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Premier League From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia For other uses, see Premier League (disambiguation). "The Premiership" redirects here. For the former ITV football programme, see The Premiership (TV series). For the RTÉ football programme formerly called "The Premiership", see Premier Soccer Saturday. The Premier League is an English professional league for association foot ball clubs. At the top of the English football league system, it is the country's primary football competition. Cont ested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with The Foot ball League. The P remier League is a corporation in which the 20 member clubs act as shareholders. Seasons run from August to May, with teams playing 38 games each totalling 380 games in the season. It is sponsored by Barclays Bank and therefore officially known as the Barclays Premier League. In the Premier League, most of the games are played during Saturdays and Sundays, with a few games played during the weekdays. The competition formed as the FA Premier League on 20 February 1992 following the decision of clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from The Foot ball League, which was originally founded in 1888, and take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. The Premier  League has since become the world's most watched sporting league. It is the world's most lucrative  football league, with combined club revenues of £1.93 billion ($3.15bn) in 2007–08. It is also ranked first in the UEFA coefficients of leagues based on performances in European competitions over the  last five years, ahead of Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A. A total of 43 clubs have compet ed in the Premier League, but only four have won the title: Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, and Chelsea. The current champions are Manchester United, who won their eleventh Premier League title in the2008–09 season, the most of any Premier League team. This title triumph also levelled United and Liverpool on 18 top -flight championships altogether. Incidently, Liverpool have never won the Premier League in its current format, and have not won any since 1990. Origins The original logo of The Premier League (1992–2007) Despite significant European success during the 1970s and early 1980s, the late 80s had mark ed a low point for English football. Stadia were crumbling, supporters endured poor facilities, hooliganism was rife, and English clubs were banned from European competition for five  years following the events at Heysel in 1985. The Football League First Division, which had been the top level of English football since 1888, was well behind leagues such as Italy's Serie A and Spain's La  Liga in attendances and revenues, and several top English players had moved abroad. However, by the turn of the 1990s the downward trend was starting to reverse; England had been suc cessful in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, reaching the semi-finals. UEFA, European football's governing body, lifted the five-y ear ban on English clubs playing in European competitions in 1990 (resulting inManchester United lifting the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1991) and the Taylor Report on stadium safety standards, which proposed expensive upgrades to create all-seater stadia in the aftermath of  the Hillsborough disaster, was published in January of that year. Television money had also bec ome much more important; the Foot ball League received £6.3 million for a two-year agreement in 1986, but when that deal was renewed in 1988, the price rose to £44m  over four years. The 1988 negotiations were the first signs of a breakaway league; ten clubs  threat ened to leave and form a "super league", but were eventually persuaded to stay. As stadia improved and match attendanc e and revenues rose, the count ry's top teams again considered leaving the Football League in order to capitalise on the growing influx of money being pumped into the sport. Foundation See also: Foundation of the Premier League At the close of the 1991 season, a proposal for the establishment of a new league was tabled that would bring more money into the game overall. The Founder Members Agreement, signed on 17 July 1991 by the game's top-flight clubs, established the basic principles for setting up the FA Premier  League. The newly formed top division would have commercial independence from the Football Association and the Football League, giving the FA Premier League license to negotiate its ownbroadcast and sponsorship agreements. The argument given at the time was that the extra  income would allow English clubs to compete with teams across Europe. In 1992 the First Division clubs resigned from the Football League en masse and on 27 May 1992 the FA Premier League was formed as a limited company working out of an office at the Football  Association's then headquarters in Lanc aster Gate. This meant a break-up of the 104-y ear-old Football League that had operat ed 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 compet ed in the top flight, and promotion and relegation between the Premier League and the new First Division remaine d on the same terms as bet ween 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, E verton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manc hester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, andWimbledon. Establishment See also: List of Premier League seasons As of the end of the 2008–09 season, there had been 17 complet ed seasons of the P remier League. The league held its first season in 1992–93 and was originally composed of 22 clubs. The first ever Premier League goal was scored by Brian Deane of Sheffield United in a 2–1 win against Manchester United. Due to insistence by FIFA, the international governing body of football, 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 promoted. On 8 June 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 announc ing their int ention 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. Corporate structure The Premier League is operated as a corporation and is owned by the 20 member clubs. Each club is a shareholder, with one vot e each on issues such as rule changes and contracts. The clubs elect a chairman, chief executive, and board of directors to oversee the daily operations of the  league. The Football Association is not directly involved in the day -to-day operations of the Premier League, but has vet o power as a special shareholder during the election of the chairman and chief  executive and when new rules are adopted by the league. The Premier League sends representatives to UEFA's European Club Forum, the number of clubs and the clubs themselves chosen according to UEFA coefficients. The European Club Forum is responsible for electing three members to UEFA's Club Competitions Committee, which is involved in  the operations of UEFA competitions such as the Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Competition format and sponsorship Competition There are 20 clubs in the Premier League. During the course of a season, which lasts from August to May, each club plays the others twice, once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents, for a total of 38 games. Teams rec eive three points for a win and o ne point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference, and then goals scored. At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned champion. If points are equal, the goal differenc e and then goals scored determine the winner. If still equal, teams are deemed to occupy the same position. If there is a tie for the championship, for relegation, or for qualific ation to other  competitions, a play-off match at a neutral venue decides rank. The three lowest placed teams are relegated into the Football League Championship and the top two teams from the Championship, together with the winner of play-offs involving the third to sixth placed Championship clubs, are  promoted in their place. Qualification for European competitions As of the 2009–10 season qualification for the UEFA Champions League changes. The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the UEFA Champions League, with the top three teams directly entering the group stage. Previously only the top two teams qualified automatically. The fourth-placed team enters the Champions League at the play-off round for non-champions and must win a two-  legged knockout tie in order to enter the group stage. The fifth team automatically qualifies for the UEFA Europa League, and the sixth and seventh-placed teams can also qualify, depending on the winners of the two domestic cup competitions. If one of the cup winners qualifies for Europe through their league position, the sixth-placed team in the Premier League will qualify for the Europa League. If both of the cup winners qualify for Europe through their league position, the sixth and seventh-placed teams in the Premier League will qualify for the Europa League. A further place in the UEFA Europa League is available via the Fair Play initiative. If the Premier League has one of the three highest Fair Play rankings in Europe, the highest ranked team in the Premier League Fair Play standings which has not already qualified for Europe will aut omatically qualify for the UEFA Europa League first  qualifying round. An exception to the usual European qualification system happened in 2005, when Liverpool won the Champions League, but did not finish in a Champions League qualific ation place in the Premier League that season. UEFA gave special dispensation for Liverpool to enter the Champions League,  giving England five qualifiers. UEFA subsequently ruled that the defending champions qualify for the competition the following year regardless of their domestic league placing. However, for those leagues with four entrants in the Champions League, this means that if the Champions League winner falls outside of its domestic league's top four, it will qualify at the expense of the fourt h-placed team in the league. No association can have more than four entrants in the Champions League. The Premier League was recently promoted to the top of the UEFA rankings of European leagues based on their performances in European competitions over a five -year period. This broke the eight-  year dominance of the Spanish league, La Liga. The top three leagues in Europe are currently allowed to enter four teams into the Champions League. The UEFA president Michel Platini, had proposed taking one place from the top three leagues and allocating it to that nation's cup winners.  This proposal was rejected in a vote at a UEFA Strategy Council meeting. In the same meeting, however, it was agreed that the third-placed team in the top four leagues would receive automatic qualification for the group stage, rat her than entry into the third qualifying round, while the fourth - placed team would enter the play-off round for non-champions, guaranteeing an opponent from one of the top 15 leagues in Europe. This was part of Platini's plan to increase the amount of teams qualifying directly into the group stage, while simultaneously increasing the num ber of teams from lower-ranked  nations in the group stage. Sponsorship The Premier League has been sponsored since 1993. The spons or has been able to determine the league's sponsors hip name. The list below details who the sponsors have been and what they called the competition: 1993–2001: Carling (FA Carling Premiership) 2001–2004: Barclaycard (Barclaycard Premiership) 2004–2007: Barclays (Barclays Premiership)  2007–present: Barclays (Barclays Premier League) Finances See also: List of Premier League football club owners The Premier League is the most lucrative foot ball league in the world, with total club revenues rising  26% to £1.93 billion ($3. 15bn) as of 2007–08. Eleven of the twenty Premier League teams made an operating profit in that year. Wage costs also reached €1. 51 billion in 2007/08, considerably higher than that of the next highest-spending league, the Italian Serie A (at €972m). Individual salaries are rarely, if ever, confirmed in public, although a survey of players in 2006, conducted in conjunction with the Professional Footballers' Association, showed the average basic wage in the Premier League was  £676,000 per year, or £13,000 per week, before bonuses. The Premier League's gross revenue is the fourth highest of any sports league worldwide, behind the annual revenues of the three most popular North American major sports leagues (the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association), but ahead of the National Hockey League. On a per club basis, the average revenues of the 20 Premier League teams are thought to be close to equal to those of the 30-team NBA. However, there is much greater financial disprity between Premier League clubs when compared to the members of any of the "Big Four" North American leagues. In terms of world football, the Premier League clubs are some of the richest in the world. Deloitte, who annually release figures on club revenues through its "Football Money League", listed eight Premier  League clubs in the top 20 for the 2005 –06 season. No other league has more than four clubs in this table, and while La Liga rivals Real Madrid and F.C. Barc elona take up two of the top 3 places, no other Spanish clubs are listed in the top 20. Premier League teams have dominated the list for many years, and even topped the list for almost a decade until the 2004 –05 season. After the Premier League's new TV deal went into effect, the league-wide increase in revenues is expected to increas e the Premier League clubs ' standing in the list, and there is a possibility that a Premier League club will  be top of the list. Another significant source of regular income for Premier League clubs remains their revenue from stadium attendances, which, with the 2005–06 average attendance of 34,364 for league matches, is the fourth highest of any domestic professional sports league in the world, ahead ofSerie A and La Liga, but behind the German Bundesliga. This represents an increase of over 60% from the average  attendance of 21, 126 recorded in the league's first season (1992–93). However, during the 1992–93 season the capacities of most stadia were reduced as clubs replaced terraces with seats in order to  meet the Taylor Report's 1994–95 deadline for all-seater stadia. The 2005–06 figure is lower than the Premier League's record average attendanc e of 35,464, set during the 2002–03 season, although  average attendances obviously fluctuate depending on which teams are in the league. Media coverage See also: List of Premier League broadcasters United Kingdom and Ireland See also: English football on television A 2004 match betweenManchester United and Tottenham Hotspur Television has played a major role in the history of the Premier League. The money from television rights has been vital in helping to create excellence both on and off the field. The League's decision to assign broadcasting rights to BSkyB in 1992 was at the time a radical decision, but one that has paid off. At the time pay television was an almost untested proposition in the UK market, as was charging fans to watch live televised football. However, a combination of Sky's strategy, the quality of Premier League football and the public 's appetite for the game has seen the value of the Premier League's TV  rights soar. The Premier League sells its television rights on a collective basis. This is in contrast to some European Leagues, including Serie A and La Liga, in which each club sells its rights individually, leading to a much higher share of the total income going to the top few clubs. The money is divided  into three parts: half is divided equally bet ween the clubs; one quarter is awarded on a merit basis based on final league position, the top club getting twenty times as much as the bottom club, and equal steps all the way down the table; the final quarter is paid out as facilities fees for games that are shown on television, wit h the top clubs generally receiving the largest shares of this. The income from overseas rights is divided equally bet ween the twenty clubs.  The first Sky television rights agreement was worth £304 million over five seasons. The next  contract, negotiated to start from the 1997–98 season, rose to £670 million over four seasons. The third contract was a £1.024 billion deal with BSkyB for the three seasons from 2001–02 to 2003–04. The league brought in £320 million from the sale of its international rights for the three-year period  from 2004–05 to 2006–07. It sold the rights itself on a territory -by-territory basis. Sky's monopoly was broken from August 2006 when Setant a Sports was awarded rights to show two out of the six packages of matches available. This occurred following an insistence by the European Commission that exclusive rights should not be sold to one television company. Sky and Setanta paid a total of £1.7 billion, a two-t hirds increase which took many commentators by surprise as it had been widely assumed that the value of the rights had levelled off following many years of rapid growth. Setanta also hold rights to a live 3 pm match solely for Irish viewers. The BBC has retained the rights to show highlights for the same three seasons (on Match of the Day) for £171.6 million, a 63%  increase on the £105 million it paid for the previous three year period. Raidió Teilifís Éireann broadcast the highlights package in Ireland. Sky and B T have agreed to jointly pay £84.3 million for delayed television rights to 242 games (that is the right to broadcast them in full on television and over the internet) in most cases for a period of 50 hours after 10 pm on  matchday. Overseas television rights fetched £625 million, nearly double the previous  contract. The total raised from these deals is more than £2.7 billion, giving P remier League clubs an average media income from league games of £45 million a year from 2007 to 2010. They also receive smaller amounts from media rights for the domestic cups and in some cases substantial amounts from media rights for European matches. The TV rights agreement between the Premier League and Sky has faced accusations of being a cartel, and a number of court cases have arisen as a result. An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading in 2002 found BSkyB to be dominant within the pay TV sports market, but concluded that  there were insufficient grounds for the claim that BSkyB had abused its dominant position. In July 1999 the Premier League's method of selling rights collectively for all member clubs was investigat ed by the UK Restrictive Practices Court, who concluded that the agreement was not contrary to the  public interest. The BBC's highlights package on Saturday and Sunday nights, as well as other  evenings when fixtures justify, will run until 2013. Television rights alone for the period 2010 to 2013  have been purchased for £1.782bn. On 22 June 2009, due to the troubles encountered by Setanta Sports after it failed to meet a final deadline over a £30m payment to the Premier League, ESPN was awarded the two packages of UK rights containing a total of 46 matches that were available for the 2009/10 season as well as a  package of 23 matches per season from 2010/ 11 to 2012/13. Worldwide Promoted as "The Great est Show On E arth", the Premier League is the world's most popular and most watched sporting league, followed worldwide by over half a billion people in 202  countries, frequently on networks owned and/or controlled by News Corp who also own Sky Sports. In the United States, coverage is shared between Fox Soccer Channel, Setanta Sports USA and ESPN; NewsCorp sometimes buys pitch-side advertising boards with the Fox Soccer  Channel logo replacing that of Sky. ESPN's acquisition of UK rights was originally said to have no effect on Setanta Sports in Nort h America, which is a ―separate operation that has separate  agreement to show the Barclays Premier League‖ in the U.S. ESPN's U.S. channels later acquired two game packages that Setanta's also-financially troubled North American branch returned to NewsCorp to ensure its survival (Setanta retai ned about half of its original rights). In Canada, Setanta Canada broadcasts all but two EPL games each week; Rogers Sportsnet and The Score broadcast one weekend game each. On 4 December 2009, Sportsnet announced on-air that  they had secured the EPL rights for the next three years, starting with the 2010-11 seas on. In Australia, Fox Sports (Australia), shows the games with a Viewers Choice option for up to five live  games and up to nine games live on any given game -week. The Premier League is particularly popular in Asia, where it is the most widely distributed sports  programme. For example, in the People's Republic of China, matches attract television audienc es  between 100 million and 360 million, more than any other foreign sport. Due to this popularity, the league has held three pre-season tournaments in Asia, the only Premier League affiliated tournaments ever to have been held outside England. In July 2003, the FA Premier League Asia Cup was held in Malaysia, featuring three Premier League clubs, Chelsea, Newcastle United and Birmingham City,  and the Malaysia national team. In 2005 the Asia Trophy feat ured a similar format, held in Thailandand featuring the Thailand national team competing against three English clubs—E verton,  Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers, the last of which won the trophy. In 2007, the Barclays Asia Trophy was held in Hong Kong and featured Liverpool, Portsmout h, Fulham and the Hong Kong FA  Cup winning team, South China, with Portsmouth winning the competition. The FA has faced difficulty fighting internet copyright infringement. In an effort to stop the broadcasting of streams of live games on the net they have hired Net Result, a company that specialises in  protecting trademark rights online. Website The Premier League did not launch their first official website, www.premierleague.com, until April 2002, although there was an existing website being run by the title sponsor Barclaycard, who intended  to continue it in parallel. Criticisms Widening gap between lower leagues See also: Premier League–Football League gulf One of the main criticisms levelled at the Premier League is the increasing gulf between the Premier League and the Foot ball League. Since its split with the Football League, many established clubs in the Premier League have managed to distance themselves from their counterparts in lower leagues.  Owing in large part to the disparity in revenue from television rights between the leagues, many newly promoted teams have found it difficult to avoid relegation in their first season in the Premier League. In every season except 2001–02 (Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Fulham) at least one Premier League newcomer has been relegated back to the Football League. In 1997–98 all three  promoted clubs were relegated at the end of the seas on. The Premier League distributes a small portion of its television revenue to clubs that are relegated from the league in the form of "parachute payments". Starting with the 2006–07 season, these payments are in the amount of £6.5 million over the club's first two seasons in lower leagues, although  this rose to £11.2 million per year for clubs relegat ed in 2007 –2008. Designed to help teams adjust to the loss of television revenues (the ave rage Premier League team receives £45 million while the  average Football League Championship club receives £1 million), critics maintain that the payments actually widen the gap between teams that have reached the Premier League and those that have  not, leading to the common occurrence of teams "bouncing back" soon after their relegation. For some clubs, including Leeds United, Charlton Athletic, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Bradford City, Leicester City, Southampton and most notably Wimbledon F. C. who have failed to win immediate promotion back to the Premier League, financial problems, including in some cases administration or even liquidation have followed. Further relegations down the footballing ladder [ have ens ued for several clubs unable to cope with the gap.
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