Sport – The Non-English Premier League

An Englishman, two Irishmen and a Scotsman – Manchester United vs Arsenal in October 1967 when non-British players were very rare.

The English Premier League is the best in the world – but it isn’t very English anymore – not that British if truth be known.

Although football has been played in many forms since the days of the caveman (behaviours have improved a little since then, though not much); but it’s recognised that it was the English who sat down and worked out the rules – then the Scots came and taught us how to play. In some ways the rest of the world has been teaching us how to play ever since.

After its first hurrah at the end of the 19th Century when we went out and taught everyone else the game (Brazil’s first ever official game for their national side was against lowly ExeterCity), English football settled down into a cosy fug of self-satisfaction. The English were convinced they were the best in the world – and they watched with patronising amusement as the French (the French) led the way in forming the world football association (FIFA) and then establishing the World Cup in 1930.

The English didn’t take part in the World Cup until 20 years had elapsed, being beaten – amazingly – 1-0 by the USA in 1950 (we still don’t talk about it). But this was an aberration we assured ourselves. The walls came down in 1953 when England were beaten at home for the first time – by the Hungarians playing a delicious blend of style and substance.

Despite winning the World Cup in 1966 (at home) the English haven’t dominated the game they invented for almost 80 years now.

But their league – The English Premiership – is where the world comes to play its football – Spain’s Real Madrid and Barclelona fans would probably beg to differ, but in truth those two teams are all Spain has.

England has Arsenal, Chelsea, ManchestersCity and United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton. Global brands attracting global players.

Ironically it was probably that most English of teams Arsenal – good old solid London Arsenal that really led the way in bringing in foreign players – French manager Arsene Wenger had no qualms in bringing in the best (cheap) talent from overseas and naming a team with not a single English player in it.

That position has eased since then but Arsenal still generally field mostly non-English sides. Likewise so now do ManchesterCity, Liverpool and Chelsea. Manchester United manage to maintain a slightly higher proportion of English (or at least British players).

Does it matter? – not really – there are plenty of lower-league sides to provide a home for decent English talent and the cream still rises to the top.

The big winner in all of this is the game itself – Association Football – to give it its proper name – bestrides the globe. And although it has changed somewhat since it was first codified in 1863

– it’s not that different, and most of the essential components are absolutely the same: very English.



  1. It’s a global forum, the English Premier League, that’s for sure. It is good to know that the lower-leagues are still there so we can get a taste of what life was like before the Premiership changed football forever in this country.

  2. Great post, Groven. The Premier League attracts international attention: but is it English? Very good question…

  3. […] Sport – The Non-English Premier League ( […]

  4. […] Sport – The Non-English Premier League ( […]

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