The English Premier League
What You Need to Know
- The Premier League is the top flight of English football. The league runs for 38 games, with 20 of the best teams in England (and Wales) battling it out to be crowned champions
- As well as the league title, clubs also fight to finish in the top four and so qualify for the prestigious and lucrative Champions League
- The bottom three get relegated at the end of each season, to be replaced by the best three teams from the division below. This ensures that the league always stays fresh, even if the same big names do tend to dominate
- Chelsea are the reigning Premier League champions, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal have also dominated the league in recent years
- Tickets for matches can be hard to obtain, especially if you want to watch one of the bigger teams in action. If you want to watch some Premier League football in person, plan ahead, sign up for a membership scheme with your chosen club or, alternatively, go and watch a smaller team
- The Premier League has a huge global following. As well as tens of millions of people tuning in to watch the matches live, the competition is also of great interest to sports betting fans right around the world. Quite simply, you can place a bet on almost anything, from who will win the league right through to how many corners there will be in a particular match
- Matches are shown live on Sky Sports and on BT Sport in the UK, though weekly highlights are shown on the BBC each Saturday night
The Premier League is the highest tier of English football and, in the opinion of many, is the most exciting domestic competition in the sport. Its clubs are supported worldwide and players of all nationalities are drawn in by its allure (even if we’ve still to be given an answer to the question of how Messi would fare on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke). Sure, you can enjoy the spectacle if you have no interest in it. However, to really enjoy the passion of English football at its finest, it's best if you know about the ins and outs of the Premier League, and better still if you have something riding on it, either through supporting one particular team or by having a flutter or two on a match.
In this guide, we’ll talk you through all you need to know about the competition.
The early 90’s were a time of optimism for English Football. The national side had done well in the last World Cup (though not well enough to spare poor Gazza from tears), our club sides has been allowed to rejoin European competition after the ban following Heysel was lifted and stadiums were being rebuilt in the wake of the Taylor report.
More and more money was flooding into the game and, to capitalise on this, the top clubs decided they should break away from the Football League, and start an independent body which would allow them to negotiate their own deals with regards to sponsorship and broadcasting rights.
With the backing of the FA, the Premier League broke formed as a limited company in 1992. The format stayed the same as it had been, and the league still had the same place in the English football pyramid as it did before, with clubs being promoted up to it, or relegated down from it in the same way as when it had been Division One.
The league consists of the top 20 clubs in the country. Over the course of a season each of these clubs play each other twice, once at each of the club’s grounds. If a game ends in a draw each team is awarded a point, if there is a winner they take three points whilst the loser gets none. These points determine each club’s position in the table.
The outcome of the season is decided by each club’s position in the table once all 380 scheduled games have been played. The team that finishes first are crowned champions (though this could happen earlier if they build a lead that becomes mathematically unassailable) whilst the teams that finish in the relegation zone (places 20, 19 and 18) are dumped out of the Premiership and into the Championship.
The top four teams qualify to play in the next season’s Champions League competition. The first three go straight into the group stage, whilst the fourth have to play a qualifying tie to make it to the tournament proper.
The 5th, 6th and 7th placed sides can all qualify for the Europa League, however this depends on the outcome of the FA Cup and the League Cup, as the winners of both these competitions are given a spot and only a maximum of three Premier League sides can make it. So, if for example, the team winning the league does so as part of a treble in which they also win the FA Cup and the League Cup, then, all of the teams in 5th to 7th can go and take a Europa League Spot, seeing as the cup winners do not need the places as they are placing in the Champions League instead (teams can only enter one European competition). However, if two teams from the lower reaches of the table won the domestic cup competitions then only the 5th placed team would get a Europa League spot.
If teams end level on points, goal difference is used to separate them. So far top spot has only been decided by goal difference only once, in 2011-12, when Manchester City sealed their first league title with virtually the last kick of the season.
Originally, there were 22 teams in the league, but this was reduced to 20 at the insistence of Fifa in 1995. This was done by relegating four teams and only promoting two.
Though the league is English, Welsh clubs that operate within the English football pyramid are able to compete. Currently Swansea play in the top flight.
Aside from the number of teams there have been many other changes to the Premier League, most of which have occurred as a result of its growing international reputation. In the opening 1992-93 season there were only 11 foreign players in the whole league. By 1999 Chelsea had become the first team to field a starting 11 without any British players and in 2004 Arsenal fielded the first 16 man team with no home grown talent.
These days less than half of the players in the league are English as the top clubs can bring in talent from anywhere in the world. Whilst some argue that this has hurt the national side’s prospects, it has certainly been instrumental in raising the profile of the league, bringing it to the level of Germany, Spain and Italy and ensuring that Premier League teams are regular fixture in the later stages of European competition. Indeed, since 1999 English sides have reached the Champion’s League final on no less than nine occasions, winning it four times.
