What led to the creation of the Premier League?

Nowadays, to talk about the English Premier League is to talk about the best football league in the world with all the luxury, glamour and spectacle that this can encompass-a competition that almost any football player in the world wants to play in. However, this was not always the case and, in fact, it was practically the opposite since at the end of the 1980s, the landscape of English football was completely dark, with no clues of what was to come in the following decades.

Premier League flag
In the mid-1970s, a period of sporting success began for the English clubs that began to enter the European scene that until then had been dominated by the Spanish, Italian and Dutch, achieving an important streak of trophies from the old European Cup in which they won 7 editions in 8 years (only interrupted by Hamburg SV in 1983), divided into 4 cups for Liverpool FC (that of Dalglish, Souness and Paisley), 2 for Nottingham Forest (directed by the legendary Brian Clough) and one for Aston Villa (with that unforgettable goal by Peter Withe).

However, despite these achievements within the pitch, there were too many unsafe conditions that kept fans away from the stadiums both due to their deplorable conditions and the growing presence of hooligans who gained a lot of ground in English football, becoming each match in a potential pitched battle. In 1985, two of the three incidents would occur that would make the straw overflow the glass and give a 180° turn to football in England and sow the foundations of what is currently the Premier League.

Tragedies of the 80s

On May 11, 1985, the last round of the Third Division championship was played, which saw the local team, Bradford City, champion of the category, receive Lincoln City, at the Valley Parade stadium. The stadium preserved parts of its original structure dating from 1886, such as the wooden roof of the main stand, which had been the subject of several recommendations by the city council due to the risks associated with that condition, among others that the stadium had. Bradford City planned to replace the roof with one made of steel by the end of the season, but in the match against Lincoln City there was a fire in the main stand that left 56 people dead.

In the European Cup final that same year, just a few days after what happened at the Bradford City stadium, which was played at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, between Juventus and Liverpool, some fans of the Red club, apparently under the influence of alcohol, they went to attack fans of the Italian club located in a neutral zone from where they were taken towards a wall against which they collided, causing deaths and serious injuries. The wall itself gave way, allowing some to save themselves while others fell to their deaths. Due to this, Liverpool received a sanction from UEFA that prevented him from participating in European competitions for 7 years (later reduced to 6 years) as well as all English clubs for a period of 5 years.

English clubs in the dark

In this context, the English league was clearly being surpassed by its counterparts in Italy and Spain, since attendance at the stadiums was considerably lower than that of these leagues, which was one of the main sources of income for clubs in football at the time because the television coverage of the championship was very little. Additionally, the reality of English football was not attractive for the best players in the world who preferred to leave the British Isles and compete in other of the aforementioned competitions or simply did not consider the offers from English clubs, negatively impacting local competition.

In 1989, with English football at what seemed to be the lowest and darkest point in its history, prior to the start of an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, which was scheduled to be played at the Hillsborough Stadium of the city of Sheffield, police authorization was given for the opening of gate C with the intention of quickly filling the stands for the start of the match, however, due to the accumulation of people outside the stadium and the excitement of entering the Likewise, there was an "avalanche" of people causing them to accumulate in that section of the stands to the point of exceeding the recommended capacity, causing the death of 94 people, although days later the death toll would increase to 96.

The beginning of the change

As a result of this incident that came to be known as the Hillsborough disaster, the English justice system carried out the pertinent investigation, issuing a series of recommendations based on improving what were the two main causes of the disaster: the failed police control and the exceeding of the capacity of a section of the stadium. In this particular regard, it was decided to form special police control strategies on match days and spectators were prohibited from standing, that is, each spectator had to have an assigned seat, this with the intention of avoiding exceeding the capacity of the stadium.

The English clubs of the first tier had a period of 4 years to adapt their stadiums for this purpose while the clubs of the lower divisions had up to 9 years maximum to do so. Those measures that were being taken in terms of security began to intertwine with new economic and business ideas that chairmen of the main English clubs were applying as a way of being dragged by the situation of football in England. That was how in 1990, the meetings for the formation of a new championship that would replace the First Division tournament began, between the representatives of the big five clubs (Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool) with the directors of English TV.

The creation of a kind of Super League (perhaps you have heard the term before) was something that had already been sounding in the middle of English football during the 80s as a proposal to improve the product and get out of the complicated situation that the players were going through English clubs at the time.

In 1990, the proposal resulting from the meetings was that of an elite league where the income from television rights and other sponsorships of the competition would be divided only among the participating clubs of said Super League instead of all the clubs that made up the Super League. Football League (the association that governed all English football divisions), as was the case up to that time, which, although it favored the clubs in the lower leagues, was not convenient for the main clubs in England, who were the main participants in the meetings and that, with the formation of the new competition, they were going to negotiate television contracts independently of the Football League. Those meetings materialized in the formation of the Premier League.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.