League: a group of sports teams who all play each other to earn points and find which team is best. major league baseball. United were league champions last season. If we look at the league table we can see Bolton are bottom with 21 points.

The above paragraph is Oxford Dictionary's definition for league. The first part in bold doesn't make sense to me. It is not clear whether it says champions were united last season? Or that United club was (why were is used if so?) champion of the league last season.
Also, why is Bolton written with are rather than is?

  • 2
    "United" is the team and it's not uncommon to use the plural when you're talking about a team because it is a group of people.... same thing for the plural "are" after Bolton... which is another team. – Catija Mar 22 '15 at 20:47
  • @Catija, is it why champion is also plural? – codezombie Mar 22 '15 at 20:48
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    To agree with "were"... if it said "United was league" it would continue "champion"... It might help to imagine that the sentence actually says "The players on the Manchester United team were league champions last season. – Catija Mar 22 '15 at 20:50
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    I wonder which United they were. I know quite a few teams with United in their names: Manchester United, West Ham United, Newcastle United, and Leeds United. :-) – Damkerng T. Mar 22 '15 at 21:03
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    But please note that this use of "are" with a team is much more common in British English than American English. In the daily sports pages of a US newspaper, no American reporter is going to use "are" to refer to a single team. – user6951 Mar 23 '15 at 10:31

Not so acquainted with sports played in the western world, but I can make you understand taking cricket as an example.

In cricket, we often see the comparison of two teams after certain overs

The information goes this way:

After 23 overs:

India were 100/3
Australia are 98/2

The single digit number talks about wickets. '

As rightly said in comments, when we consider 'team', we consider players actually. And, that's the reason, we see team name (in Cricket, even nation's name) is described as plural proper nouns.

I cannot get you the screenshots because it happens on the TV, live!

However, I found such entry in Hindustan Times, a reputed daily here.

India were bowled out for 158 in 37.5 overs. Kapil top scored with 40 off 27 balls. Ken MacLeay (6/39) wrecked India’s chase.

On the same page...

Australia were dismissed for 129 in 38.2 overs. The medium pace of Roger Binny (4/29 in 8 overs) and Madan Lal (4/20 in 8.2 overs) proved too hot to handle.

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