The Premier League - England's Top Football League
The Premier League is England's top association football (soccer) league, made up of 20 clubs. It is officially known as Barclays Premier League, as Barclays Bank is the company that currently sponsors the league. Each team in the league plays 38 matches per season. The season, which runs from August of one year till May of the next, thus consists of 380 matches in total.
The Premier League is a legal corporation, with each member club holding a share and being able to vote on various issues regarding rules and contracts. This football league is one of the wealthiest sports organizations in the world, with annual revenues well into the billions.
Since the formation of the Premier League, only four clubs have won the title: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers. Out of these teams, the by far most dominant one has been Manchester United, which is the reigning champion as of the 2010-11 season. All in all, Manchester United has won a record 19 league titles.
Manchester United has managed to dominate the Premier League, due in part to a number of star players. Among the most notable of its stars has been Edwin Van der Sar, the Dutch born goalkeeper who has set quite a few records in his illustrious career. In the 2008-09 season, for example, he did not allow a goal for 1,311 minutes. Van der Sar, however, retired from football at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season at the age of 40.
Another Manchester star, considered by some to be the best who has ever played on the team, is Ryan Giggs, a high scoring and extremely versatile player who has helped the team in many of its triumphs. Wayne Rooney is another of the team's renowned leaders, a striker who was crowned England Player of the Year in two consecutive years, 2008 and 2009.
Although football in England has a long history, the Premier League is fairly young and dates back to 1992. Originally, the major football league in England was the Football League First Division, formed back in 1888. However, the popularity of the league gradually declined in the 20th century, reaching a low point in 1985 when fan hooliganism resulted in a riot in the Heysel Stadium in Belgium. The riot led to several deaths and plenty of injuries, and English teams were banned from European competitions for five years. Because of the ban, many English top players began to play for other European leagues in countries such as Spain and Italy.
The formation of the Premier League marked a renaissance of the sport in England, and the sports' popularity has grown considerably in the last couple of decades. The Premier League has many fans, not only in the United Kingdom but throughout the world. Media coverage of its games reaches every corner of the planet, and the league does for instance enjoy a wide following in Asia. The Premier League is, in fact, the most watched sports league in the world, reaching more than 200 countries and over 600 million people. British Sky Broadcasting, better known as BSkyB, handles the broadcasting of Premier League games and has been hugely successful at turning English football into a worldwide phenomenon.