The false identity of the Premier League

The Premier League resides at the heart of English football and sport in general. We as a nation cherish and adore it. We see it as one of our greatest sporting beacons which makes us English believe we have the greatest football league in the world.

Part of such a belief is the notion that it is the most competitive footballing league, where David repeatedly topples Goliath.


Furthermore, this competitive nature of the Premier League is what we deem the differentiating characteristic, which separates the highest division of football in this country from any other. There is a tendency to see this competitive nature as only bringing positive consequences to our beloved game.

A closer analysis however would highlight a number of issues; the competitive nature of our league is exaggerated, in addition to the difference between the Premier League and other top European leagues constantly being exaggerated.

The falsehood of the Premier League could be summed up in the infamous joke of ‘I would love to see Lionel Messi play on a cold winter night away at Stoke’. The reality is that Messi would most probably set up two and score one as Barcelona win three one at the Britannia with a late futile headed goal from Jonathan Walters.

This reality check is not to ridicule Stoke City. Instead to simply point to the exaggerated nature and general falsehood that resides within our belief that the Premier League is no other.

The competitive nature of the Premier League is a characteristic of which this country adores, yet it is exaggerated. Not to say to that the Premier League is not competitive at all. In the top flight division of English football you get more ‘upsets’ than any other.

More regularly do teams from middle to lower positions within the table beat teams at the higher end than say in Spain or Germany. Yet the more regular giant killing that takes place in the Premier League brings very little long term effects.

For example, ‘bigger teams’; the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool it is said lose more often than in any league and therefore the general point difference between the higher, middle and lower positions on the table are smaller than any in other countries.

Essentially, because the big teams lose more often and so the point difference between teams in the league is generally smaller other than the odd season like last year when Chelsea easily strode to winning the league. That is an argument which is hard to refute. However, the major flaw is that despite a smaller point difference, the bigger and better teams still finish in the higher positions.

The competiveness of the Premier League at the business end of things actually has a minimal effect. Evident in the fact that since the 1997-1998 season only four teams have won the league; Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

In addition, Manchester City and Chelsea can be argued to have only entered this upper echelon of English football due to the huge financial investment they have received, they are now two of the wealthiest and richest clubs in the world. Fundamentally, the same teams keep winning the division despite losing more regularly to smaller teams than in other top European leagues.

Furthermore, we exuberate about how competitive the race to finish in the top four is, yet the race for qualification to the Champions League is completely exaggerated.

Since the 2001/02 season where the Premier League has had four slots for qualification to the Champions League, only eight different teams have filled one of those slots; Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle and Everton. Furthermore, Everton and Newcastle finished in the top four once while Tottenham only twice.

Manchester City only entered the race (which was really at Liverpool’s and Tottenham’s expense) after financial investment on a scale we in England had not seen before, not even with Chelsea. It took an unprecedented amount of money for Manchester City to even break in the top four.

This highlights not only the difficulty of finishing in the top four but also how it was (and still is) the same teams repeatedly finishing in those four all so coveted positions.


It’s fantastic (as long as it doesn’t happen to your team) to see a smaller club beat a bigger one, this is a concept which the FA Cup thrives on. However, after such a giant killing takes place, after the escalation in the media dies down, the long term effects are non-existent, the bigger clubs despite a smaller gap in point difference will finish in the higher positions.

The last effect of the competitive nature of the Premier League is both false and meaningless.

What highlights the falsehood of the competitive nature of the Premier League more than anything is a comparison with Europe’s two other superpowers; the La Liga (Spain) and the Bundesliga (Germany). Germany, Spain and England are the only three countries to have four positions for teams to qualify for the Champions League.

They are the triangular axis of power which reside at Europe’s top table. Constantly, however it is noted how Bayern Munich dominates German football and how Real Madrid and Barcelona run a twin dictatorship over Spanish football. This part might have some truth to it.

Yet, it leads to people to argue that the Spanish and German top divisions are not as competitive as the Premier League, which is simply not true. As previously mentioned since the 1997-1998 season there has been four different Premier League Champions.

In contrast, Spain has had five different winners of the La Liga, while Germany has had six different winners of the Bundesliga. Moreover, since the 2001-2002 season England has had eight different teams finish in the Champions League positions, Spain has had thirteen different teams finish in the Champions League spots.

While Germany, despite only have three spots for Champions League qualification up until the 2011-2012 season (where it took Italy’s fourth sport for qualification) has still managed to have nine teams finish in Champions League qualification.

The point here is simple. In recent times both Germany and Spain have had more teams than England being crowned champions while also having more teams finish in a position for Champions League qualification, even though in the case of the Bundesliga they only recently have acquired a fourth spot for qualification.

In fact, what this points to is the competitive nature of both the Bundesliga and the La Liga. In this country we are so narrow minded we do not consider any other leagues to be on the same level of competiveness when in fact they are.

Furthermore, the data shown points to the competitive nature of both the La Liga and the Bundesliga having more of an effect on the final standings within the League table than our beloved Premier League.


To conclude, this article has not sought to criticise or ridicule the smaller clubs in the Premier League. For example, it is absolutely brilliant to see Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester currently mixing it with the big boys as they continue to prove the doubters wrong.

Instead this article has sought to highlight the narrow view point of many football fans within this country. We adore the Premier League and rightly so, it is one of the world’s great beacons and epicentres of football.

However, constantly, we exaggerate its competitive edge. True, there might be less of a gap between those at the top and those at the bottom but in fact it changes very little when it comes to the hard line facts of where your team finishes.

We write off the Bundesliga and La Liga as leagues with very little competitiveness which actually could not be more false. They are two very competitive footballing leagues, this cannot be underestimated.

There is this line of opinion, an arrogant one in fact, that the Premier League is light years ahead of other top European leagues. Such an opinion is outdated and archaic of which needs to change.

A broader more general view on European football is something that needs to come more common with lovers of the Premier League because it brings the realisation that the Premier League is not all so different.

The Author

Paul Doherty

Recently graduated history student, about to start a masters in London. England membership, follows the three lions home and away. Tragically also an LFC fan, general love for the game, with a particular interest in both international and Italian football.

One thought on “The false identity of the Premier League

  1. An accurate observation about the narrow mindedness of the average British perception of the Premier League, endorsed by the very name of the league itself. My observation which will probably not be welcomed by a supporter of Liverpool FC, is I cannot understand the incredibly loaded bias of the BBC towards “the Reds” . . . . . . The facts are that in spite of a heavy financial support LFC are always lionized by the BBC. There is never a negative spin on any article referring to them. Their players are all 100% committed (or when they look to enhance their career ie; Sterling style, then The BBC roll out all the pro-Liverpool rhetoric delivered by ex-Liverpool players. My point is, the premier league aided and abetted by the BBC have a Illuminati-like perception of the big four. Yes the big four are there. Manchester Utd and City, Chelsea and Arsenal. The “Big 4” handle marketing was always being pushed to include fringe side Liverpool who, even when flattering to deceive have benefited from a sycophantic press machine. My point of concern is why are a taxpayer and football supporter should my club be treated to negative minimal coverage and yet Liverpool receive adoration by the BBC. The BBC is a world wide supposedly neutral news agency of the highest ethical integrity. It alarms me that Liverpool have somehow either been adopted as the favored son, or at a more sinister level have ingratiated themselves into the corridors of marketting power that the BBC actually represents. If you read it it the BBC it must be true syndrome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *