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July 2021

20 years of the EPL. Was it good or bad for English football?

By Walter Broeckx


There was a question Anne asked in the comment section of one of her great articles about the way the PGMOL is acting in the media. “Would the EPL really be such a loss?”  I understood this as : Would losing the EPL really be such a loss.  If I misunderstood you Anne, I’m sorry but never mind as my interpretation got me thinking.

And so I went on to search to see if the EPL has brought back only good things to English football in general. Of course we know that it brought an enormous amount of money to the clubs. And an enormous amount of money to well the people behind the scenes. But has football in England benefited from the EPL?

Because the EPL is being branded as the best league in the world by the people who sell it. And to some degree that might be close to the truth. Most of the time the people who sell the EPL are the media. And we know that the media likes to harp around about winning being the only real important thing in football. I just have to point to the ever returning mantra to express the ultimate failure sentence: it has been X years since they won….

So winning is everything. And as the EPL is branded the strongest, the best, the hardest, the ultimate league it surely must mean they are winning things compared to the rest.

Therefore I compared a few things. I compared the possible influence of the EPL on winning things in other competitions. I compared how many trophies the English clubs have won in Europe before the start of the EPL era and after. I even went on to search for the possible benefit for the national team.

If it comes to the national team I can be very short. England only won one trophy. I don’t think anyone in England will not know the year 1966 when England won the world cup at Wembley. I don’t want to rub it in too much for English people but since then you won nothing. And since the installation of the EPL well…. Despite a big hype surrounding some players England never got even close to a final. Apart from 1996 when they reached the Euro semi final when it was played in England. So the English national football team has had no benefit from the EPL.

So I went on to see how English teams have been doing in the different European competitions. And again I compared this with the cups won before 1992 and the ones after.

I point out the fact that as a result of the Heysel disaster English clubs were banned for 5 seasons from participating in European competitions. So I took those 5 years away from the totals.

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If I can start with the former Europacup II: the cup winners cup. And again a problem is that this competition is stopped and has been brought together with the former Uefa Cup (now Europa League). So to work on this I took the Uefa cup and Europa League to make up for the missing years. After all, in those years the FA cup winner played in those competitions so could have won it.

So in the last 20 years we have had 3 English winners in these competitions. That is a winning chance of 15%. But in the years before the EPL started the English teams won 6 cups in 26 years. That is a winning chance of 23%. So the chance of winning has gone down for English clubs since the start of the EPL.

I move on to the Uefa Cup and put this together with their follow-up competitions. Since 1992 we had one English team winning the Uefa Cup-League. That is a winning chance of 5%. Before the EPL started English teams won 3 times in 14 years. A winning chance of 21%. Again the start of the EPL did not bring many trophies to English clubs.

And finally I took the numbers from the Champions League and compared it with the Europacup I. And by coincidence (money I think) the CL is also 20 years old. And in the last 20 years the CL has been won 3 times by English clubs. Meaning that English clubs have a winning chance of 15%. But in the 31 years before the EPL and the CL started English clubs have won it 8 times. And that was a winning percentage of 25%. Even if Chelsea win it this year it still will be a lower percentage than before.

I have made a summary of this and  put this in a table that you can see below.

PRE 92 YEARS Winning % AFTER 92 YEARS Winning %





















Average % succes




And so you can see that before the EPL started the English clubs had a chance of winning any European cup of almost 25%. And that has gone down to 12%.

So how should we answer the initial question? Would it be a disaster if the EPL would be brought back to what it was before? Yeah the enormous amounts of money going to the clubs in the top league would go away for a bit – certainly because it would be shared out more and perhaps because TV would not want to show the extra games between the smaller clubs. But would that be a bad thing? The more money there is the more the money launderers and others hang around.  So we could get rid of those shady people, maybe.

And when it comes to the most important thing according to the media: winning. It sure does look that starting the EPL was very bad for the chances of an English team to win any European cup.

So would it really be a disaster if we would get rid of the EPL formula?


Footnote: In this calculations I left out the Inter Cities Fairs cup. In this competition English clubs had a winning chance of almost 31%. It would make the EPL era look even more bad. It would raise the general pre EPL winning % to almost 28% compared to the current 12% winning chance.

17 comments to 20 years of the EPL. Was it good or bad for English football?

  • @WALTER thanks for that but a bit off topic. I hate Barcelona after cheating us twice but Terry’s Red card would an English referee have given it? Look at the way he bumped into van-persie recently at the emirates,that would have been a penalty or a red card. Those who trust in GOD will tell you that GOD never takes bribes he will be watching from the stands in the champions league finals and if only Chelsea would take it!!.

