The opening matches of the new English Premier League season on 11 August mark the return of the most popular football division in the world. With star players such as Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, successful managers including Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Manchester United’s José Mourinho, and a proud heritage of exciting, attacking football, the Premier League is an addictive sporting soap opera.
England’s top division is followed on TV in 212 territories worldwide, reaching 643 million homes and a total audience of 4.7 billion. Another 14.5 million passionate fans will grab their team scarves and attend live matches at the league’s 20 stadiums this season.
With Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Tottenham and West Ham in London (and Watford in nearby Hertfordshire), the region hosts more elite teams than any other part of the country. More than five million supporters are expected to attend Premier League games in the capital.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Football has a long and colourful history in England. Bizarre versions of the game have been played since medieval times. Entire villages hoofed an inflated pig’s bladder through streets and squares, and over fields, hedges and streams, in violent and chaotic contests with neighbouring villages. According to an ancient handbook from Workington in Cumbria, an