Major football leagues at Mr Green

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With the highest television audience in sport, football has maintained its position as the world’s favourite pastime. The beautiful game is watched by billions of people and played across various football leagues and competitions. And if you like sports betting you will find all the games here at Mr Green. Here are six of the best football leagues.

Champions League - the biggest football league

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Designed to replace the old European Cup, the UEFA Champions League is Europe’s top annual football tournament for clubs.
As one of the most distinguished sporting competitions in the world its quality is renowned and from its inception in 1992 no club had successfully retained the trophy until Real Madrid in 2017, though the Spanish giants have gone on to win it for a third year running.
The final of this competition is watched by more people than the Olympics or even the World Cup Final and is seen as the pinnacle of the sport.

Champions League history

In years gone by the European Cup was entered only by the winners of all the European leagues and played from the beginning as a knock-out competition.
UEFA decided in the early 90’s however that more quality was needed and as such, since 1992 the bigger leagues may enter two, three or sometimes four teams in what is now known as the Champions League.

There has been a top European club tournament since 1955 when 16 teams were invited to play in the first European Cup with Real Madrid the big dogs even back then, Los Blancos winning five consecutive tournaments from 1956 to 1960.

Since it became the Champions League however the competition has moved the world’s favourite sport up to another level with sponsorship and TV money now in the billions.

Competition format

Qualification

Entry into the Champions League can be rather convoluted with dozens of teams taking part but 28 of the 32 places in the Group Stage already taken up by the top teams in Europe.
Those 28 qualify on the basis of winning, or finishing in the top 2, 3 or 4 of their league based on that league’s UEFA Coefficient, i.e. how high their league ranks. For example four English and four Spanish teams qualify for the Champions League as these are the strongest leagues on the continent.
A Preliminary Round begins in the summer, followed by First, Second and Third Qualifying Rounds which leave six teams. Two teams from strong European leagues enter the Play-Off Round for a total of 8 teams who are drawn against each other in a two-legged knock-out affair, the four victors entering the Group Stage.

Group stage

Our 32 remaining teams are split into eight groups of 4 teams with the very best usually kept apart by seeding. Teams play each other twice, once at home and once away, in a round-robin format collecting as usual 3 points for a win and one for a draw from mid-September to December.
Only the top two teams in each group qualify for the next round, the third place team drops into the Europa League and the bottom side exits all together.

Later stages

From February onwards, the Champions League returns with the Round of 16. Winners of the eight groups play runners-up in a two-legged knock-out. At this stage, no teams from the same group can play each other, nor can teams from the same country.
The Quarter-Final and Semi-Final are once again two-legged affairs with the final a single, 90-minute match (plus extra-time if necessary) in a stadium chosen a number of years in advance by UEFA.

Winners

13 teams have won the Champions League since its inception, here’s the list in full:

Team Year(s) Won
Real Madrid 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2002, 2000, 1998
Barcelona 2015, 2011, 2009, 2006
Bayern Munich 2013, 2001
Chelsea 2012
Inter Milan 2010
Manchester United 2008, 1999
AC Milan 2007, 2003, 1994
Liverpool 2005
Porto 2004
Borussia Dortmund 1997
Juventus 1996
Ajax 1995
Marseille 1993

Premier League

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The Premier League is the world’s most watched domestic football competition. Known to overseas watchers often as the EPL (English Premier League), the competition is broadcast to well over 200 countries every match day reaching an incredible 5 billion people.

Premier League history

Despite England’s long history at the top of world football ageing stadia, along with football hooliganism and awful events such as the Hillsborough Disaster and associated recommendations made by the Taylor Report meant a shake-up was needed.

Replacing the old First Division, the Premier League was founded in the early 90’s to begin in season 1992-1993 with Manchester United the inaugural champions under Sir Alex Ferguson. They remain the most successful club in England since the Premier League era began.

Format

The league features 20 clubs with the season running August to May, all clubs playing each other once at home and once away for a total of 38 games each scoring 3 points for a win and one for a draw, standard now in world football.