The 2015/2016 Premier League Season
The 2015/2016 Premier League season kicks off on August 8th and looks set to be one of the most thrilling campaigns in recent years. Chelsea will be looking to hold onto their crown, having cruised to the title last time round, but are likely to face some tougher competition this time. Expect to see Manchester City, complete with new £49 million recruit Raheem Sterling, push the Blues harder, especially after they were effectively on holiday for the last few weeks of last season. Meanwhile, both Manchester United and Arsenal look resurgent, and the jury is still out on whether Liverpool can mix it with the best of them.
At the other end of the table, all eyes will be on new boys Bournemouth, who will be enjoying their first taste of the Premier League. Are they just relegation fodder making up the numbers, or will their brand of flowing football actually be well-suited to the top flight? Other teams worth watching are Newcastle and Sunderland, where big-name managers have big expectations to meet, as well as Aston Villa, who could flirt with relegation or even push for a top ten spot.
Aside from the other prizes mentioned above, there is prize money awarded to clubs according to how they finish, meaning it is always worth fighting for points. Whilst, finishing higher also increases the amount of money a club will get for TV rights, the basic sums of money paid purely on the basis of position are allocated as follows.
- Ryan Giggs has the record for Premier League appearances with 672. He played and scored in every single one of the first 21 seasons of the Premier League He’s also won it more than any other player.
- Alan Shearer is the top scorer in the history of the Premier League. He bagged 260 goals over the course of his career, making his trademark celebration a familiar sight in the process.
- Shearer also picked up three Golden Boots (the trophy for the season’s top scorer) in a row. However, he doesn’t have the most. That honour goes to the va-va-vooming Frenchmen, Thierry Henry.
- Three Premier League Players have won the Golden Shoe. This award uses a weighting system to decide a European top scorer, taking the difficulty of the different leagues into account. The three to have picked it up are Kevin Phillips of Sunderland, Thierry Henry of Arsenal and Christiano Ronaldo for Manchester United.
- Manchester United have won the competition 13 times. They are well ahead of the competition in this regard. Chelsea have won it four times, Arsenal three times and Manchester City on two occasions. Famously, Blackburn Rovers won one championship, back in 1994.
- The most times the Premiership has ever been won in a row is three. Manchester United have managed the hat-trick twice from 1999-2001 and 2007-2009.
- Only one team has ever gone a entire season undefeated: Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ Arsenal side of 2004. This season contributed to a 49 game unbeaten run, the longest in the league’s history.
- The record for the lowest number of wins in a Premier League season is one. It was Derby County who gave their fans a torrid time of it in 2007-2008. They got only 11 points, which was another record. They also set the record for the least goals in a season with just 20. Whilst they were at it they let in 89 which is, you guessed it, a record. This lead to a goal difference of -69, which is…yeah, let’s leave Derby alone now shall we?
- The record for most wins in a season is 29. Chelsea set the record in the 2004-5 season then matched in the next year during Jose Mourinho’s first stint at the club.
- The worst ever losing streak lasted for 15 matches. Sunderland’s Black Cats were the unlucky side to suffer it.
- The most goals scored in a season is 203. The record belongs to Chelsea and was set in their 2009-2010 season.
- Arsenal are the only side to have managed to score in every game of a Premier League season. They managed it in 2001-2.
- The best ever year for promoted clubs was 2001-2. Bolton, Fulham and Blackburn came up together. All three survived and stayed up for a decade. None of them are still in the Premier League, however.
- Of all the sides to have ever been in the Premiership, Portsmouth are currently the lowest ranked. They are in they are in 4th flight.
- The biggest drop in form from season to the next was seen in the very first Premier League season. Leeds, went into the 1992-3 season as defending champions and ended up one spot above the relegation places. They’d sold Eric Cantona to Manchester United in the summer. He went on to lead his new club to their first league title in 25 years and they dominated English football for the next two decades. Good move…
- Despite Leeds efforts, probably the most impressive three season yoyo act by a Premier League side is Ipswich. They earned promotion in 1999-2000, had a fantastic season and finished 5th in 2001-2, then got relegated the next year.
- The most any Premier League club has paid for a player is the £59 million CManchester United paid Real Madrid for Angel di Maria, money that wasn't very well spent
- The most a Premier League club has ever sold a player for is £82 million, the price Real Madrid were forced to cough up to take Gareth Bale away from Tottenham.
- The most goals any player has scored in a single Premier League is five. This is shared by Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Jemain Defoe and Dimitar Berbatov.
- The quickest goal scored in the Premier League was scored in 9.9 seconds by Ledley King.
- The Golden Glove is an award for keeping the most clean sheets in a season. Since it was introduced in 2004 Pepe Reina and Joe Hart have had their hands on it the most, picking up three each.
- David James, despite having the odd horror show, has the record for Premier League clean sheets with 173.
- Kevin Davies is the league’s most prolific fouler. He picked up more than 100 yellow cards and has given away nearly 800 fouls since 2000.
- You can place a bet on the Premier League action with these bookies or you can quickly check on the Premier League odds here.
- If you are not sure what all the different types of bet are, read our guide on how to bet on football to get clued up before placing any wagers.
- You can find the table here.
- Ten amazing Premier League moments to pour over.
- Pick yourself a Premier League fantasy football team and compete against your mates and everyone else in the country to see who's the best manager.