Which Of These 6 Leagues Are Farmer’s Leagues? (Deep Dive)

You may have heard the term ‘farmer’s league’ in several contexts. Nowadays, this term has been around at each and every competition for several reasons. This may leave you wondering about what truly makes a farmers league.

Here is what you need to know about the term: ‘farmers league’:

What is a farmer’s league?

Farmer’s league is a term of mockery used to describe leagues that can be likened to a one-horse race by rival fans or leagues. The term is a dig at the perceived low-quality football in such a league.

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It roughly translates as a league full of farmers instead of actual professional players. 

There are many popular leagues in top football with high-level teams. However, some of these leagues have an imbalance between the very top teams and others. Most leagues which are mocked as ‘farmer’s league’ are dominated by a single team. 

A gulf in quality could be revealed by the poor performance of a locally dominating team in continental competitions in contrast to their regular flattening of league opponents. Once a team which is domestically brilliant struggles to replicate its success on the international stage, the quality of their league comes into question. 

Furthermore, a league can be dubbed as a ‘farmer’s league’ due to its lack of concentration in good players. A league whose teams sell most of their players to leagues of higher quality can be seen as a feeder’s league or farmer’s league. 

Is Ligue 1 a farmer’s league?

Ligue 1 has been a long-standing victim of the ‘farmers league’ mockery. A major factor is because the league has long been dominated by Paris Saint Germain in recent times and several other teams in their history.

Before PSG’s domination, Olympique Lyon had a stranglehold on the league which saw them claim seven titles in a row between the 2001/02 and 2007/08 seasons. Prior to this unprecedented run, only Marseille and Saint-Etienne had won the league for more than 3 times in a row.

Since the 2012/13 season, PSG only missed out on the league title twice by winning 8 titles out of a possible 10. However, PSG’s inconsistent performance in European competitions does not measure up to their Ligue 1 domination. 

Only LOSC Lille’s triumph in 2021 and AS Monaco’s victory in 2017 have denied PSG’s yearly one-horse race.

However, there were six different title winners between the 2007/08 and 2012/13 seasons. These years were an intermittent period between the end of Lyon’s 7-year stranglehold and the beginning of PSG’s current domination. 

Based on winners and runners-up of Ligue 1 since the 2017/18 season, let us examine the trend of dominance in France:

SeasonFirst place (points)Second Place (points)Point difference 
2021/22 Paris Saint Germain (86)Marseille (71)15 points
2020/21 Lille (83)Paris Saint Germain (82)1 point
2019/20 (league suspended
due to COVID-19)
Paris Saint Germain (68)Marseille (56)12 points
2018/19Paris Saint Germain (91)Lille (75)16 points
2017/18Paris Saint Germain (93)Monaco (80)13 points

PSG’s deadlock on the league was only marginally broken by Lille in the 2020/21 season. However, every other Parisian triumph of the past five years has been quite comfortable with a gap of 10 points or more.  

The main gulf between PSG and other teams is the resources at their disposal which guarantees the best possible players in the league. In 2011, the Emir of Qatar purchased the club through his company, Qatar Sport Investments. The purchase instantly transformed PSG into the richest club in France and one of the wealthiest clubs in the world.

According to Forbes, PSG are currently worth a whopping $3.2 billion. This figure dwarfs the next wealthiest French team, Olympique Marseille, worth about $300 million.

Since the Qatari takeover, the club has endlessly pulled necessary resources to procure the world’s best stars. However, other teams in the league lack enough resources to compete with PSG.

After the QSI’s initial season, the club’s 2012 summer transfer window started the galactico era. PSG unveiled many stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Marco Verrati, David Beckahm, and Eziquel Lavezzi. 

The following season, PSG claimed their first league title since 1985 under the stewardship of Carlo Ancelotti. Even today, the club boasts of top superstars like Kylian Mbappe, Neymar Jr, and Lionel Messi on its roster.

Kylian Mbappe became the world’s highest paid player after signing a new contract worth over a total of $400M in May 2022. 

On the other hand, the next biggest teams in the league like Lyon, Monaco and Marseille do not have nearly the resources that PSG has accrued over the years. Instead, these teams sell their best players to make profit and sometimes to the league’s biggest dominator, PSG.

For example, most of AS Monaco’s team that reached the 2016/17 UCL semifinals and won the league in the same season were sold the following season. Some of the transfers that occurred include:

  • Kylian Mbappe to PSG
  • Jao Moutinho to Wolves 
  • Fabinho to Liverpool
  • Benjamin Mendy to Manchester City
  • Tiemoune Bakayoko to Chelsea
  • Thomas Lemar to Atletico Madrid
  • Bernardo Silva to Manchester City

These situations have compounded Ligue 1’s Farmer’s league reputation as a Feeder league. In fact, Ligue 1’s “League of Talents” tagline showcases the amount of exports from the league in recent years. 

Although PSG’s domination is a big factor, another major indicator is Ligue 1’s relatively poor performance in European competitions. In the past decade, French teams have only been in the Champions League semifinal four times. 

