English Premier League
One of the richest and most prestigious Footy Leagues and sports events in the world! But first, a history lesson.
By the end of the 80s English football was in a bit of a state. Hooliganism was rife both at home and abroad - the French called it le malaise Anglais, the English Disease. Liverpool fans had been blamed for the Heysel Stadium Disaster in 1985 and English clubs had been banned from all European competition. Tall fences were installed to stop hooligans from invading the pitch, but this practice was stopped after the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, when 96 people (most of them Liverpool fans) were crushed to death. The best English players began moving abroad, mostly to Italy or Spain, which were seen as having the best leagues at the time, revenues and attendance were plummeting and many of the stadia were crumbling and in need of some TLC.
There was some light in the gloom, though. England's national team made the top four in the 1990 World Cup, the same year in which the post-Heysel ban on English clubs in Europe was lifted. Manchester United promptly won the now-defunct European Cup-Winners' Cup in 1991. After the Hillsborough Disaster, Lord Taylor produced a report which forced all top-level clubs to make their stadia safer, more pleasant places to watch a game (done by removing any lawn seating entirely and having all seating be in chairs) and to take measures to clamp down on hooliganism. Slowly, attendances started to rise as parents began taking their children again, and "normal" non-violent fans were no longer put off.
Then, into the mix came the dawn of satellite television, in the form of Sky TV (still the main British satellite broadcaster). Sky's presence and the increasing quality of the English game meant that TV revenue from football skyrocketed from £6.3m in 1986 to over £40m in 1988. The biggest clubs in the top division felt they weren't getting a big enough slice of the cake, and that The Football League, who had been organising English football since 1888, weren't doing enough to help, so in the summer of 1991 they decided to break away and form their own league.
The Premier League debuted for the 1992/93 season with 22 members, while The Football League was left with the lower three divisions, now confusingly renumbered so that the second tier of English football would be "Division One". Promotion and relegation between the Premier League and Division One was maintained, and fans didn't notice any immediate difference beyond the change of names and new logos. Later, a new sponsorship deal with the Football League muddied the waters even further, so that the tiers now read "Premier League -> The Championship -> League One -> League Two".
But sure enough, money started to flow into the Premier League clubs thanks to Sky's TV revenues, while the number of foreign players began to increase dramatically, particularly after 1995, when a test case at the European Court of Justice established that footballers were not exempt from European Law regarding free movement of labour and services: any EU-citizen footballer could play at any EU club with no restrictions, and any EU footballer could move to another club freely once his contract was up. The case - known as the Bosman Ruling after Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman who took the case to court - had a massive effect on football throughout Europe, but particularly in England where the Premier League rapidly became the richest league.
Recently the League has overtaken Spain's La Liga to become the highest ranked league in Europe according to UEFA. Despite the small size of a lot of England's stadia compared to Europe, the quality of the English game is extremely high and total club revenue annually is almost £2 billion! The Premier League's revenue is the fourth highest anywhere in the world, behind the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA.
There are problems, of course. The highest-placing teams get the most money, which is logical, but tends to mean that success is self-perpetuating and the so-called "Big Four" - Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea - dominate the top four positions in the league, which in turn means they all qualify for the Champions League and accumulate even more money. At the other end of the table, smaller clubs promoted to the league usually struggle and are often relegated in their first season. The only way to break into the top four seems to be for a club to be bought by someone with a truly eye-watering amount of spare money to throw around - Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich b(r)ought Chelsea into the top four, while Sheikh Khaldoon al-Mubarak is currently engaged in trying to do the same for perennial underachievers Manchester City. In Europe they contend against the best teams in the Union of European Football Associations (potentially from as far away as Vladivostok) to win the most prestigious title in world club football. The Champions League winners also compete for the less prestigious title of World Club Champion. For clubs in positions five, six and sometimes seven (or alternatively, the League Cup and FA Cup winners if they do not already qualify for Europe), there is the Europa League, which was the UEFA Cup until last season, less popular but still a good alternative for clubs.