The top team wins the Premier League Trophy, the second, third and fourth all qualify for the Champions League along with the winners while the fifth placed team goes into the following season’s Europa League – Europe’s second tier competition.

The bottom three teams each season are relegated and drop to the Championship, England’s second tier, to be replaced by three teams from that division.

Premier League finances

Much to the chagrin of the common football fan in England, the Premier League has become the richest league on the planet with revenues approaching £3 billion per year, mostly from global sponsorship and worldwide television rights.

The league includes some of the richest clubs in the world, seven of the top 20 in fact regularly coming from England.

The riches on offer in England has meant some players earning as much as £500,000 per week with many fans feeling this has contributed to an ever-growing gap between those who pay to watch football and those who play in this division.

Success in Europe

Despite its unofficial title as the “best league in the world”, the Premier League has only provided three Champions League winners; Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United for a total of four wins.

This can, in part at least, be put down to how competitive the league is. Its strength from first to 20th is renowned and means no PL side has an easy season, the result being that preparation for big European games is never ideal although ultimately the league won’t be classed as the very best until one of its sides can dominate in Europe the way Real Madrid has.

Past Premier League winners

Just 6 individual clubs have won the title in England in its current guise, these being:

Team Years(s) Won
Manchester City 2018, 2014, 2012
Chelsea 2017, 2015, 2010, 2006, 2005
Leicester City 2016
Manchester United 2013, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1993
Arsenal 2004, 2002, 1998
Blackburn Rovers 1995

FA Cup

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The Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly known simply as the FA Cup, is England’s main annual knockout cup competition for professional men’s football clubs.

FA Cup history

The laws of the game having only been in existence themselves for eight years, it was proposed to the Football Association committee that there should be a challenge cup for its member clubs with the inaugural tournament introduced in 1871.

Despite the interruption of the First World War the FA Cup grew quickly in prominence with football fans and by 1923 the final was being held in the new Empire Stadium, known subsequently as Wembley Stadium.

Wembley was to close and be rebuilt meaning that between 2001 and 2006 the FA Cup Final was played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales where it was won three times by Arsenal and twice by Liverpool.

The new Wembley Stadium was opened in 2007 with Chelsea the first FA Cup winners at the new venue. The new layout means 90,000 people can be in attendance at the final, hosted in May each year one week after the finish of the Premier League season.

Competition format

Although the final is in May the competition starts as early as August at the beginning of each season with non-league clubs playing in Preliminary Rounds.
The competition proper gets underway in November with the First Round featuring clubs from League One and League Two, as well as the surviving non-league clubs from the preliminary rounds.
80 clubs are reduced to 40 who compete in the Second Round, all fixtures being drawn at random with one team lucky enough to play the tie on their home ground. Should the game be a draw, a replay at the away team’s ground is required, followed by extra time and penalties if necessary.
The Third Round is where Premier League and Championship clubs enter the competition, bringing the total number up to 64 teams.
The Fourth Round, Fifth Round and Sixth Round follow the usual format until there are only four teams left for the Semi-Final, these days played at Wembley Stadium over the third Saturday and Sunday in April. The Final takes place at Wembley in May and, like the semis, can go to extra time and penalties to decide the winner with no replays permitted these days.

Succession

The FA Cup winners qualify for the following season’s Europa League competition, that is unless they have qualified for the Champions League via the Premier League in which case the position will go to the runners-up.

The winner also participates in the following season’s Community Shield, essentially England’s Super Cup where the FA Cup winner plays the Premier League winner. Should they be the same team, the league runners-up play the league champions.

FA Cup Final

The final marks the end of the English football season and is played at Wembley Stadium every May. Traditionally Abide with Me and the national anthem, God Save the Queen are sung on the day and the players are presented to special guests, such as British Royalty.

