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A century after the Football League was formed, English football reached its lowest ebb in the 1980s. Clubs had been banned from European competitions while supporters had to endure dilapidated and outdated facilities as public interest in the nation’s professional game continued to drain away.
The health and image of English football commenced an unimaginable transformation in 1992. The First Division clubs broke away from the Football League to create the FA Premier League. Taking advantage of unprecedented lucrative TV rights deals, the newly formed competition has since grown into a global phenomenon.
Without the money from European matches and as leading players sought a more lucrative career in Italy, the big five clubs – Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – became increasingly disgruntled with the way that the Football League distributed the revenue from TV deals amongst the 92 clubs.
Based at opposite ends of the country and amid an uneasy truce between the FA and Football League, it often appeared that they were working against each other.
Aware of the clubs’ dissatisfaction with the FL, encouraged by London Weekend Television’s Greg Dyke, the FA produced a document called ‘The Blueprint for Football’. It suggested a breakaway that would retain the money it generated.
The First Division clubs approved and a founder agreement was signed. In the summer of 1991, the 22 clubs in the top division gave notice of their intention to resign.
The FA Council gave its approval on 20 February 1992 and the negotiations regarding TV contracts began in earnest.
The four-year contract struck by ITV with the Football League in 1988 cost £44million. The first Premier League contract with BSkyB was agreed at a staggering £304million over five years.
A previously British dominated game now attracts players from around the world with matches, played in state-of-the-art all-seater stadiums, viewed on television screens worldwide throughout the season.
Although the leading positions have become dominated by a select band of elite clubs, more than half of the country’s 92 senior clubs have now, at some stage, competed in the Premier League.