Well at least it’s given us David Ginola’s hair

New Statesman

It is 20 years ago this week that the Premier League was born. On 20 February 1992, the 22 clubs in the old First Division announced
a break away from the Football League - the first split in 104 years. Thus was created the situation where the very simple game of football was run by three separate bodies - the FA, founded 1863, the Football League, founded 1888 and now the Premier League. Daft or what?

Why did they do it ? Money, of course. They wanted to carve up the increasingly lucrative TV and sponsorship rights among themselves and bugger the rest of our professional league clubs. Let them eat dripping. The Prem is a symbol of unfairness and inequity which perfectly reflects today's society. The rich get richer, plus a giant bonus and weaselly tax arrangements, while everyone else grows poorer. During that first season, the total turnover of the Prem clubs was £46m. Last season it was £1.2bn. Just under 10 million turned up to watch in 1992-3 - now it's 13.4 million.

If you are a Prem player or his Wag or his agent, his manager, accountant, lawyer, personal security guard, chauffeur, nanny, odd-job man, champagne supplier, Baby Bentley dealer, mum, dad, cousins on the dole, a three-minute one night stand kiss-and-tell babe, then you are absolutely laughing.

Fan the flames

You can't say fans don't like it, otherwise why do we turn up in such numbers and pay small fortunes? But let's not think about the money, too sad. What are we getting from the Prem, the "Best League in the World", so Sky has been shouting at us for most of these 20 years?

That boast is now bollocks. Our two top teams, Man Utd and Man City, got kicked out of the Euro Champions league early doors, and one of our two remaining clubs, Arsenal, got stuffed 4-0 and look set to be eliminated. And if by best you mean biggest crowds, then the German Bundesliga now beats the Prem.

I have to admit, however, that Sky's TV coverage of football is brilliant. No really. We see things we never saw before, get replays from angles we never imagined, understand decisions that once totally confounded us. Improvements in TV technology would have happened, but because Sky found football was a tool they could use to dig for gold, they have thrown billions at it.

All these foreign players , financed through Sky's millions, have greatly improved the standard of play - of skills and techniques, fitness and diet.

We have had the pick of the world's players for most of these past 20 years, but there is a worrying sign that we have peaked. We lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, world number two, unlikely ever to return, while we have no chance of attracting Lionel Messi from Barcelona, world number one. Spain has the world's best two clubs. Italy and Germany also have world-class players who are now unlikely to come to England - not even for the money.

Bore for Britain

Top scorer during the life of the Prem is still Alan Shearer with 269 goals. Boring, boring - and even more jaw-achingly boring now in his new life. Second top is Andy Cole with 187 goals. Another dreary, functional performer, always moaning. Neither made the heart leap, not for a neutral supporter wanting to see skill and excitement.

Third is Thierry Henry with 176 - now he did excite. Flicking back through my mind's eye, I do see so many foreign players, their images lingering on.

Cantona was a pain in many ways, with his collar pulled up in that affected way, but you could not take your eyes off him. Ginola made me smile, especially when he stood around doing nothing, blaming everyone else, pushing his hair back.

Jürgen Klinsmann was the one I enjoyed best. He was accused of being a diver when he first arrived, but mocked himself by doing pretend dives. I liked the way he drove a beat-up car, lived quietly and sensibly.

One other thing I do feel grateful for - the pitches. It is one of the side effects of all this money and the need to keep to the Sky fixture list. Back in the 1980s, at this time of the year, even the best grounds were quagmires. You couldn't see a bleeding thing in the goal mouths for mud. Games were called off all the time. So thanks Prem. You did some good.