The Premier League is an English professional league for football clubs. With 20 clubs participating, it is the country's primary football competition operating on the system of promotion and relegation. Known as the Premiership from 1993-2007, the tournament is now officially known as the Barclays Premier League after its current sponsor Barclays Bank.
The Premier League is the world's most lucrative football league with combined club revenues of €2.479 billion in 2009–10.
The season runs from August to May. Each club plays the others twice (a double round-robin system), once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents, for a total of 38 games. Matches are usually played on weekends, with a few games played during weekday evenings.
The Premier League is operated as a corporation and is owned by the 20 member clubs. Each club is a shareholder, with one vote each on issues such as rule changes and contracts. The clubs elect a chairman, chief executive, and board of directors to oversee the daily operations of the league.
After the success of the 1970s and early 1980s, the late '80s marked a low point for English football. Stadia were crumbling, facilities were poor, hooliganism was rife, and English clubs were banned from European competition for five years 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 leagues such as Italy's Serie A and Spain's La Liga in attendance and revenues, and several top English players had moved abroad.
However, by the turn of the 1990s the downward trend started to reverse. England had reached the semifinals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup. UEFA, European football's governing body, lifted the five-year ban on English clubs playing in European competitions in 1990 (resulting in Manchester United lifting the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1991).
Television money increased manifold - the Football League received £6.3 million for a two-year agreement in 1986, but the price rose to £44 million when that deal was renewed in 1988.
At the close of the 1991 season, a proposal for the establishment of a new league was tabled that would bring more money into the game. The newly-formed FA Premier League would have commercial independence from the Football Association and the Football League, giving the league license to negotiate its own broadcast and sponsorship agreements.
In 1992 the First Division clubs resigned from the Football League en masse and on 27 May 1992 the FA Premier League was formed to take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. It has since become the world's most watched sporting league, being broadcast to over 600 million people in over 200 countries worldwide.
Of the 44 clubs to have competed since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, four have been crowned champions: Manchester United (12 titles) Arsenal (3), Chelsea (3) and Blackburn Rovers (1). Manchester United are the reigning champions.
The 22 inaugural members of the new Premier League were 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.
Teams get three points for a win and one point for a draw. 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 champion. If points are equal, the goal difference and then goals scored determine the winner. If still equal, teams are deemed to occupy the same position. If there is a tie for the championship, for relegation, or for qualification to other competitions, a play-off match at a neutral venue decides rank.
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.