The influx of foreign players means that Premier League fans get to watch some of the best players in the world every week, but it also means that English talent potentially gets squeezed out - in 1999, Chelsea became the first English club to field an entirely non-English starting eleven and at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, more than eighty Premier League players took part. Some say this has had a detrimental effect on the national team's talent pool.
Despite those problems there is no doubt that the current state of the Premier League showcases a remarkable turn around for football in England since the troubles of The Eighties and has helped move England back up to being one of the top footballing nations in the world. It is arguably back ahead of its cousin leagues in Spain and Italy in terms of the quality of football, certainly in terms of attendance and revenue and is now watched all around the world and particularly in the Far East. Now if only the national team could match the Premier League's success ...
The 2011-12 Premier League season saw Manchester City claim the championship over Manchester United on a goal differential tiebreaker.
The current members of the League:
- Arsenal: Very successful north London club who lifted the crown in 1997/1998, 2001/2002 and 2003/2004. Managed by Arsene Wenger through all of them.
- Aston Villa
- Chelsea: The 2009/2010 champions under Carlo Ancelotti and who also won titles in 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 under José Mourinho
- Manchester City: Current League champions.
- Manchester United: The most successful club in English Football, who have won the League 12 times! All won by Sir Alex Ferguson.
- Newcastle United
- Norwich City
- Queens Park Rangers
- Stoke City
- Swansea City: First Welsh club in the league.
- Tottenham Hotspur
- West Bromwich Albion
- West Ham United
- Wigan Athletic
Former members of the League:
- Birmingham City (2002-2006; 2007-2008; 2009-2011)
- Blackburn Rovers: (1992-1999; 2001-2012) -- won the Premier League once back in 1994/1995 under Kenny Dalglish. The only former champions to have been relegated, twice no less.
- Blackpool (2010-2011)
- Bolton Wanderers (1995-1996; 1997-1998; 2001-2012)
- Burnley (2009-2010)
- Bradford City (1999-2001)
- Charlton Athletic (1998-1999; 2000-2007)
- Coventry City (1992-2001)
- Crystal Palace (1992-1993; 1994-1995; 1997-1998; 2004-2005)
- Derby County (1996-2002; 2007-2008)
- Hull City (2008-2010)
- Ipswich Town (1992-1995; 2000-2002)
- Leeds United (1992-2004)
- Leicester City (1994-1995; 1996-2002; 2003-2004)
- Middlesbrough (1992-93; 1995-1997; 1998-2009)
- Nottingham Forest (1992-1993; 1994-1997; 1998-1999)
- Oldham Athletic (1992-1994)
- Portsmouth (2003-2010)
- Sheffield Wednesday (1992-2000)
- Sheffield United (1992-1994; 2006-2007)
- Swindon Town (1993-1994)
- Watford (1999-2000; 2006-2007)
- Wimbledon (1992-2000) -- The only former Premier League club which is no longer in existence. The club itself became Milton Keynes Dons in 2004, while a Spiritual Successor club, AFC Wimbledon was formed in 2002.
- Wolverhampton Wanderers (2003-2004; 2009-2012)
NOTE: Passions tend to run high among fans of the teams currently and formerly in this league. As a result, unlike most other Useful Notes pages, standard YMMV trope rules are fully enforced on this page -- meaning, we don't want to see any!
- Accidental Athlete: On the 19th October 2002, a young, unknown 16 year old comes off the bench for Everton against Arsenal and scores the match winning goal. His name? Wayne Rooney.
- Always Someone Better: Almost every side has a "bogey team" that they just can't beat. The most spectacular example? Portsmouth have not beaten Chelsea in any competition for over 60 years.
- Badass: Each club has had at least one player who was considered a 'hard man', a physical player who had no shame in yelling at others or getting physical or getting plenty of red cards. This practice has been in decline with the controversy surrounding tough tackling lately but examples include:
- Wimbledon's Vinnie Jones is the best known example, who even released a video called Soccer's Hard Men which got him fined and banned by the FA for a while, and now plays tough characters in films. He also was booked after 3 seconds in one game and earned 12 red cards in his career. Perhaps best known for a photo of him, er, taking the measure of poor Paul Gascoigne.
