Sky’s transformation of the English game has polarised fans for 30 years. It was the most significant transition ever in the domestic English game. Rupert Murdoch’s global media colossus had rightly identified the sport’s popularity in England and assigned a considerable chunk of time, money, and resources to bring the game’s broadcasting across England to a new level. Although there’s no disputing that football is now far more accessible and easier to watch, the arrival of money has also raised many questions, and Chelsea fans arguably know more than anybody when it comes to the highs and lows that can come with the mega riches of Premier League owners.
Sky’s Vision for the English Premier League
The transformation from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s was volatile and sharp. Several traditional big clubs in English football were left behind during this seemingly hostile takeover of the beautiful game via the world’s most influential media figure. Still, ultimately, Murdoch’s goal was to provide more entertainment on a global scale, and few would argue that this hasn’t been achieved.
The Premier League is one of the few genuine, global, and notable entertainment exports to have emerged from England. Going from a popular, domestic working-class game to a multi-billion dollar global empire watched by billions of people worldwide every season, with millions seeking out Premier League info on the upcoming games, table standings, goal scorers, and injury news every week.
Chelsea in the Early 1990s
Chelsea’s start to the Premier League couldn’t have been more of a disaster. As the game was finding its feet, and more games were broadcast live throughout the weekend, Chelsea was in danger of falling out of the new top-tier league in its opening year. With no win in their first eight games, Chelsea took a chance and brought in ex-England star and future England manager Glenn Hoddle to steer them clear of the relegation zone.
Many attach the image of Chelsea to Roman Abramovich’s successful ownership and the immense success that came after the appointment of Jose Mourinho in the mid-2000s. However, Chelsea in the early 1990s was a club in total disarray. From financial issues to a half-filled, semi-complete stadium, they were a far cry from the multi-Champions League winning team that has emerged over the last decade and a half.
Chelsea fans have fond memories of Hoddle, lifting them from the root of the table; his impact was immediate, taking the Blues to a modest 11th-place finish and leading them to an FA Cup Final as player-manager just two years later. While this might sound like a failure for Chelsea now, it highlights just how much the team has improved since those dark days.
Gianluca Vialli and the Chelsea Renaissance
Gianluca Vialli is a name that rings out at Stamford Bridge. He is a legend of the club, and his sad passing showed just how loved he was by the adoring Chelsea faithful. It was his leadership that galvanised the Blues in the late 1990s, leading to a multitude of domestic and European honours. Many believe that it was this period that put the club in the shop window and made it such an attractive proposition for Roman Abramovich to come in and to the next level, spearheading the most successful period in the club’s history.
The Special One
A decade after a half-empty, relegation-threatened Chelsea squad struggled to stay relevant, they’d attracted the most revered and highly-rated young manager in Europe. The now infamous unveiling of Mourinho, where he proclaimed to be the Special One, soon rang true, landing Chelsea their first title in over 50 years and leading them to the latter stages of the Champions League on multiple occasions.
Despite Mourinho returning to Chelsea with limited success and slowly sliding down the ranks as one of the top managers in Europe, it was a special time to be a Chelsea fan. The club was dominant domestically and smashed through the monopoly that existed between Manchester United and Arsenal, and this is something Blues fans will be forever grateful for.
The speed of the turnaround at Chelsea can act as inspiration for so many other clubs in the English game. It shows how just one or two fantastic players or managers can change the long-term optimism felt by the fans, and how a team can change their fortune in little over a decade.
Although the current landscape sees Chelsea a long way off the chasing pack, again, this is something that can change quickly, and given they won the Champions League back in 2021, many will believe that the team has the management and players to steer the ship in the right direction throughout the course of this season.