Friday, July 17, 2009

17 July 1991 - From The Seeds Of Dissention, A Great League Is Born

On 17 July 1991, the 22 clubs in England's First Division executed the Founder Members Agreement, in which they each agreed to set up a new league that would be separate and apart from the existing Football League. The new league, called the Premier League, replaced the First Division as the top tier of English football.

The move was driven by five clubs in particular—Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur—amid concerns about the organization of the 90-member Football League. In particular, the breakaway clubs were unhappy with the fact that each of the 90 clubs in the First through Fourth Divisions of the League had an equal voice in League decisions. They also believed that the League was not taking full advantage of the revenue available from television contracts. Indeed, one of the "basic principles" set forth in the Founder Member Agreement concerned the division of television revenue, with 50% divided equally among the member clubs, 25% shared among the on the basis of league position at the end of the season, and the remaining 25% to be divided equally between the home and visiting teams of each televised match.

The agreement also provided that the system of relegation and promotion would continue as if the new Premier League were the top tier of the Football League, with Premier League teams also eligible to participate in the League Cup and FA Cup competitions. The split has led to some confusion in naming, however, as the former Second through Fourth Divisions are now known as the Championship, League One, and League Two, respectively.

While the founders' original intent was to operate the new Premier League under the authority of the English Football Association, they soon decided to break from the FA as well and, on 22 May 1992, formed a new company as the Football Association Premier League Limited.

The new Premier League began play with the start of the 1992-93 season with 22 members: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, and Wimbledon.

Manchester United claimed the first Premier League title. Since then, only four clubs have won it: Manchester United (11 titles total), Arsenal (3), Chelsea (2), and Blackburn Rovers (1).

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