- Manchester United had Roy Keane.
- Arsenal had Martin Keown.
- Chelsea had Dennis Wise.
- Big Game: Matches between rivals, title contenders or a match that could either seal relegation or the title.
- Big Damn Heroes: Every team has its tales of last minute heroics against the odds. However it's no coincidence that the most successful teams have players who seem to always score a goal Just in Time to salvage a result.
- Bribe Backfire: Arsenal's George Graham, credited with returning them to glory in the late 80s was found out to have taken bribes to sign players, the fact those players didn't do well at all just makes it worse. He was fined and banned from the game for a year.
- Legendary Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar was found to have been involved with match-fixing scandals, that was rather messy too. Ironically he was actually declared to be innocent of the allegations in question, although the judge noted that this was due to the lack of any decisive proof that he was guilty. However, Grobbelaar then tried to sue several major tabloids for their reporting on the case -- not only did he fail miserably in this, the tabloids in question proceeded to drag his name through the mud by digging up every little bit of dirt on him that they could, and utterly destroyed what little reputation he had left.
- Butt Monkey:
- Crystal Palace. They've been promoted to the Premier League four times, and gotten instantly relegated on each occasion.
- Wigan themselves may be considered a Butt Monkey. Despite the fact that they are rarely in danger of being relegated, in most seasons they're usually one of the league leaders in having the most goals allowed. And that's not even mentioning how they always seem to suffer some of the most one-sided and embarrassing losses; their 9-1 defeat against Tottenham ties the record for the most goals allowed in a league match and 8-0 defeat against Chelsea are some of the most notable ones.
- As far as managers are concerned, Avram Grant. In his three seasons in Premier League management, he took Chelsea to within a game of winning three honours and lost them all, then finished in bottom place with Portsmouth, then finished in bottom place again with West Ham. In fact, since the Champions League final with Chelsea, Grant had managed to spend a grand total of one week outside the bottom three. On top of all that, he was involved in a brothel-related scandal during his time at Portsmouth, and when he moved to West Ham the club's chief executive, Karren Brady constantly attacked him in press, saying that she never wanted him at the club largely due to the scandal in question.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Inverted, every year there will always be one player diving in the penalty area or a Referee making a stupid Too Dumb to Live decision. Cue the calls for video refereeing yet nothing is ever really done to change anything.
- However, it is difficult for cheaters to not prosper in the Premier League since all teams have cheated to some extent at some point.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Rare, but they happen, like Manchester United vs Ipswich (9-0) and Tottenham vs Wigan (9-1). In fact, Chelsea are starting to become accomplished curbstompers, with four of games either side of the 2010 summer break ending like this, against Stoke (7-0), Wigan (8-0), West Brom the following season (6-0), and Wigan again (6-0 again).
- On August 28, 2011, the teams of Manchester achieved back to back curbstomps against Northern London sides, with Manchester City crushing Tottenham 5-1 and Manchester United embarassing Arsenal in an 8-2 shitstomping.
- And when the two Manchester teams met on October 23rd, City hammered United 6-1.
- Deadpan Snarker: By getting Blackpool promoted into the Premier League, Ian Holloway can be added here.
- Determinator: Whether you like him or not, you cannot deny that John Terry does not give up under any circumstances.
- Diabolus Ex Machina: On the last day of the 05/06 season. Arsenal needed a win in their last game at Highbury to ensure Champions League qualification for the next season at the expense of fierce local rivals Tottenham, who were one point ahead and needed to win as well. On the morning of the game Tottenham come down big witha mass bout of food poisoning; attempts to get the game postponed were unsuccessful as the Premier League chief was a friend of Arsenal chairman David Dein and while Arsenal cruised to a 4-2 victory, Tottenham lost and failed to qualify. The latter's fans have never forgotten this. Cue tons of jokes about Wenger being Tottenham's chef the night before.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sir Alex Ferguson, whose habit of shouting at players from a range of inches has earned the nickname "the hairdryer treatment".
