The stadium disaster at Hillsborough in Sheffield in April of 1989 led to the Taylor Report, calling for all stadia in the Football League to be converted from terraces to all-seaters, with conservative estimates placing the cost at 600 million British Pounds. A revolution of sorts had begun.

The Football Association was in charge of the whole lot, had been since the beginning. But the Hillsbrough tragedy had finally caused people to question its legitimacy as the sport's caretaker. The Football League released a report of their own in October of 1990, which suggested there be a power-sharing exercise between the FA and the Football League.

Alex Fynn, an adviser to the FA, countered with a fairly radical proposal. His argument was that a strong national division that increased exposure for the big clubs would benefit both the national team as well as the big clubs. He pointed out that there was money to be made. And so, big-business mentality entered into the mind of the FA. The conflict then arose between the smaller clubs (with the traditionalists) and the Big 5 clubs: Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United, Arsenal and Spurs. The former complaining that the latter had too much television coverage already, and that doing what Alex Fynn proposed would help widen the gap quicker than the current television contracts.

These television contracts were coming up for re-negotiation, and the TV corporations thought it wise to mention to the Big 5 (since they were on such great terms) that the Football League was looking to restructure the contract so that the Big 5 would earn less revenue than in their old contract. At this point, the Big 5 began to consider breaking away.

In 1991, the FA presented their "Blueprint for Football". This document proposed to create a "super league" of 18 clubs. The Football League strongly rejected the Blueprint, but in June of 1991, 16 First Division clubs broke away upon signing an agreement to form the English Premier League. Eventually, the 22 First Division clubs broke away, and verbal and legal fisticuffs ensued. Threats of a players' strike loomed, but the FA English Premier League became official in September.

The FA continued the three up/three down system for promoting and relegating clubs, agreed to cut the number of clubs in the Premier League to twenty and signed a record 5-year, 304 million Pound television contract with the BBC and BSkyB. ITV complained to the courts about being left out, but settled for paying 24 million pounds to the Football League for live coverage of its matches.

1996 rolled around, and the TV rights for the English Premier League would be part of a bidding war. BSkyB would win, shelling out 670 million over 4 years for exclusivity on 60 live English Premier League matches, the BBC would win the consolation prize of a 4-year highlights package totaling 73 million pounds.

And lastly, the contracts the experts said will never again be repeated (seeing as the product being sold has become overvalued): in the year 2000, BSkyB purchased 66 live matches for 1.1 billion pounds over 4 years, while NTL won the PPV wars, paying 328 million over 3 years for 40 matches.




The twenty-two clubs involved in the competition for the 1992/1993 season were: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Norwich City, Oldham Athletic, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and Wimbledon.

Manchester United won the first ever Premier League championship with 84 points, 10 ahead of Aston Villa. Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest were relegated to the First Division. Newcastle United and West Ham United won automatic promotion from the First Division, while Swindon Town won the First Division playoff. Swindon beat Tranmere Rovers 3-1, at home, in the first match and lost 3-2, at Tranmere, in the second match. Swindon went through to the final on aggregate goals, where they beat Leicester City 4-3.

The twenty-two clubs involved in the competition for the 1993/1994 season were: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Norwich City, Newcastle United, Oldham Athletic, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Southampton, Swindon Town, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wimbledon.

Manchester United won their second Premier League title after accumulating 92 points, 8 ahead of Blackburn Rovers. Sheffield United, Oldham Athletic and Swindon Town finishing in the relegation zone and were sent down to the First Division. While Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest bounced back to win automatic promotion from the First Division, 1993 First Division Playoff finalist Leicester City won the Playoffs. The Foxes tied the first leg of the Semifinals at Tranmere Rovers 0-0, and proceded to win the second leg at home, 2-0. The Foxes would gain promotion with a 2-1 win over Derby County.

The twenty-two clubs involved in the competition for the 1994/1995 season were: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wimbledon.