Furthermore, Olympique Marseille remains the only French team to win the UEFA Champions League in the 1993 season. Besides Marseille, six French clubs have reached the Champions League final but none have won. This is the 7th best record in the competition even behind Eredivisie and Liga Nos, which are not top 5 leagues.

The only other European triumph for a Ligue 1 club is Paris Saint Germain’s UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1996. However, the competition has been abolished since 1999. 

Is the Bundesliga a farmer’s league?

The Bundesliga has also been capitalised by the ‘Farmer’s league’ slur. Like Ligue 1, the competition has been dominated by a single club. Since the league’s inception in 1963, Bayern Munich has won a whopping 31 out of 59 possible titles. 

Borussia Dortmund and Borrusia Monchengladbach hold the next best record of 5 titles. 

Furthermore, the Bavarians have claimed 10 consecutive league titles since the 2012/13 season. Unlike PSG, Bayern Munich operates on a fan-based model where majority (75%) of the club and assets is owned by its members and the minority (25%) belongs to three major German corporations: Adidas, Audi & Allianz

Overall, Bayern Munich is a competently managed club which has reported a profit for 27 consecutive years by doing smart business. The club is worth about €4.1 billion and generates over €750.4 million in revenue. 

Bayern’s nearest competitor, Borussia Dortmund, is worth about €1.8 billion and generates about €400 million in profit.

As the national pride of Germany and one of football’s greatest teams, they easily attract top players, especially from other German teams. Sometimes, these transfer moves weaken other German teams in favor of Bayern Munich. There are several transfers that have occurred in this manner, including:

The club has also attracted Germany’s top managers over the years. 

Unlike the other top five leagues, the Bundesliga has only 18 teams, which gives each team an optimal schedule to compete at the highest level. Thus, the best players have adequate rest instead of fixture congestion. 

Based on winners and runners-up of Bundesliga since the 2017/18 season, let us examine the trend of dominance in Germany:

SeasonFirst place (points)Second Place (points)Point difference 
2021/22 Bayern Munich (77)Dortmund (69)8 points
2020/21 Bayern Munich (78)RB Leipzig (65)13 point
2019/20Bayern Munich (82)Dortmund (69)13 points
2018/19Bayern Munich (78)Dortmund (76)2 points
2017/18Bayern Munich (84)Schalke (63)21 points

However, Bundesliga teams have performed well in European competitions. Bayern Munich (6) and Borussia Dortmund (1) have a combined 7 UCL triumphs. There have also been 7 Europa League triumphs from several Bundesliga clubs, including:

  • Schalke 04
  • Bayern Munich
  • Bayer Leverkusen
  • Borussia Monchengladbach
  • Eintracht Frankfurt  

Is Premier League a farmer’s league?

English teams have been at the forefront of football for a very long time. In fact, the Premier League currently sits atop the UEFA coefficient rankings. It has also maintained its standing as the world’s most popular league which plays host to some of football’s finest stars.

The Premier League’s ‘Big 6’ teams are considered the cream of the crop in football.

However, teams like Manchester City and Liverpool have continuously dominated the league. In particular, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team has been head and shoulders above every premier league club in recent times. 

Based on the top 4 Premier League teams since the 2017/18 season, let us examine the trend of dominance in England:

SeasonFirst SecondThird Fourth
2021/22 Manchester CityLiverpoolChelseaTottenham
2020/21 Manchester CityManchester UnitedLiverpoolChelsea
2019/20 LiverpoolManchester CityManchester UnitedTottenham 
2018/19Manchester CityLiverpoolChelseaTottenham
2017/18Manchester CityManchester UnitedTottenhamLiverpool

In the past five years, Manchester City has only lost the league title to Liverpool, who remain their closest rivals in the league. The Blues of Manchester’s continued reign may make the Premier League crown a one-horse race, but the other top 4 spots are competitive.

Like PSG, Manchester City’s investors have relentlessly procured the best players in the game. They made a record-breaking acquisition of Jack Grealish last summer and also secured the signing of top striker, Erling Halaand this season. 

English teams have continuously performed well in European competitions. In the past five years, English teams have featured in 4 of the last 5 champions league finals with 3 victories. Furthermore, Premier League teams have contested three same-country European finals within the past five years, including:

Is Serie A a farmer’s league?

The Serie A has been long branched under the ‘farmer’s league’ brand. For most of the past decade, Serie A was dominated by Juventus. The Old Lady reigned supreme in Italy for 9 consecutive years. 

Juventus’ chokehold began in the 2011/12 season when the league title returned to Turin for the first time since 2003 and the Calciopoli’s aftermath. Subsequently, other Italian giants like AC Miland and Inter Milan were in the slump which allowed Juventus to take a soft cushion throne for the decade. 

However, the recent emergence of the Milan giants has ironically coincided with Juventus’ decline.

This recent development has made Serie A more competitive again. Since Juventus’ last triumph in 2020, the Scuddetto trophy has switched between the Blue and Red sides of Milan.  

