club on the selling end, with Manchester United accepting an £80
million bid from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.
David James holds the record for the most Premier League
appearances, overtaking the previous record held by Gary Speed of 535
appearances in February 2009.
The first ever Premier League goal was scored by Brian Deane
of Sheffield United in a 2–1 win against Manchester United.