The development of the best European football leagues

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At the beginning of the 20th century, football became more and more popular in society, so different championships began to be organized. Throughout history, numerous rankings have been made to decide which football league is the most important, since each country’s own competition is always the most desirable trophy for clubs and in which all football players aspire to play. From its beginnings to the present day, there have been numerous changes in the way it has been played and its conformation, so here we will tell you how each one of them has developed.

On this occasion -and based on the data provided by UEFA– we will focus on the top three according to the club coefficients by federations in the 2021/22 season. Thus, in first place we find the Premier League (England); in second place, LaLiga (Spain) and in third place, Serie A (Italy).

1. Premier League

The English football league system is a series of interconnected leagues administered by The Football Association. The top tier and home to the biggest clubs is The Premiership (Premier League), which is made up of twenty teams and where even the smallest club can be promoted and relegated. It is a private competition in which the member clubs act as shareholders through delegates and representatives. In fact, the name of the main sponsor was reflected in the official name –Barclays Premier League– until, in an attempt to maintain a clean commercial image, it was renamed simply the Premier League.

The second division is the English Football League Championship, to which twenty-four teams belong, two of them from Wales. The third of these is the English Football League One, followed by the English Football League Two which occupies the fourth division. In addition, below these four categories there are around 500 other competitions in which seven thousand clubs from all over the country play, both in local leagues and in other divisions in parallel. In fact, the affiliate teams belong to a separate league

Turning to the top tier of this system, the Premier League, it is worth noting that it has been played from 1992/93 season to the present day and has only been interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The seven clubs that have been crowned champions since the competition began are Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City and Liverpool.

In terms of curiosities, we thought it appropriate to mention that after the 2003/04 season Arsenal acquired the nickname The Invincibles due to being the first team to emerge as champions without losing a single match. However, before the Premier League was founded there was already a team (during the 1888-1889 season) that won every game in the league and cup, Preston North End, nicknamed Old Invincibles. Finally, it is also worth mentioning that the first and only football team to reach 100 points in an edition was Manchester City during the 2017/18 season, also achieving the record in goals (106).

2. LaLiga

In 1903, the Spanish Championship was organised in Spain to bring together the different teams from all over the country and, after an assembly with the Spanish Federation, it was decided to create a regular tournament in 1929, the National First Division League Championship. This league was renamed the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional in 1984 and since then has run the Primera División and Segunda División, while the Real Federación Española de Fútbol is in charge of the Primera División RFEF, Segunda División RFEF and Tercera División RFEF, while the regional divisions are administered by the regional federations.

Seasons are generally played between September and June and when the season ends -depending on the results obtained by each club- teams can be promoted or relegated.  An important fact to mention is that, unlike in other countries, subsidiary teams can participate in LaLiga, although never in a division equal to or higher than that of the team to which they belong.

With regard to the First Division, better known as LaLiga Santander due to sponsorship reasons, it should also be noted that it has been played since the 1928/29 season and has been stopped at two points: between 1936 and 1939 due to the Spanish Civil War and in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The most successful clubs are: Real Madrid Club de Fútbol, followed by Fútbol Club Barcelona, Club Atlético de Madrid, Athletic Club and Valencia Club de Fútbol.

One of the curious facts to highlight is the record number of points (100) achieved by Real Madrid during the 2011/12 season, as well as achieving the record number of goals (121) that same year, thus becoming the team that has been proclaimed champion the most times. It is followed by Barça, who managed to equal it in points in the following season.

3. Serie A

The Italian football League System, also known as the Italian football pyramid, is hierarchically interconnected and organised by a promotion and relegation format between leagues of different levels. It consists of nine national and regional tournaments -the first three are professional and the remaining six are amateur- organised by the Italian Football Federation. The first levels have one division each and the other six have progressively parallel and obviously smaller divisions.

On the one hand, the first level of Italian football is Serie A TIM, governed by the Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie A, consisting of twenty teams. On the other hand, the second level is Serie B, run by the Lega Calcio Serie B; both leagues cover the whole Italian country. The third level is Serie C, run by the Lega Italiana Calcio Professionistico; the one hundred clubs in these three series are all professional. The fourth level (Serie D) is made up of clubs divided by geographical location and, outside these levels, there are five more: three organised by regional committees and two by provincial commissions.

The league has also changed its name since its inception, having been known as the Italian First Division between 1929 and 1989. It has been played since then and was only interrupted during 1943 and 1945 due to the Second World War. The first champion was Inter Milan, however, the club with the most trophies is Juventus, followed by A.C. Milan and finally Inter, the current champion.

To conclude – and by way of introduction to a future blog post – we consider it appropriate to point out that women’s football leagues have also been developing with important changes. Thus, in our country there is still a certain inequality in the number of teams between the men’s and women’s leagues, since in the First National Division of men’s football there are 20 federated teams, while in the same category of the women’s league there are 16. Also in the Italian women’s league there are variants such as, for example, the division of this into five levels: Serie A and Serie B composed of a national division; Serie C, formed by four interregional divisions and, finally, Eccellenza and Promozione, formed by regional divisions.

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