Based on winners and runners-up of Serie A since the 2017/18 season, let’s examine the trend of dominance in Italy:

SeasonFirst place (points)Second Place (points)Point difference 
2021/22 AC Milan (86)Inter Milan (84)2 points
2020/21 Inter Milan (91)AC Milan (79)12 points
2019/20Juventus (83)Inter Milan (82)1 point
2018/19Juventus (90)Napoli (79)11 points
2017/18Juventus (95)Napoli (91)4 points

Since their last win in 2020, Juventus has slumped out of the top two and the Milan teams have become a mainstay. The Serie A has certainly heated up in recent years, there are some exciting years ahead.

Although the league is gradually regaining its competitive edge, Italian teams have an underwhelming record in European competitions. No Italian team has progressed past the Champions League Round of 16 since Atalanta reached the quarterfinals in the 2019/20 campaign. 

In fact, Inter Milan’s 2009/10 treble was Italy’s last European triumph. Since then, Juventus has been Champions League runners-up on two occasions which means they have lost four consecutive finals. 

Is La Liga a farmer’s league?

La Liga has been long regarded as one of the world’s best leagues in football history. Spanish teams have established a great reputation internationally which makes the league one of the best in Europe. 

La Liga’s biggest feature is the historic arch-rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona. 

Throughout La Liga history, both teams have dominated the competition to a certain measure. Real Madrid has the record for most league wins (35) and Barcelona holds the second-most wins (26). 

Between the 2008/09 and 2018/19 seasons, Barcelona won 8 titles out of 10. Since the Catalan club fell on hard times which has loosened their grip on Spain. The league title has changed hands thrice within the past five years with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid claiming titles of theirs.  

Based on winners and runners-up of La Liga since the 2017/18 season, let us examine the trend of dominance in Spain:

SeasonFirst place (points)Second Place (points)Point difference 
2021/22 Real Madrid (86)Barcelona (73)13 points
2020/21 Atletico Madrid (86)Real Madrid (84)2 points
2019/20Real Madrid (87)Barcelona (82)5 points
2018/19Barcelona (87)Atletico Madrid (76)11 points
2017/18Barcelona (93)Atletico Madrid (79)14 points

The league top 2 has constantly shuffled between Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. In fact, the last time a team outside the infamous trio clinched a top three spot was Valencia’s 3rd place finish in the 2011/12 season. 

Nonetheless, Spanish teams have an impressive record in European competitions. During the past decade, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and  Atletico Madrid have all competed in the Champions League final. Furthermore, La Liga teams have contested three same-country European finals within the past decade:


Madrid is the only city to have two clubs compete in the Champions League Final. The first Madrid Derby final saw Real Madrid clinch the fabled La Decima

In fact, 7 out of the last 10 titles have been claimed by Spanish teams. Within this period, Real Madrid won 6 titles and Barcelona claimed the European crown once. 


Los Blancos are the current reigning champions of the UCL. The Whites claimed their first UCL triumph since they sealed three consecutive wins in 2018. 

The Europa League has also been a triumph ground for Spanish teams. Within the past decade, Sevilla (4), Atletico Madrid (2), and Villareal (1) have all won the competition a combined 7 times. Spain has recorded the most Europa League wins in history (13).


In 2016, Sevilla achieved an unprecedented three consecutive Europa League titles in a row. Rojiblancos won another Europa League title in 2020.  

Is the SPFL a farmer’s league?

The SPFL Premiership is the major league competition of Scotland. Compared to other leagues, only 12 teams participate in this competition. However, its unique triple round-robin format has a different edge unlike any other competition.

Scottish Football history is notable for the utter dominance of two clubs. The Old Firm clubs, Celtic and Rangers, have cemented a chokehold on the league since time immemorial. In fact, both teams have a combined win of over 100 league titles

Rangers holds the record of 55 titles and Celtic is close second with 52 titles. Aberdeen holds the third best title record of 4. The Old Firm hegemony is even more astonishing considering that it has stretched over two centuries for 37 years. 

Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1985 Aberdeen remains the last non-Old Firm team to win the league.  

Moreover, the past decade has seen a one-horse race as Celtic clinched 9 titles out of a possible 10. Only Rangers managed to interrupt Celtic’s 10-year run. However, other Scottish teams have simply not measured up to the Old Firm. 

The most apparent factor for Scotland’s farmers league status is the league’s poor record in European competitions. Celtic remains the only Scottish team to play a Champions League final since their triumph in 1967. No Scottish team has progressed past the Round of 16 in the past 30 years!  


In Scotland, top teams like Celtic and Rangers dominate the league but have been piss-poor in the Champions League. This is the exact definition of a farmer’s league.

Although Scottish teams have featured in four Europa League finals, they have won none. However, Rangers and Aberdeen have both claimed an European honor by winning the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1972 and 1983 respectively. 

Rangers lost the 2022 Europa League Final to Eintracht Frankfurt after a penalty shootout.


The farmers league has been used as a casual slur to mock the low quality of football in several leagues. However, the term can become quite ambiguous in a way that applies to every league. 

Leagues that feature a one-horse race become branded as a farmers league. Meanwhile, competitive leagues with underwhelming international performances are also put under the same umbrella. Several leagues fit the description based on these criteria.  

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