In the series of events that propelled England’s top-flight soccer league to separate, business-wise, from the country’s other three divisions, O.J. Simpson played a pivotal role.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins and a horrific tragedy would also factor into the Premiership conquering the world, but the infamous Las Vegas resident served as a key conduit in 1983.
Tottenham owner Irving Scholar had ventured to New York City to glean information about the NFL when he befriended a tuxedo-clad Simpson and fur-coated girlfriend Nicole Brown at a VIP party.
The next day, Simpson introduced Scholar to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle at the league’s Park Avenue headquarters. Scholar returned to London with immense appreciation for the NFL’s operations and how they might translate across the pond.
“In terms of the commercial attraction, it was amazing. You could see the future,” Scholar says in “The Club,” the insightful 2018 book about the Premier League’s inception, growth and domination, penned by Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg.
With the Community Shield, the annual ceremonial start to the new season, taking place Saturday at Wembley, it’s timely to review how the Premiership became such a force.
Six matches officially kickoff the 29th Premier League on Saturday, Sept. 12. So this is our reboot too, with lessons learned from a 2019-20 campaign that hopefully prove beneficial for 2020-21. Selection odds, culled from various sources, are subject to change.
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) August 25, 2020
In 1964, each of the Football League’s 92 clubs received about 50 pounds each from a BBC TV deal that, calculating exchange rates and inflation, amounts to about $1,200 today.
Tottenham owner Scholar, Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards and Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein would create a juggernaut that last month distributed the equivalent of $3.43 billion to its 20 members.
“The Club” notes that the Premier League airs in 185 of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations, “to a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion people every weekend … (it) isn’t merely the most-watched sports league in the world, it’s No. 1 and nothing else comes remotely close.”
Dein viewed the future in 1972, when he and his bride Barbara honeymooned in Miami, taking in a Dolphins game. He marveled at the pageantry, marketing and wide Orange Bowl concourses.
In 1983, Scholar eked inside the NFL’s inner sanctum via Simpson, which would lead it to staging meaningful games in England and Premiership teams taking junkets to the States. Scholar and Edwards took their teams to Swaziland in ’83 to further tap new revenue streams.
The Hillsborough Stadium disaster, in which 96 fans were killed and 700 injured in an overcrowding stampede in Sheffield on April 15, 1989, demanded governmental changes that included the eradication of the rowdy stand-alone terraces, with a mandate for all-seat venues by the 1994-95 season.
New palaces, attracting even more investment from Russian oligarchs and Middle Eastern oil concerns, would sprout all over England.
In the fall of 1991, Scholar, Edwards and Dein, with Everton chairman Philip Carter and Liverpool chairman Noel White, all dined in a SoHo restaurant to consummate the formation of the new league, under the Football Association umbrella.
And on Saturday, Aug. 15, 1992, the new Premier League debuted with nine matches. Two days later, Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers participated in its first Monday night extravaganza, with cheerleaders.
NBC would secure U.S. rights, smartly allowing the games to be called by all-British crews, with a nearly all-native studio cast helmed by the witty Rebecca Lowe. Its current six-year, $1-billion pact runs through 2022.
“(NBC) realized early on that its new audience wouldn’t tolerate an inauthentic product,” wrote the authors. “The game moved from a doomed socialist model to a nakedly capitalistic one. [Premiership brass] only wanted to imitate America. They had no idea that … their breakaway league would become America’s hottest import.”
Dijon at Lyon, Total 2.5 Over -120: This series has been entertaining, with 26 total goals in five of their previous six meetings. OVER
Pachuca at Guadalajara, Total 2.5 Under -130: In January, these two played to a nil-nil draw. In their 11 combined matches this season, only 17 goals have been tallied—1.55 per match. UNDER
Liverpool vs. Arsenal, Total 3 Under -120: Many believe the Community Shield to be a friendly, a mere fitness test. Four of the past five have had two goals or fewer, the other three. Arsenal’s Bernd Leno and Liverpool’s Alisson are two of the Premiership’s finest ‘keepers. UNDER
Last week: 1-2
Final 2019-20 Season: 13-14-2