Soccer, or football as it is known in England, is the country's national winter sport. Football gained popularity at the time of the Industrial Revolution, when people who had lived in the countryside congregated in cities for factory work opportunities, and were deprived of the usual rural, outdoor activities they had previously enjoyed. This form of recreation grew quickly, and soon spread across the world as British traders, sailors and workers took the game with them to the colonies.
With increased television coverage in the 1960s, the game became more popular than ever, particularly, when commercial flights became commonplace and international matches were much easier to facilitate. The 1960s were, arguably, the heyday of the game for England, when in 1966 they reached the pinnacle of success by winning the World Cup, played every four years.
In England, football is governed by the Football Association, founded in 1863. There are basically 17 points upon which soccer rules are based. These include the number of players, size of the field of play, the size of the ball, the duration of the match and technical details, such as types of kick and penalties.
When England's top, professional clubs wanted to better control and increase revenues, they broke away from the Football League and formed the Premier League in 1992. Consisting of 20 clubs, they play each season for the Football Association Cup. Links with The Football League are still maintained and, each season, the bottom three clubs are moved from the Premier League and replaced by three from the League Championship. Top clubs, such as world-renowned Manchester United, can expect an average attendance of 75,000 spectators at their games.
In 1992, there were just 11 non-British or Irish footballers in the Premier League, but that number increased to more than 250 foreign players during the 2009-10 season. Better able to attract world-class players with lucrative contracts of many millions of dollars each season, players such as Eric Cantona, Ruud Gullitt and Arsene Wenger were lured to play in England. The most famous English export is David Beckham, whose skill on the field and celebrity status off the field have made him popular the world over.
Youth talent development will be key to the future of the game in England, and the Football Association is keen on promoting the game with young people. All 20 Premier League clubs have an elite talent program, and the Premier League Academy is the highest-ranking development program, which attracts both male and female players with serious potential.