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English Premier League

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The Premier League (officially known as the Barclays Premier League for sponsorship reasons, colloquially known as The Premiership), is a professional league competition for football clubs located at the top echelon of the English football league system (above The Football League). It is the world's most watched sporting league, and the most lucrative football league. Based on the performances of member clubs in European competitions over a five-year period, with the 2006/07 season results in consideration, the Premier League is unofficially ranked second behind Spain's La Liga, but ahead of Italy's Serie A in the UEFA rankings of European leagues; this is an improvement on the third place from the official rankings up to the 2005–06 season.

The FA Premier League (as it was then known) was formed in 1992 from the clubs in the top division of The Football League, and is currently contested by twenty clubs. In a total of fifteen seasons, the title has been won by only four teams: Manchester United (nine times), Arsenal (three times), Chelsea (twice), and Blackburn Rovers (once). The current Premier League champions are Manchester United, who won the title with two games remaining of the 2006–07 season.

The FA Women's Premier League, more specifically the National Division, is the Premiership's female counterpart, as most of its clubs are affiliated with Premiership and Football League sides; however, the league is semi-professional and has a much lower profile than the men's game.

The 2007–08 Season sees the Premier League introduce a new theme song, logo, typeface for player names and numbers, and patches.

History
Origins
The 1980s had marked a low point for English football. Stadiums were crumbling, supporters endured poor facilities, hooliganism was rife, and English clubs were banned from European competition following the events at Heysel in 1985. The Football League First Division, which had been the top level of English football since 1888, was well behind foreign leagues such as Italy's Serie A and Spain's La Liga in attendances and revenues, and several top English players had moved abroad. However, by the turn of the 1990s the downward trend was starting to reverse; England had been successful in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, reaching the semi-finals. UEFA, European football's governing body, lifted the ban on English clubs playing in European competitions in 1990 and the Taylor Report on stadium safety standards, which proposed expensive upgrades to all-seater stadiums, was published in January of that year.

Establishment
The league held its first season in 1992/93 and was originally composed of 22 clubs. The first ever Premiership goal was scored by Brian Deane of Sheffield United in a 2 to 1 win against Manchester United. Due to insistence by FIFA, the international governing body of football, that domestic leagues reduce the number of games clubs played, the number of clubs was reduced to 20 in 1995 when four teams were relegated from the league and only two teams were promoted. On 8 June 2006, FIFA requested that all major European leagues, including Italy's Serie A and Spain's La Liga be reduced to 18 teams by the start of the 2007–08 season. The Premier League responded by announcing their intention to resist such a reduction. Ultimately the 2007-08 season kicked off again with 20 teams. The league changed its name from the 'FA Premier League' to simply the 'Premier League' on February 12, 2007.

Structure
The Premier League is operated as a corporation that is owned by the 20 member clubs. Each club is considered a shareholder with one vote each on such issues as rule changes and contracts. The clubs elect a Chairman, Chief Executive, and Board of Directors to oversee the daily operations of the league. The Football Association is not directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the Premier League, but has veto power as a special shareholder during the election of the Chairman and Chief Executive and when new rules are adopted by the league.

The Premier League sends representatives to UEFA's European Club Forum, the number of clubs and the clubs themselves chosen according to UEFA coefficients. The European Club Forum is responsible for electing three members to UEFA's Club Competitions Committee, which is involved in the operations of UEFA competitions such as the Champions League and UEFA Cup.

Competition format and sponsorship
Competition
There are 20 clubs in the Premier League. During the course of a season (which lasts from August to May) each club plays the others twice, once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents for a total of 38 games for each club, with a total of 380 games in each season. Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference and then goals scored. At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned as champion. If points are equal the goal difference and goals scored then determines the winner. If still equal they are deemed to occupy the same position; if the champions, teams for relegation or qualification for other competitions thus cannot be decided, a series of play-off matches are played between the affected teams at neutral venues (this has yet to occur). The three lowest placed teams are relegated into the Football League Championship and the top two teams from the Championship, together with the winner of play-offs involving the third to sixth placed Championship clubs, are promoted in their place.

Qualification for European competitions
The top four teams in the Premiership qualify for the UEFA Champions League, with the top two teams directly entering the group phase. The third and fourth placed teams enter the competition at the third qualifying round and must win a two-legged knockout tie in order to enter the group phase. The fifth placed team automatically qualifies for the UEFA Cup, and the sixth and seventh placed teams can also qualify, depending on what happens in the two domestic cup competitions. If the FA Cup winners and runners-up both finish in the top five of the Premier League, the FA Cup's UEFA Cup spot goes to the sixth placed team in the League. If the League Cup (Carling cup) is won by a team that has already qualified for Europe, the League Cup's UEFA Cup spot also goes to the next highest placed team in the League (unlike the FA Cup spot, it is never transferred to the losing finalist). The highest placed team that has not qualified for the UEFA Cup is allowed the opportunity to compete in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, provided they have applied to enter the Intertoto Cup in the next season. This provides another means of getting into the UEFA Cup, as winners of all eleven third-round Intertoto Cup ties qualify for that tournament.

Bolton Wanderers and Fulham compete in the FA Cup.Technically, the FA can nominate any team in the league system to represent them in Europe; however, understandably and just as in all the other major leagues, only the teams that finished top of their highest league are sent. This issue presented itself in 2005 when Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League, but failed to finish high enough in the Premier League to be entered into the following year's tournament. Initially, this would have meant that for the first time in the competition's history the defending champions would not have been allowed to defend their trophy. In fact, a similar situation had occurred at the start of the 2000–01 Champions League, when defending champions Real Madrid from Spain did not finish high enough to qualify. In that situation, they were allowed to qualify by sacrificing the fourth placed qualifier that year. However, the FA insisted on its policy of only entering the four highest qualifiers. In addition, Everton (who finished fourth in the Premier League that year) justly bemoaned the fact that they would lose their place, which they had earned. UEFA, although initially reluctant to alter the rules, were forced to admit five English teams to the Champions League that year after receiving support from their own president Lennart Johansson, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and prominent members of the game such as Franz Beckenbauer. Subsequently, UEFA ruled that the defending champions of the trophy qualify for the competition the following year regardless of their domestic league placing. This means that, in future, if a team wins the Champions League but finishes outside the top four in the Premier League, the team will be entered into the next season's Champions League at the expense of the fourth-placed team in leagues permitted to enter four clubs.

The Premiership was recently promoted to second in the UEFA rankings of European leagues based on their performances in European competitions over a five year period, behind Spain's La Liga and now above Italy's Serie A. The top three leagues in Europe are currently allowed to enter four teams into the Champions League, although the new UEFA president Michel Platini has proposed changing the rules so as to limit any league's Champions League contingent to three at some point in the future.

Sponsorship
Since 1993, the Premier League has been sponsored. The sponsor has been able to determine the league's sponsorship name. The list below details who the sponsors have been and what they called the competition:

1993/2001: Carling (FA Carling Premiership)
2001/2004: Barclaycard (Barclaycard Premiership)
2004/2010: Barclays (Barclays Premiership (2004–2007) then Barclays Premier League (2007–2010))

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