If you are going to pick your winner, you might as well place a bet on the English Premier League. People might believe that the style of football is brutal and lacking in style but the constant influx of foreign talent into England suggests that the League offers the best experience of football.
For many, the EPL is considered the greatest league in the world, attracting millions and millions of viewers and loyal fans from around the globe. The average Premiership game attracts a global audience of over 12 million people. There are teams like Man. Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea who enjoy a fan base that spans over more than 150 countries. So, what is it that makes this league such a monumental success. Here we explore the reasons behind its rise to the top of the pile – pushing the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A into lowly apprenticeships.
Huge exposure through the small screen
The exposure the Premier League enjoys around the world feels like a chicken and egg scenario. The fact that the potential cumulative audience for the Premiership is 4.7 billion people in 212 countries is astonishing. The league can, therefore, negotiate centralised television-rights in the billions and the individual clubs’ sponsorship deals add more to the pot. So, the reach of the league is massive but the desire to watch the matches already had to be evident to global audiences. Without exposure, the league’s popularity would certainly wane. However, without the other ingredients that English football offers, no one would watch anyway.
Therefore, although television and the wealth that comes from this is an important factor in the league’s enduring appeal, it does not explain the initial success.
Years of history
The appeal of the game in England probably has more to do with the history of the game in the country. It is the home of football – its birthplace. The first match played in England kicked off in 1863. The first mention of the game in the country came in 1170.
Therefore, there is a story behind each club that can be bought into, explored and loved. The crest on football shirts is almost heraldic, dating back centuries. The EPL can also claim to have hosted some of the real legends of the game – who enjoyed the furious brutality of the English game.
When you speak about teams like West Ham, Man. Utd and Arsenal, you are calling on years of players and managers who have become legends. Even when times are tough, as they are for West Ham at the moment, legends like Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore linger in the memories. There are still millions of fans around the world hoping this historic club will make a successful return to the EPL in the coming years.
The best players in the world?
It is worth putting a question mark at the end of this explanation. It is true that the EPL boasts more players in the top 100 – with 29 compared to the 26 from La Liga, 18 from Germany and 17 from Serie A. However – and it is a huge however – Messi and Ronaldo play in La Liga – taking their place at Barcelona and Real Madrid. Teams like Paris St Germain also command some of the world’s top talent and the Bundesliga is renowned as a breeding ground for young players coming through.
Quality of play is subjective and it is difficult to pin down if you see the most skilled and talented players in the EPL. However, it is fair to say that you see the most competitive games in the world, with titan teams going head-to-head. So, other leagues might claim individual talents but the EPL has the might of club culture behind it. The top talents in the English game are divided across 11 teams – no other league has such depth and breadth.
Always a titanic battle
Mourinho has managed in all the top leagues in Europe. Yet, he holds that competing in the Premiership maketh the man. There are teams who dominate the other leagues, where it is obvious the top talents should go. However, in the EPL there are sometimes 5 or 6 teams a season with a genuine chance of winning the league. There have also been numerous examples – Leicester, for instance – of worthy underdogs overcoming the odds.
When you play in the EPL you will be challenged. If you are a football player or a manager, you will be forced to exceed your best because another team is waiting to surpass your achievements. Look at the titanic battle between Man City and Liverpool last season – where Liverpool scored 98 points and still did not win the prize. Then, the year Aguerro sealed Man City’s win with a final strike in the dying minutes of the last game of the season. Now, this is excitement, and this is why the EPL is considered the best.
Football is nothing without the fans – so said Sir Matt Busby – and if anyone knows what they are talking about it is this footballing giant. The EPL enjoys the highest attendances in the world. Over 13 million fans watch and attend games a season, with the average gate coming in at 35000. The second division – the third tier of English football – enjoys a better attendance than the top divisions in Italy and France.
The voice, the song, the passion of the English fans is without doubt. When you see the game on the TV it is the atmosphere created by these avid supporters that make the game. The cheers and the boos, along with the chants at the referee. Everything speaks of the passion of the English for its national game.
Take the competitiveness of a normal game and ramp it up to 11 – or maybe even 111 – and you have a derby game. When two rivals from the same city meet up the emotions are insane. There is something almost tribal about the experience of watching Man City versus Utd – Liverpool versus Everton – Spurs against Arsenal. Even Man. Utd versus Liverpool is considered a mighty derby as the cities are separated by about 50 miles. Such is the weight of this matchup that the whole day’s play is designed around when it is safest to bring the crowds of fans into the home team’s backyard.
The derbies hardly ever produce the best football, as the stakes are too high. However, the emotions of the day and the passionate response of the players make it a must-watch.