Records

The FA Cup’s long and illustrious history means there are almost too many records to mention, however here are some of the main ones of interest:
Most wins: Arsenal (13 times between 1930 and 2017).
Most final appearances: Arsenal and Manchester United (20 each).
Most final defeats: Everton and Manchester United (8 each).
Most final appearances without winning: Leicester City (4 – 1949, 1961, 1963, 1969).

European Championships

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We’ve all become familiar with calling this competition the Euros, combining that title with the year i.e. Euro ’96 or Euro ’16, however its official title is the UEFA European Championship and it is the predominant national football competition in Europe, second only in prominence to the FIFA World Cup and in similar fashion hosted every four years.

History of the Euros

Although a proposal existed for a continental tournament in Europe as far back as 1927, the European Championship wasn’t formed until 1958 with the inaugural tournament held in France in 1960. Just 4 teams took part in the tournament with significant absentees being England, Italy and West Germany.

The competition grew in popularity though with more countries entering qualification and by the 1980 tournament the finals were increased to 8 teams, Italy hosting the expanded tournament and West Germany winning it.

By the time we reached ‘Euro ‘96’, the first time an informal title was shortened and including the year, England hosted a further expanded competition with 16 teams now competing in the finals with the tournament lauded as a great success, though ultimately the hosts were beaten by Germany in the semi-finals with their conquerors going on to win the final.
Euro 2000 was the first tournament to be held by two countries, the Netherlands and Belgium in this case, though this has been repeated since in both the Euros and the World Cup.
The last tournament in 2016 was the first to have 24 competing teams at the finals and as of 2020, the competition will no longer be hosted by one bidder but rather across several European cities in various countries.

Competition format

Despite their being room for 24 teams at the finals these days, a congested Europe means qualification is necessary with all UEFA nations being put into groups as far back as almost two years before each finals, just after the preceding World Cup.

Winners and usually runners-up from these groups qualify for the finals beginning in June and from there the 24 teams are once again drawn into 6 groups of four, each playing each other once. The six group winners and best two runners-up then play in the quarter-finals, each game being a 90-minute knockout with extra-time and penalties used if needed.

A similar set-up is used in the two semi-finals until the last two teams are known, the final itself being the last game of the tournament in mid-July crowning the European Champions.

Succession

The winner of the Euros is entitled to play in the subsequent FIFA Confederations Cup, an international tournament held every four years and featuring 8 teams from the various world confederations, though they are not obliged to do so and some nations turn down the offer due to heavy scheduling.

Past winners

11 countries have been crowned European champions over the years, the Soviet Union winning the first and Portugal the last of the tournaments as of 2016:

Country Year(s) won
Portugal 2016
Spain 2012, 2008
Greece 2004
France 2000, 1984
Germany (incl West Germany) 1996, 1980, 1972
Denmark 1992
Netherlands 1988
Czechoslovakia 1976
Italy 1968
Spain 1964
Soviet Union 1960

Europa League

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The UEFA Europa League stands as the second-tier pan-European club competition behind the Champions League. It has taken place every year since 1971 in different guises with qualifying clubs taking part based on their domestic performance in league and cup competitions.

Europa League history

From 1955-1971 Europe’s second tier competition was the Inter City Fairs Cup but a great increase in interest and competition from clubs meant the format was replaced by the UEFA Cup in 1971.

This format continued until 2009 when, after the success of the Champions League from 1992 onwards, UEFA decided that the format of using first a Group round-robin stage and then a knockout was to be used and so the new name of Europa League was introduced.

Competition format

Qualification

UEFA coefficients are used in the Europa League just as they are in the Champions League, i.e. clubs can be ranked based on the success or otherwise of the domestic league in which they play, though typially each country has three places in this competition.
Usually each country sends their runner-up (or highest placed teams NOT qualifying for the Champions League) as well as their domestic cup winner, though in the case of England and France the winners of their secondary domestic cups can also compete.
Based on coefficients, dozens of teams participate first in the Preliminary Round, then the First, Second and Third Qualifying rounds in a knockout format over two legs, home and away. Finally 36 teams will go to the Play-Off Round and will be joined by 6 losers from the Champions League Third Qualifying Round.
The winners of those play-off ties join domestic cup winners from top associations along with runners-up and even as low as fifth placed teams from the very best countries, along with losers from the Champions League Play-Off Round leaving us with 48 teams.