Blackburn Rovers held onto first place for from late November onwards, with the last day of the season providing an exciting finish. Blackburn Rovers faced Liverpool at Anfield, while Manchester United faced West Ham United at Upton Park. The Red Devils needed to win and hope for a Rovers loss or draw (United had the advantage in goal difference). Blackburn Rovers lost to Liverpool 2-1 after leading 1-0, but Manchester United could only settle for a 1-1 draw. Blackburn Rovers ended the season with 89 points, Manchester United with 88. Four sides were relegated and only two were promoted in order to cut down the number of clubs to twenty for the 95/96 season. Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Leicester City and Ipswich Town all dropped down to the First Division. Middlesbrough, meanwhile, won automatic promotion Bolton Wanderers made their way into the Premier League by beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 on aggregate (Wolves 2-1 Bolton, Bolton 2-0 Wolves after extra time) in the Semifinal and Reading 4-3, also after extra time, in the Final.

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 1995/1996 season were: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Everton, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wimbledon.

Manchester United won its third Premier League title, finishing with 82 points, 4 ahead of Newcastle United. Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers and Bolton Wanderers were relegated into the First Division. Sunderland and Derby County won automatic promotion. Leicester City bounced back into the Premier League after beating Stoke City 1-0 on aggregate (Leicester 0-0 Stoke, Stoke 0-1 Leicester) in the Semifinal and Crystal Palace 2-1 in the Final.

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 1996/1997 season were: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Derby County, Everton, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wimbledon.

Manchester United won its fourth title in five years, repeating for the second time, collecting 75 points, 7 ahead of Newcastle United. Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest were relegated. Middlesbrough wouldn't have been relegated if they hadn't had three points deducted due to manager Bryan Robson's decision to cancel a match because of illness and injuries. Bolton Wanderers bounced back and gained automatic promotion along with Barnsley. Crystal Palace won the Playoff Final, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-3 on aggregate (Palace 3-1 Wolves, Wolves 2-1 Palace) in the Semifinal, and Sheffield United 1-0 in the Final.

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 1997/1998 season were: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Barnsley, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Derby County, Everton, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wimbledon.

Arsenal won their first English Premier League title in another close race that was decided after Arsenal defeated Everton 4-0 with two matches left to go. This left Manchester United as runner-up for the second time. Arsenal finished with 78 points, Manchester United with 77. Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley and Crystal Palace finished in the relegation zone and were relegated to the First Division. Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough bounced back by winning automatic promotion to the Premiership. Charlton Athletic gained its spot after beating Ipswich Town 2-0 on aggregate (Ipswich 0-1 Charlton, Charlton 1-0 Ipswich) in the Semifinal and Sunderland on penalties, 7-6, (4-4 after the first two halves).

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 1998/1999 season were: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Coventry City, Derby County, Everton, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wimbledon.

Manchester United won its 5th Premier League title in seven years, coming down to the wire in dramatic fashion. I can recall this one because I can still remember sitting inside of Conor O'Neill's in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a Sunday in mid-May, one of the first times I'd woken up to explicitly go to Conor O'Neill's and watch the Premiership on television. The match they showed was Manchester United at home against Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal was playing at home against Aston Villa. In the middle of the pub, where the best viewing area was for the big-screen projection television, you could see a group of people with Manchester United jerseys on, but you couldn't tell if they were from Manchester or not. I mean, why would someone from Manchester decide to live in Michigan? Anyhow, Spurs scored first, after having their way with Peter Schmeichel for the start of the match. I remember Les Ferdinand lobbing the ball over the Dane and scoring his first and last goal of the season. But nearing half-time, David Beckham sent one of his infamous "wicked hard" shots that beat Ian Walker. The pub goers were screaming at the TV though. The referee had missed what nearly everyone thought was a foul committed by Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes on Blackburn Rovers defender Tim Sherwood. Graham Poll had turned a blind eye. At half-time, the scores of both games were tied, and the tension was growing. For the second half, Alex Ferguson had decided to substitute Andy Cole for Teddy Sheringham, and his tactic paid off immediately. I still recall the way Cole controlled the pass from Gary Nevile and shot it over Walker with his right foot, and into the back of the net. The group of Manchester United fans stood up and screamed, a bit of applause from the rest of the patrons. The group began to sing "Glory, Glory, Man United" midway through the second half when the television cameras switched to the scene at Highbury. Kanu had given Arsenal a 1-0 lead. The Gunners were still in it, but if the Arsenal-Aston Villa result stood, it would be the Red Devils and Spurs deciding whether the Gunners would repeat or not. In the end, the group of Manchester United fans left cheerful, as "We Are The Champions" played on at Old Trafford. In the end, Manchester United ended the season with 79 points, 1 more than Arsenal.

