A Whole New Ball Game: When The Premier League Kicked Off OTD In 1992

It is 30 years since English football changed forever
06:55, 15 Aug 2022

Global superstars, wall-to-wall TV coverage, and stadia the envy of the world, no wonder the Premier League is now considered one of the most marketable products on the planet. But it’s all a far cry from its humble beginnings back in August 1992.

After being promised a ‘whole new ball game,’ by new broadcasters Sky Sports, who had won exclusive rights to show live Premier League games at a cost of over £300 million, the freshly formed FA Premier League finally got underway on August 15.

Twenty-two teams wearing kits that were considerably more garish, in sparsely populated grounds where fans often still stood on terraces - the culture of the game was a world away from that of today – but the Premier League had arrived and things would never be the same again.


Yet despite the massive sums involved in securing the rights to televise the Premier League, none of the first day’s matches were shown live, with viewers, many of whom had invested heavily in new satellite dishes, having to wait another 24 hours to see Nottingham Forest against Liverpool in Sky’s new 'Super Sunday' offering - complete with cheerleaders and on-pitch pop concerts.

This didn’t stop clubs flexing their financial muscles though, thanks to the new influx of wealth from broadcast deals, and the British transfer record was smashed just before the opening weekend with Alan Shearer moving to newly-promoted Blackburn Rovers from Southampton for a sum of £3.6 million.

Manchester United’s big summer signing was Dion Dublin, who moved from Cambridge United for a fee of £1m, while Mark Robins departed Old Trafford for Norwich City at a cost of £800,000 with other notable newcomers including Dean Saunders to Aston Villa.

Hard to believe now, but in contrast to the multi-national make-up of Premier League sides today, there were just 13 overseas players on the field that opening weekend; perhaps the most notable being Eric Cantona, who started the season at Leeds United, and Peter Schmeichel, the Manchester United goalkeeper who had won the European Championship that summer with Denmark.


Just as astonishing is that all 22 of the original Premier League managers on that opening weekend were British, a far cry from the modern day when home-grown coaches can make up as little as 25% of those in the dugout.

To add to the drama, this would be the first time fans had seen the new back-pass rule implemented – the cause of much confusion among defenders and ‘keepers while providing more than a few calamitous clips on 'Match of the Day' that night, which had returned to our screens after an absence of four seasons.

Reigning champions Leeds began their defence with a home win against Wimbledon in what would be a season to forget for the Elland Road faithful as the club surrendered their crown with a whimper - ultimately finishing in 17th place without an away win to their name.

Meanwhile, much was expected of the team they had pipped to the title the previous season, Manchester United, but their first fixture in the new top-flight didn’t go the way manager Alex Ferguson would have planned.

Against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, the Red Devils were behind after only five minutes, when Brian Deane became the first player to score a Premier League goal, heading past Peter Schmeichel with Fergie’s side eventually going down 2-1.

Perhaps the biggest shock of that opening weekend was Norwich City’s 4-2 win at Highbury over title favourites Arsenal courtesy of two goals from new recruit Robins, while Alan Shearer’s impact at Blackburn was immediately felt, as he netted two second-half goals against Crystal Palace in a 3-3 draw.

Newly-promoted Middlesbrough went down 2-1 at Coventry City, Howard Kendall’s Everton began without a fight against Sheffield Wednesday, Chelsea played out a 1-1 draw with Oldham Athletic in front of just 20,669, while the first goalless game in the new Premier League era came at The Dell, where Southampton held Tottenham Hotspur.

In the months that followed, fans both regular and recent were treated to a season to remember as Manchester United eventually won their first top-flight title for 26 years after a thrilling three-way scrap with Aston Villa and Norwich, while the relegation battle went to the last game with Oldham staying up at the expense of Crystal Palace.

Arguments both for and against the Premier League have raged in the years since its conception, from those who feel it has only served to price out the regular match-going fan and line the pockets of the top clubs, to the ones that believe it provides us with the greatest entertainment anywhere in the world on a weekly basis.

But, for better or worse, football in England has been transformed almost beyond any recognition in the subsequent three decades, and a look back at August 15, 1992 only confirms it.

Premier League Results – August 15,1992

Arsenal 2-4 Norwich City

Chelsea 1-1 Oldham Athletic

Coventry City 2-1 Middlesbrough

Crystal Palace 3-3 Blackburn Rovers

Everton 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday

Ipswich Town 1-1 Aston Villa

Leeds United 2-1 Wimbledon

Sheffield United 2-1 Manchester United

Southampton 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur


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