It’s the lovely time of the year when top level football (and by football I mean soccer) players from around the world gather on the best football field of the world to decide who gets 25kg trophy of sterling silver that is the Premier League Trophy. Often called the greatest show on Earth, the English Premier League (EPL) has the largest audience in the world for a domestic sporting event.
But before I discuss this year’s season, it is important to understand the history and the social implications of the English Premier League football. The sport evolved from variations of the present day football. In the mid 1800’s, the variations were organized into an official sport starting with the Cambridge Rules. The Football Association was set up and the sport was organized into a nationwide sport. The sport evolved over the ages and became more widespread. It later spread worldwide and the international organization for football administration, FIFA, was set up to regulate the sport.
Despite relatively good performance of the English team in the seventies and eighties, it was a low point in English football. The stadia were badly maintained and the crowds were unruly. As a result, a lot of English clubs were banned from the European competition. The erstwhile Football First Division which was the top level of English football since 1888, was well behind the rival European leagues in attendance. In the early nineties, with the Hillsborough disaster (resulting in the death of 96 people), safety standards were revised and it was recommended that all the existing stadia make expensive upgrades.
Due to these changes, during the 1991 season there was talk of setting up a new league that would bring more money for development of football infrastructure. On the 27th of May, 1992, all the First Division teams resigned to form the new English Premier League.
As time passed, the Premier League became one of the most popularly watched sports. It provides stiff competition to other European leagues such as Bundesliga of Germany, the Dutch KNVB and the La Liga of Spain. It now attracts leading players from around the world. Some of the most famous players in international football play or have played in the English Premier League at some point. Notable examples include David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, Cristiano Ronaldo, Fredrik Ljunberg, etc. Over the years, the game started being dominated by the just four teams. Since the 1994 win of the Blackburn Rovers; Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool have dominated the top four spots and therefore were the only ones who qualified for the UEFA league (the All-European League).
This season looks to be more gripping than ever. With Liverpool behind in rank 17, a lot looks different this time. Chelsea (four times EPL winners) is in the top spot followed closely by Arsenal (one of the most successful clubs in English football which holds the record for the longest uninterrupted period as champions in the English Premier League), Manchester United (18 time EPL champions and one of the historic rivals to Arsenal) and Manchester City (only a recent addition to top flight status). It looks like the EPL is out of the grips of the normal “Big Four” of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and ManU (what Manchester United is sometimes called). With the last year winner (Newcastle) now in rank 9, this season looks to be very exciting. With an unexpected top-flight line-up, this is going be unexpected either way.