Charlton Athletic, Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest all went down to the First Division. Sunderland and Bradford City gained automatic promotion to the Premiership. Watford won the Playoff Final against Bolton Wanderers 2-0 after downing Birmingham City on penalties 7-6, in the Semifinal (Watford 1-0 Birmingham, Birmingham 1-0 Watford).

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 1999/2000 season were: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bradford City, Chelsea, Coventry City, Derby County, Everton, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, Watford, West Ham United and Wimbledon.

Manchester United won their sixth Premiership in eight years, dominating the rest of the league with 91 points, 18 ahead of Arsenal. They finished the season undefeated at home. Wimbledon, Sheffield Wednesday and Watford were relegated to the First Division. Charlton Athletic and Manchester City gained automatic promotion. Ipswich Town were promoted from the First Division after beating Bolton Wanderers 7-5 on aggregate after extra time in the Semifinals (Bolton 2-2 Ipswich, Ipswich 5-3 Bolton) and Barnsley 4-2 in the Final.

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 2000/2001 season were: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bradford City, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Coventry City, Derby County, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Southampton, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.

Manchester United won its seventh title in nine years with 80 points, 10 better than Arsenal. Manchester City, Bradford City and Coventry City were relegated to the First Division. Fulham and Blackburn Rovers gained automatic promotion. Bolton Wanderers won the Playoffs by beating West Bromwich Albion 5-3 on aggregate (WBA 2-2 Bolton, Bolton 3-0 WBA) in the Semifinal and Preston North End 3-0 in the Final.

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 2001/2002 season were Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Derby County, Everton, Fulham, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Southampton, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.

Arsenal won its second English Premier League title, its first since the 97/98 season. The Gunners finished with 87 points, seven better than Liverpool. This season marked the first ever season in which Manchester United did not win or finish runners-up. Ipswich Town, Derby County and Leicester City were relegated to the First Division. Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion were given automatic promotion to the English Premier League. Birmingham City won the Playoff Final on penalties 4-2 against Norwich City, (the match was 1-1 after 120 minutes). In the Semifinals, Birmingham City beat Millwall 2-1 on aggregate (Birmingham 1-1 Millwall, Millwall 0-1 Birmingham).

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 2002/2003 season were Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Southampton, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United.

Manchester United won their 7th Premiership title in 10 years, finishing five points ahead of Arsenal. West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland were relegated to the First Division. Portsmouth and Leicester City were promoted automatically to the English Premier League. Wolverhampton Wanderers won promotion by way of the promotion playoffs after beating Sheffield United 3-0 in the Playoff Final. The Wolves went past Reading in the Semifinal, 3-1 on aggregate (2-1 in the 1st Leg, 1-0 in the 2nd).

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 2003/2004 season were Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Portsmouth, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Arsenal won their third league title and became the first club in the English top division to finish the season undefeated. Arsenal ended the unbeaten season with a record of 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 losses, for a total of 90 points, 11 points ahead of Chelsea. Leicester City, Leeds United, and Wolverhampton Wanderers were relegated to the First Division, after ending the season with 33 points each. Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion were promoted automatically to the English Premier League. Crystal Palace won promotion by way of the promotion playoffs after beating West Ham United in the Playoff Final, 1-0. Crystal Palace beat Sunderland in the Semifinals by way of a penalty shootout after the first two legs (and a scoreless period of extra time) saw the aggregate score reach 4-4 (3-2 in the first leg and 1-2 in the second).

The twenty clubs involved in the competition for the 2004/2005 season were Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Portsmouth, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

Chelsea ran away with the title, amassing 95 points, 12 ahead of Arsenal. Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Southampton were relegated to the newly-renamed-at-the-time Football League Championship. Sunderland and Wigan Athletic were promoted automatically to the English Premier League. West Ham United won promotion by way of the promotion playoffs beating Preston North End in the final, 1-0. The Hammers set aside Ipswich Town in the Semifinals, 4-2 on the aggregate (2-2 in the 1st leg and 2-0 in the 2nd).

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