Group stage

The 48 Group Stage qualifiers are now split into 12 groups of 4 teams to play each other home and away between September and December.

As always, 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw are given out and at the end of the Group stage we find out who qualifies for the Knockout Stage.

Later stages

12 Group winners and 12 runners-up move forward and are joined by the 8 third-placed teams from the Champions League Group Phase.

The last 32 are drawn to play each other in 16 games, home and away until we are left with the teams for the Round of 16.

The same thing happens for the Quarter-Final and the Semi-Final until our finalists are known, the Final itself being played over 90 minutes (plus extra-time and penalties if needed) at a stadium pre-decided a couple of years in advance by UEFA.

Winners since 2000

Spain have been particularly successful at this level of European club competition since the turn of the millennium, clubs from La Liga having won 9 versions of this tournament:

Team Year(s) won
Atletico Madrid 2018, 2012, 2010
Manchester United 2017
Sevilla 2016, 2015, 2014, 2007, 2006
Chelsea 2013
Porto 2011, 2003
Shakhtar Donetsk 2009
Zenit St Petersburg 2008
CSKA Moscow 2005
Valencia 2004
Feyenoord 2002
Liverpool 2001
Galatasaray 2000

Bundesliga

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The Bundesliga sits as the peak of German football as the country’s premier football competition. It features the nation’s 18 best teams playing each other from August to May and boasts the highest average attendance in Europe.

Bundesliga history

Although ‘top level’ football was played by clubs in Germany all the way back to the early 1900’s, there were simply too many meaningless games between big clubs and regional clubs and so finally in 1963 the Bundesliga was formed and meant the elite 16 teams could play each other in one division. The first season of the Bundesliga was 1963-64.

The introduction finally of the Bundesliga to German football also created more professionalism with the allowable monthly wage increasing to 1,200 deutschemarks alongside bonuses for players.

A well known publication at the time of the league’s inception described it as having a “finals atmosphere” every match day, something that has stayed to this day (see attendances below).

Format

The number of teams permitted in the Bundesliga has changed a few times over the years, with 16 playing from 1963-1965 increasing to 18 from the 65-66 season until the 90-91 season.
For one year, 91-92, the league increased to 20 teams while the East German sides were merged into the Bundesliga following German unification but since 1992-93 the league has settled at 18 teams and that is still how many compete today.
Those 18 teams play each other once at home and once away for a total of 34 games each with 3 points given for a win and 1 for a draw.
Naturally the team finishing top is crowned the Bundesliga Champion, though they are joined by the second, third and fourth placed teams in being able to qualify for the UEFA Champions League due to the strength of the Bundesliga in the UEFA Coefficient rankings.
The fifth and sixth placed teams may qualify for the UEFA Europa League alongside the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) winners.
Two teams are definitely relegated each year, those occupying 17th and 18th position who are replaced by the top two from the second Bundesliga. The 16th placed side takes part in a two-leg play-off with the third placed team from the second tier to decide the final place in the following season’s Bundesliga championship.

Attendances

A major source of pride for the Bundesliga is its well known huge attendances. On a per-game average, this league is the best attended football league anywhere in the world. One club in particular, Borussia Dortmund, have consistently averaged around 80,000 fans per match for the past decade due in part to a fanatical support, but also some of the lowest ticket prices on the continent.
The high attendances in Germany have meant tremendous atmospheres at the stadia, something which has helped their clubs in European competition against teams from other major nations.

Bundesliga winners since 2000

In recent years Germany’s domestic league championship has been dominated by Bayern Munich with only 4 teams in total having won the league since the turn of the millennium:

Team Year(s) won
Bayern Munich 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2001, 2000
Borussia Dortmund 2012, 2011, 2002
VfL Wolfsburg 2009, 2007
Werder Bremen 2004