  • Sebastian

    i’ll be honest, i think this is abit ot a nonsence article. The EPL has very little bearing on english clubs in europe. Before the EPL, after the EPL, one of those time is going to be more successful, but its not related to the EPL being formed. English clubs may have won less european titles, but that is probably more due to the change in european format, and nothing to do with the EPL.

  • Gord

    The feeling I got about the EPL, was that it was the most physically demanding league. Not that it had better skill. Why being physically demanding should be a selling point, I don’t know.

    @Kampala Gun

    With respect to kneeing someone, I see that as intent to injure. If you back to the stone ages, there were various weapons mankind brandished. A thigh bone (femur) was the choice bone to use as a weapon. Which is what is used in kneeing someone.

  • Dan T

    I certainly don’t think the quality of Enlgish league football has become any worse. I think a lot of this has to do with the emergence and improvements in other European leagues. I think in the EPL era there has been a great strengthening of football throughout Europe. So I guess it’s more England not keeping up with the speed of improvement of the other European leagues.

    As for the national team I think the current state of it is due to the inexplicably poor youth development in England. Other countries have quite remarkable youth programmes and attitudes to youth in comparison to that in England. They have recognised that football is not jsut about being big and strong but is increasingly more about technique and skill. I also think they have the mind-set totally wrong in English academies – It is often all work and no play and we all know that if we thoroughly enjoy our jobs we are more productive. The real problem is not with the EPL but at grass-roots level (though I must say this has improved a lot in the last 3-4 years in England).

  • WalterBroeckx

    The reason why I wrote this article is because of this little sentence (and Anne here rhetorical question of course) : “So winning is everything”.

    They punch with this sentence on our chin every match day. And if we take this literally and look at: does the EPL make English clubs win more? The answer is NO.

    I know there are other reasons as well but this is why there is a comment section.

  • Mihir

    I think there is a book written on the subject that analyzes the question, why are England under-performing? I guess you touched on this in the opening paragraphs. That book is soccernomics and its quite interesting.
    According to them, England is punching above its weight and I am strictly talking about international matches. Its just the huge burden of expectation that hangs around the team due to the media and fans etc that makes it seem like they are under-performing.

  • El Tel

    The England problem is more to do with our culture than anything else. We see every aspect of life as a war. We play the Germans and the war is mentioned.

    Yes you have to be strong and fight to win games but that should be secondary after skill or technique.

    There are fantastic young kids in Schools who are small and developing slower, they get bullied by the bigger less skillfully kids. Those kids get selected as the better players because of their power. Wen they get older the power becomes less important and the skill levels are not good enough.

    Football fans in England also prefer to see rufty tufty in your face football played rather than the tactical and more technical football played in Europe. The European way is less exciting but far more effective as its harder to teach technique which is usually more natural than to train someone to be more powerful.

    Willshere is the way forward not Rooney. Willshere will flourish in International matches where Rooney will just get yellow and red cards because the bruiser can’t get away with bullying at International levels.

  • El Tel

    If England are punching above our weight then what about Holland?

  • Dan T

    Holland has a fantastic youth set-up though. I guess a lot to do with Total football where technique, skill, adaptability and speed of thought are championed above size and strength. England is just starting to adopt some of this in the youth system but this has been going on in Holland for 40 years now. In England it seems that the big clubs still have the attitude that it is easier to go and pick-up 15 year old stars from around the globe than to develop local players from 5/6 years old. I’m sure we all know somebody who had the skill and technique to be a great footballer when they were 9/10 but never made it through the English academies due to size and strength and late physical development. Until this changes England will not be challenging for top honours (although as mentioned in my earlier comment it is starting to move towards this in England).

  • nicky

    The biggest changes in the top tier of English football since the inception of the EPL are, IMO, two in number:
    1. The entry into Europe and the Champions League of the top 4 English Clubs. This has created, along with satellite TV, a new interest in watching how continental clubs play and how we perform on the wider stage. The introduction of the Europa competition is now an added attraction.
    2. The other change I see is the gradual decline in the support and interest in the national side. Whether this is due to its lack of success, is difficult to judge but the fact remains that there is a much more fervent following for individual Clubs, than there is for the England team.

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    I believe you have a valid point Walter but it is more complicated than simply a difference between the EPL and the original divisional format:

    1)Historically British football produced excellent, hard but fair tackling homegrown defenders who were taller and more physically solid than their European counterparts. The teams playing before the EPL were more homogeneous (mostly British) and used a style of Football that relied on impenetrable defenses,tall midfielders and very fast-paced counterattacking strikers. This began to lose its effect once the Europeans understood that the best way to beat British teams was to slow the game down and control the ball, forcing the defensive minded Brits to always be outnumbered wherever they were on the pitch.
    2)Europeans have developed skills in defensive-minded Football but when I watched Chelsea box in Barca and succeed, especially in the 2nd leg, in offsetting their attack with a park-the-bus approach (practiced by the way against Arsenal last weekend), I realized that tactically and strategically speaking, British and continental teams are now equal. That means that CL and Europa League competitions will be won by the teams that combine technical excellence on and off the ball with a very fluid attacking style. Wenger helped promote the attacking fullback role and this has now become a worldwide strategy.

