The Best League In The World?

It’s an oft-touted expression, that the Premier League is the best league in the world. Sky use it in their adverts, BT Sport make shows all about it, but is there any truth to the statement?

The simple answer is, of course, that it depends on what you consider to be an important factor in the make-up of the “world’s best” league. Is it attendance numbers? Is it atmosphere? Or is it the competitive nature of the league itself?

Which Leagues Are In The Running?

The reality of the football world is that certain leagues can be ruled out of the running before it even begins. Steven Gerrard might be moving to LA Galaxy, but Major League Soccer is not likely to challenge the Premier League for supremacy any time soon.

Equally, fans of clubs in the Brasileirao and Argentinian leagues might have a grand old time when they head to the match, but how many people outside of their respective countries have the slightest idea what happens in those games?

Looking At Spain

By Trademarked by BBVA/Registrado por BBVA. Dibujado por Spider pig (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Trademarked by BBVA/Registrado por BBVA. Dibujado por Spider pig (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Although Barcelona and Real Madrid are, without question, two of the true powerhouses in world football – with Real being the richest club in the world and Barca coming in fourth – the Spanish league lacks true competitiveness. In the 11 seasons since the 2003-2004 season, La Liga has been won only twice by teams other than Barcelona or Real Madrid. The 2004 Champions were Valencia, and the winners in 2014 were Atlético Madrid.

During the same period of time the runners-up spot was occupied by either Real Madrid or Barcelona every year apart from in 2008, when Villarreal managed to sneak into second. That means that in 11 seasons Barcelona have won the league six times, with Real Madrid taking home the trophy on three occasions. Competitive at the top? Hardly.

What About Germany?

Spain isn’t the only European league that lacks true competition when it comes to the top spots. In Germany the Championship is similarly dominated by two teams who love to keep on winning. In the thirteen seasons since 2000-2001 the Bundesliga has been won by Borussia Dortmund 3 times and Bayern Munich 7 times. Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen and VfB Stuttgart are the only teams to have broken the dominance of the German league.

Is Italy Any Better?

Meanwhile, in Italy, the title is passed between three teams over the past thirteen seasons. Juventus have won the league five times since 2001, as have Internazionale, and Milan have won it twice.

Then It Must Be The Premier League… 

Despite Manchester United’s dominance of the Premier League since its inception in 1992, the Premier League is the most competitive in comparison to the other European leagues. Since 2001 Manchester United have won the league seven times, Chelsea three times (and soon to be four), with Manchester City and Arsenal winning it twice.

Average Points Differential Between Top And Bottom Place

The average points differential between first place and last also sees the Premier League come out on top. In both La Liga and Serie A the difference in 39 points, whilst in the Bundesliga it’s 33. For the Premier League the difference between top and bottom is 31 points. Granted that’s not a vast difference, but it’s enough to mean that the notion of the Premier League as more competitive than the other European leagues seems to stand up.

League Points Differential
La Liga 39 points
Serie A 39 points
Bundesliga 33 points
Premier League 31 points

But is a league being “competitive” the thing that makes it the best? Probably not if you’re a fan. If you support Chelsea or Manchester United you’d rather the league wasn’t very competitive and that you won it every year. But atmosphere and pricing might be something you’re very interested in.

Average Ticket Prices

The average price of tickets to attend Bundesliga games in the 2012-13 season was €26.69 (£22.34), with fans also allowed to drink on the terraces whilst watching the game. In La Liga match tickets are also decidedly low, with most clubs offering prices in the region of €20 (£16.70) a game. In Serie A the lowest ticket price is €14.15 (£10.42).

Meanwhile in the Premier League the cheapest ticket is £15 at Newcastle (€20.36) and the most expensive is Arsenal’s £97 (€131.68). The pricing of tickets undoubtedly means that younger fans struggle to attend the game, with older, more affluent people dominating the support base of most clubs in the UK. This seems to have led to quieter atmospheres in the majority of games, and more armchair fans venting their feelings out on Twitter rather than in stadiums throughout the country.

League Average Ticket Price
La Liga €20 (£16.70)
Serie A €14.15 (£10.42)
Bundesliga €26.69 (£22.34)
Premier League £15 (€20.36) cheapest, £97 (€131.68) most expensive

The Premier League hasn’t supplied as many Champion’s League winners as its foreign rivals in recent years, with Spain topping the list with four winners over the last ten seasons. This seems to suggest that the best of the rest might well be better than what the Premier League has to offer, even if it is the most competitive league within its own ranks.

So Who Wins?

The truth is, of course, that this is an argument that could rage for all of time. Supporters of every league will feel that theirs is the best, and facts and figures can be twisted and turned to support most theories.

But the Premier League remains the most watched in the world, broadcast as it is to over 200 territories by 80 different broadcasters. It seems that, given the choice between watching Liverpool versus Stoke or Barcelona versus Deportivo, the world knows which one it thinks is best.