The English Premier League is by far the most popular sports league in the world. The 2018-19 season saw the global cumulative live audience rise 6% to 3.2 billion viewers.
Outside of Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, the top clubs in England often attract the very top players in the game. Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard and Thierry Henry have all been attracted by the lure of the Premier League and being part of the Premier League winners’ list.
Today, the Premier League is shown in a total of 188 of the world’s 193 countries recognised by the United Nations. Countries including Brazil and South Africa even have coverage on free-to-air channels. Afghanistan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Cuba are the only countries where football fans perhaps don’t know what all the fuss is about!
It’s not only football fans that are interested in the Premier League though. Over the past number of years wealthy foreign businessmen have invested in a number of teams.
Roman Abramovich shook up football as we knew it with his purchase of Chelsea in June 2003. At the time, the West London club only had one league title to their name, dating back to 1955, and three FA Cups. Today, the Blues have been champions of England six times, the FA Cup eight times and won the prestigious Champions League in 2011-12.
The Russian billionaire was not slow to splash the cash, allowing manager Claudio Ranieri to spend over £100 million during his first summer in charge. The likes of top stars including Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernan Crespo, Damien Duff and Adrian Mutu all joined forces at Stamford Bridge.
And despite finishing a Premier League-high second place that season, the Italian manager was relieved of his duties and in came Jose Mourinho… who had just shocked the world by winning the Champions League with FC Porto.
Today, the majority of Premier League clubs are owned by billionaires. Aston Villa for example, not the most attractive part of the country, with just one league title since the war, have been owned by Chinese businessman Xia Jiantong since 2016. His company, Recon Group, are worth more than $10 billion. And yet, the purchase of the West Midlands club wasn’t considered huge Aston Villa news by any means. By 2016, several clubs also had owners with similar fortunes.