    Has the EPL been a positive or negative for British Football? I believe it has had both good and bad consequences but the biggest negative is not the Cup decline in wins but rather the financial crises and spend at all costs/win at any cost mentality that has forced the top 4-5 teams to try and match their continental big spending cousins and the subsequent cheating, manipulating and influencing going on in the EPL recently.

  • Stuart

    How about a new series. The good, the bad and the ugly of football!

    Good = Arsenal
    Bad = Mido
    Ugly = Ruud Van Nistelrooy

  • Sammy The Snake

    EPL = Money

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Isn’t the EPL merely a reaction to the change in society itself from the late eighties onwards?
    The differing success rate in European competition is partly down to what Dom says about how English teams played (and the players for that style) and about how the laws have shifted away from the English style to a more continental interpretation. When you could counter-attack with a crunching tackle, a hoofed clearance and the #9 battering the defenders at the other end to win the ball – English teams had an advantage.

  • Anne


    I’m flattered that my question made that much of an impression on you 🙂 And you didn’t misunderstand what I meant by it. But I don’t know what it was like before the EPL, so I don’t have much frame of reference.

    I was actually thinking more of how the EPL is structured, and considering the time it emerged, I was wondering if it was structured to allow for more corruption than whatever existed before it.

    Of course, I was also just coming off of writing an article where the EPL TV networks were apparently conspiring with the PGMOL to fix the content of their broadcasts 🙂 But anyway, I enjoyed the article.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    The EPL exploded in terms of money, PR and exposure and I don’t think there was enough foresight into how english football should benefit in terms of youth development and national team development, in fact, they have largely been marginalised.

    However, if were to use the SPL as a comparison, with limited moeny, PR and exposure we also have poor youth development with a subequent knock on effect to out national team. Therefore the variables of money, PR and exposure are only some of the issues that have affected youth development/technical abiliy and also have alot to do with the culure of how football is played and the number and standard of coaches.

  • Ray from Norfolk

    I believe that English clubs did better with the old C1 format when there was no EPL yet.
    Here is a rundown on the CL:
    CL 1992-1993: chance to win 1/32 (Leeds) no.
    CL 1993-1994: chance to win 1/32 (Man U) no.
    CL 1994-1995: chance to win 1/16 (Man U) no.
    CL 1995-1996: chance to win 1/16 (Blackburn) no.
    CL 1996-1997: chance to win 1/16 (Man U) no.
    CL 1997-1998: chance to win 2/24 (Man U, Newcastle) no.
    CL 1998-1999: chance to win 2/24 (Arsenal, Man U) Man U won.
    CL 1999-2000: chance to win 3/32 (Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U) no.
    CL 2000-2001: chance to win 3/32 (Arsenal, Man U, Leeds) no.
    CL 2001-2002: chance to win 3/32 (Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool) no.
    CL 2002-2003: chance to win 4/32 (Arsenal, Man U, Liv, Newc) no.
    CL 2003-2004: chance to win 3/32 (Arsenal, Man U, Chelsea) no.
    CL 2004-2005: chance to win 4/32 (BIG 4) Liverpool won.
    CL 2005-2006: chance to win 4/32 (BIG 4) no. Arsenal in final.
    CL 2006-2007: chance to win 4/32 (BIG 4) no. L’pool in final.
    CL 2007-2008: chance to win 4/32 (BIG 4) Man U won vs Chelsea.
    CL 2008-2009: chance to win 4/32 (BIG 4) no. Man U in final.
    CL 2009-2010: chance to win 4/32 (BIG 4) no.
    CL 2010-2011: chance to win 4/32 (Arsenal, Man U, Ch, Tott) no.
    If you do the math, expect 2 wins; there were 3; but the EPL was outperformed by the Liga, the Bundesliga, and Calcio.

    In contrast, the English representative won 8/37 C1 titles when each competition included at least 32 teams; this means that they won 8 with the mathematical odds being that they win 1 or possibly 2 at most. Do the math, the English representative did far better with the old CUP (elimination) style format.

    My assessment is that the other big leagues have adapted better to the CL format; our problems include bad refs, a crowded schedule, and too many injuries in the EPL. The French also have a problem: talented players leave for other leagues, but they have good refs at least.