Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Club (Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg)

The most popular sports league in the world isn’t the NFL; it’s the Premier League in England. This group of 20 soccer (football to most of the world) clubs is viewed weekly in nearly every corner of the world to large audiences, making large sums of money for its member clubs. Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg’s The Club chronicles the rise of the Premier League over the past quarter of a century.

Prior to the Premier League’s start, English soccer was tied to a four-division setup, with the best teams in each division getting promoted and the worst getting relegated at the end of each season. With 92 different clubs and an array of disparity between historical powers and the local town’s side that wasn’t much more talented than the beer leaguers, English football was losing its competitiveness domestically and globally. The top clubs in England broke away from the others in the early 1990s to form their own league, where they could control TV rights and generate more revenue for themselves. Robinson and Clegg artfully describe the league’s evolution to global force, talking about the international invasion of money and talent that has fueled the league’s rise and also brought about a host of challenges to go with it.

For newly minted fans of soccer who want to learn more about the history of the sport, as well as those who are interested in learning the business side of global soccer, The Club strikes the target effectively. It’s an informative, smart, and witty look at a league that many Americans sort of know about but may not realize just how powerful it truly is in global sport. Just visit a random bar in some far-flung part of the world or a restaurant in the Caribbean on a weekend, and you’ll see just how popular it is. If you can’t do that, read this book and you’ll get that view.