- Dude, Not Funny: The entire league's reaction to Charles Itandje's antics at a Hillsborough memorial.
- Epic Fail: Massimo Taibi's entire Manchester United career; he played in two Premier League matches, the first of which featured the aforementioned incident where he allowed a shot by Matt Le Tissier to squeeze through his legs, allowing Southampton to snatch a 1-1 draw. The second match was a 5-0 defeat by Chelsea, which still stands as United's worst-ever Premier League result -- and bear in mind that this was during the 1999-2000 season, in which they won the Premier League by what remains the biggest margin in English football history. For some reason, Taibi never played again for United after the Chelsea match.
- Derby County's 2007/08 season, in which they earned a grand total of one win and 11 points from 38 games. Sunderland had two seasons that were almost as bad, getting just 19 points in the 2002/03 season and then somehow doing even worse in the 2005/06 season and getting 15 points. (Portsmouth also finished on 19 points in the 2009/10 season, but their record looked worse than it actually was due to a points deduction for their financial problems)
- Every Year They Fizzle Out: The clubs that try to break into the top four each year, namely Manchester City and Tottenham, as well as Aston Villa. Liverpool could also be counted since every year could be the year they finally return to the pinnacle of League Football since 1990 but sadly never succeed.
- Averted in the 2009/10 season as in a close fought battle for 4th place between Tottenham, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Liverpool it was Tottenham who finished 4th. Liverpool slumped down to 7th thanks to poor form.
- Every single year the Liverpool fans seem to mark it as being "their year." They are to this date always wrong.
- Arsenal have been stuck in this since the 05/06 season, they usually start brightly or make a challenge for the title only for something to happen such as Eduardo's broken leg or the 2011 League Cup defeat which takes the wind out of their sails and causes them to collapse. This is not helped by Wenger himself, who has constantly touted the squad as having great mental strength, blaming everyone but the players when things go wrong, refusing to invest in experienced players to assist what is arguably a talented young side and lately claiming that that finishing in 2nd place for the next 20 years is akin to winning titles. Although it is true that dozens of other clubs would love to be in their position, the constant squandering of great opportunities and an arrogant manager has caused several Arsenal fans to demand his sacking or at least admit that he needs to change.
- George Jetson Job Security: The position of Newcastle manager is turning into this.
- Also the Chelsea manager's job. For perspective, Manchester United and Arsenal are still managed by the men who have won them Premier League titles, while Kenny Dalglish voluntarily stood down from Blackburn after their title win because he wanted a break from management. Chelsea, on the other hand, have gotten shot of both of their Premier League-winning managers within a year of them winning a title. Since Jose Mourinho left in 2007, Chelsea have burned their way through six managers.
- Grumpy Old Man: The managers usually; Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger spring to mind.
- The above two are also examples of a Long Runner. Ferguson has been in charge of Manchester United since 1986 for example!
- He's Back: Newcastle United are back in the Premier League after spending just one season in the Coca-Cola Championship where they were champions.
- This also applies to any players coming back after long spells of injury or suspension.
- Kenny Dalglish returned to the Liverpool manager's chair in January 2011, almost exactly twenty years after he left it. Unfortunately the following season ended up being Liverpool's worst-ever Premier League season, and his second spell was cut short in May 2012.
- Paul Scholes retired from the Manchester United team at the end of the 2010/2011 season, taking a coaching job at the club. Come January 2012, and Scholes has returned to the United team & looks like he didn't retire to begin with.
- Thierry Henry also returned briefly to Arsenal to maintain match fitness ahead of the new MLS season, while coming on as a substitute in all of his appearances he still scored three times, showing he had lost none of the class he had during his first spell. Sol Campbell and Jens Lehmann had also returned briefly in prior seasons to some acclaim.
- Licensed Game: The popularity of football in Europe means there are several video games, most notably Football Manager and the FIFA games. Of course not all games have permission to use likenesses or logos, but you can still play the leagues.
- Miracle Rally: Teams have been known to overturn two-goal deficits to grab draws or even victories. Manchester United overturned a three-goal deficit to win 5-3 against Tottenham in 2001, and recently Newcastle pulled back from four goals down-with twenty minutes to go-to draw 4-4 against Arsenal. West Ham came back from 3 down agaisnt West Bromwich Albion in the 2010/11 season.
- Arsenal beating Chelsea 5-3 at Stamford Bridge counts. Losing at half time 2-1 they scored twice early on in the second half to make it 3-2. Only for Chelsea to equalize thanks to a stunning Mata goal with 10 minutes to go. Only for van Persie to pop up to score twice inside 5 minutes to result in a second miracle rally! Considering most people had written Arsenal off due to a weakened team and after that 8-2 defeat to Man Utd, it was a sign that they had managed to develop a side capable of pushing for a top spot in the table. Highlights included that Mata goal, Terry falling over and gifting van Persie his second and Walcott falling over surrounded by 4 Chelsea players, then getting up and running through them to score.
- Arsenal then pulled it off again when Tottenham came to visit in February. After going 2-0 down in the first half thanks to a deflected goal and a controversial penalty they were able to score twice in 5 minutes to level the match before half time, then proceeded to score a further 3 more after the break! Spurs had no response, once again most people had written Arsenal off before the start.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: A rather bizarre example on the last day of the 2011-12 season, when QPR's Joey Barton got sent off in the match against Manchester City. Rather than just leaving the pitch gracefully, Barton chose to start a brawl, culminating in over five minutes of injury time which ultimately gave City the time they needed to score the two goals that won them the title. This nearly doubled up as a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero from QPR's perspective, as the result would have caused them to be relegated if not for Bolton failing to beat Stoke on the same day.
- Opposing Sports Team: Every club has rivals. Arsenal have Tottenham, Manchester United have Manchester City, Liverpool have Everton, etc. Expect those matches to be pretty tense and hot.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Between 1998 and 2002, Leeds United were regarded as having one of the finest young teams in the country, and being the club most likely to break Manchester United and Arsenal's stranglehold on the title. They ended up winning nothing despite runs to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup and Champions League, got into more debt than any club before or since (barring Manchester United and Portsmouth), got relegated in 2004, and then came within a hair's breadth of being expelled from the Football League altogether in 2007 after being relegated again and starting the new season with a fifteen point deduction. They recently started a comeback of sorts, getting promoted back to the Championship in 2010, though have yet to finish above mid-table in that division. The real kicker was that the key members of their 1998--2002 squad ended up winning trophies at their deadly rivals, Manchester United and Liverpool.
- To a lesser extent, Newcastle United, whose big-spending and good league finishes also failed to translate into any actual honours (apart from an Intertoto Cup win in 2006... and that's stretching it, to say the least). For the moment though, it looks as if their decline and relegation was only a temporary setback.
- Spin-Off: Basically what the Premier League is when the teams broke away. A common rumor during the early 2000s which has sprung up was that Europe's biggest clubs would break away to form a European Super League, which has died down a lot and never really got further then rumours. How it would have worked if it had happened is unknown. Lately comments from managers have arisen again about forming a league due to wanting the best teams to play the best, and also due to money.
- Team Spirit: Averted when one player has a falling out with his team or manager and tells all in a tabloid. the fallout can be immense. At the time of writing, the most recent spectacular example is of John Terry and Wayne Bridge, former Chelsea team-mates still playing together in the England team. It emerged that Terry had had an affair with Bridge's ex-girlfriend. Terry was demoted from England captain, while Bridge declined to play for England at all...
- Hell, the entire league with the exception of one team supported Bridge after this came out. The one team that didn't, was Chelsea - the side John Terry is captain of.
- It should probably be said that the details of what exactly happened are not really clear. Bridge's ex-girlfriend has since denied any such affair, while the press are adamant that it did happen.
- Caused some additional interest as Chelsea were supposed to play Manchester City shortly after the affair was leaked. This caused people to wonder if Bridge would offer the customary handshake to Terry once the teams came out onto the pitch. He moved his hand out of the way instead, nobody disputed this decision.
- Other examples include David Beckham getting a boot thrown at his face by Alex Ferguson after a falling out in 2003. He needed stitches above his eye.
- Although neither example is as spectacular as an incident at a Newcastle-Aston Villa match in 2005, in which Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer, in the same Newcastle side, actually started throwing punches at each other. Predictably, both got sent off.
- Hell, the entire league with the exception of one team supported Bridge after this came out. The one team that didn't, was Chelsea - the side John Terry is captain of.
- Token Minority: Before the 90s foreign players were rare in the English game, now not so much...
- It's not unreasonable to argue that Ji-Sung Park's inclusion in the Manchester United squad is principally to placate the club's massive Asian fanbase, and to keep them interested. He's by no means a poor player, but it's arguable whether he'd really be considered United standard if he didn't bring in millions of pounds from the East.
- Due to the richest teams simply buying up the best players from around the world rather than training up local talent (one of the factors which damaged the England national football team), FA rules now dictate a minimum number of native English players that each team has to employ, making them something of a Token Majority.
- We Will Meet Again: Every club plays each other twice a season, once at home and once away. This trope also extends to the fact that every year, one club claims they will be able to breach the 'big four' and secure a Champions League place. They tend to fail quite easily.
- Chelsea and Liverpool met in five consecutive Champions' League tournaments.
- Everton did it in 2005 - then Liverpool won the Champions' League!
- Everton then failed to even get past the qualifying stages.
- Against Villarreal, who reached the semi-final and only missed out the final on a missed penalty.
- Tottenham in 2009/10.
- Manchester City in 2010/11
- What the Hell, Hero?: Kevin Keegan's rant during 95/96. Newcastle looked all but secure at the top of the table with a few games left. Manchester United won the league.
- And Rafa Benitez's "facts" rant in 2008/09.
- Eric Cantona jumped into the crowd to try & karate kick a Crystal Palace fan.
- Craig Bellamy once whacked a team-mate with a golf club.
- Joey Barton has done too much to list.
- Steven Gerrard once hit a DJ for (allegedly) not playing his choice of music.
- The amount of players who have been caught cheating on their wives in recent months, including Ryan Giggs, John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch and (allegedly) Steven Gerrard.
- John Terry being accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand - It cost Terry the England captaincy for the second time in his career, because the Police charged him over the incident & the trial was adjourned until the 2012 European Championships; then there's Luis Suarez being accused of doing the same thing to Patrice Evra. Bizarrely, Suarez admitted to calling Evra a racist name, but is convinced that he did nothing wrong. Both incidents occured within weeks of one another.
- This trope also appeared to extend to Liverpool themselves, suffering criticism for defending Suarez despite him admitting what he did. When the two teams met again Suarez refused Evra's offer to shake his hand despite saying he would before the game! Evra himself also appeared to try and wind up Suarez after the game. Dalgish's comments after the game resulted in both of them having to apologize the day after. Which appears to have finally settled the issue.
- Who Needs Overtime: Injury time, and occasionally a team will score a goal to salvage a win or a point. Manchester United seem to do this often, so much that it's now got a reputation as Fergie Time. Arsenal are running them close though.
- Ironically came back to bite them in the close of the 2011-2012 season:
- With four matches to go in the season, United were leading the league with their rivals Manchester City five points behind. Then they played Everton and were up 4-2 with ten minutes to go when Everton scored twice to claim a 4-4 draw. This, followed by a City victory when they met United in their next match, allowed City to tie them in points (leading in goal difference) until the final day of the season.
- On said final day, after 90 minutes, City were down 2-1 to Queen's Park Rangers (who at that time were on the brink of relegation) but had five minutes of stoppage time still to play, while United were leading Sunderland 1-0 and had three minutes of stoppage time. City equalised two minutes into injury time, and mere seconds after the final whistle blew at United's match, City scored again to win 3-2 and earn their first championship since 1968.
- Ironically came back to bite them in the close of the 2011-2012 season: