Iranian football league system

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The Iranian football league system is a series of interconnected leagues for football clubs in Iran.

Structure[edit]

The current structure has been in place since 2001. The Iran Premier League (IPL) is the highest level of club football in Iran. It is also called the Persian Gulf Cup. Below it is the Azadegan League, also known as the 1st division, which consists of two twelve-team groups. One level further down from that is the 2nd division which is made up of 28 teams evenly distributed into two groups. One step down, and the final nation-wide league, is the 3rd division. This level has eight groups and 45 teams. Each groups contains teams that are located in the same area of the nation. The final level of the football system consists of 28 provincial leagues. Local teams from each province participate in these leagues, and some of the leagues are divided into further divisions.

The system works with a promotion-relegation system, meaning that a team from the lowest level of the system can make it to the top level after a number of years. The number of teams in each league often changes from season to season, due to the lack of any professional management in the lower levels of the system. Currently the IPL is the only league that is considered professional, despite many of its rules about club facilities and management being broken. It is not uncommon for teams in the lower levels of the system to change team names because of sponsorship issues or for teams to completely withdraw from a competition.

The top four levels of the system are managed by the Iranian football federation, while the bottom level leagues are managed by their respective provincial football committee.

History[edit]

Local League
Season Winner
1970–71 Taj
1971–72 Persepolis

Pre-1970s[edit]

Before the early 1970s Iran did not have an official national league. Most teams would participate in city championships. Taj1 and Persepolis2 had become the two most popular teams in the mid 60s and continue to be in the present. Pas Tehran, Shahin, Taj, Daraei F.C., all won championships in the Tehran local league, during this period.


Takht Jamshid Cup champions
Season Winner
1973–74 Persepolis
1974–75 Taj
1975–76 Persepolis
1976–77 Pas Tehran
1977–78 Pas Tehran

Takht Jamshid Cup[edit]

Main article: Takht Jamshid Cup

In 1972, the Takht Jamshid Cup was created. It was designed to include teams from all over the country, but as usual teams from Tehran dominated, mostly Pas Tehran And Persepolis F.C. winning the final two. The league was in place until the Iranian Revolution took place, and the 1978 season was left uncompleted.

1980s[edit]

Qods League
Season Winner
1989–90 Esteghlal

Due to the revolution and the Iran–Iraq War, football was no longer a priority. Clubs had very little money and due to political reasons team names, management and resources were changed. There was no major league competition during the 1980-89 period, only a few cup competitions and some local city league championships such as the 17th of Shahrivar league and the Qods Cup.In 1985, the Qods League was created which was played among province teams (e.g. Tehran, Esfehan, Azarbaijan Sharghi, etc.). Tehran had two teams (Tehran A and Tehran B). Tehran A won Qods league in 1985 and 1988, whereas Esfahan won it in 1986 and 1987. The most important competition in 80's is Tehran Clubs Cup (league).Persepolis F.C. has most championships in that cup.

Azadegan League champions
Season Winner
1991–92 Pas Tehran
1992–93 Pas Tehran
1993–94 Saipa
1994–95 Saipa
1995–96 Persepolis
1996–97 Persepolis
1997–98 Esteghlal
1998–99 Persepolis
1999-2000 Persepolis
2000–01 Esteghlal

In 1989 and after the end of war, it was decided to change Qods league format so that it was played among clubs rather than provinces. Thus the fifth Qods league, which was the last one, was played among 22 teams, in two groups of 11. This was the first National league after revolution. Esteghlal won this league (89-90) by beating Perspolis 2-1 in the final match. Esteghlal also won the last Tehran league in which Perspolis and Esteghlal played in 91-92 season. Since then, Esteghlal and Perspolis have only played in the national league, and not in the Tehran league.

Azadegan League[edit]

In 1991 the Qods league was renamed the Azadegan League. Named the Azadegan League in honor of Iranian prisoners of war who were released, it began operations in the 1991-92 season. Pas Tehran was its first champion. For the first time in more than ten years Iran finally had a national league again. The number of teams playing in the league varied from year to year. Pas Tehran and Saipa dominated the league in the first four years. Pas Tehran and Esteghlal both were able to capture Asian Club Championships in the early 1990s And Persepolis F.C. celebrates his championship in Asian Cup Winners Cup. By the mid-90s Persepolis and Esteghlal regained their dominant form. The league championship every year between 1995-2001 was either Esteghlal or Persepolis. The two clubs always had the most talented players in Iran, the national team consisted mainly of Persepolis and Esteghlal players, and some of the greatest talents Iranian football has seen were discovered during this period. In those years Persepolis captured 4 championships and esteghlal could only capture two.

Iran Pro League[edit]

Main article: Iran Pro League
Pro League champions
Season Winner
2001–02 Persepolis
2002–03 Sepahan
2003–04 Pas Tehran
2004–05 Foolad
2005–06 Esteghlal
2006–07 Saipa
2007–08 Persepolis
2008–09 Esteghlal
2009–10 Sepahan
2010–11 Sepahan
2011–12 Sepahan
2012–13 Esteghlal
2013–14 Foolad
2014–15 Sepahan
Further information:
Iranian football champions

The 2001-2002 season saw the beginning of the first professional football league in Iran. Unfortunately many say that the new league is professional in name only and is missing many of the required components of a pro league. Player salaries have risen significantly and other positives in the league are the emergence of provincial teams and raw talent which every IPL team boasts. Teams like Foolad Sepahan, Foolad Khouzestan, Zob Ahan FC and Esteghlal Ahvaz have all shown they can compete, even though they are not based in Tehran. The league can only continue to get better, and many are hoping this league will help Iran's football, in terms of improving quality and reputation.

On 12 August 2006, the Iranian Football Federation decided to change the name of the league once again. The name of the league was initially the Persian Gulf Cup which later changed to the current name Persian Gulf Pro League.[1] This was done to promote the name of the Persian Gulf, instead of the many variations which some nations and organizations use which Iran claims are incorrect. The league logo was also changed, with the winner being selected from over 130 designs and unveiled on 14 November 2006.[2] They continued to get better steady and slowly which made many people criticize that the league is sometimes stepping backwards. Saipa was the 6th team to win the 6th new edition of the league which meant 6 different teams won 6 leagues in the row. But in 2008 Persepolis regained the title after 6 years by the dramatic win again the rival Sepahan on the 96th minute of the final match and become the first team that won two titles in the new edition of the Iranian League. The next season Esteghlal did the same thing and won the league for second time on the final matchday. Then, Sepahan dominated the league by winning the title in three consecutive seasons. Currently Sepahan holds the Iran Pro League title record with four previous titles and they recently added a fifth to their trophy case with the 2014-15 season championship.

Notes
1. Taj changed its name to Esteghlal in 1979.
2. Shahin changed its name to Persepolis in 1968, which in turn changed to Piroozi in 1986; but the 'old' name Persepolis is still used in preference to Piroozi in Iran.
3. Azadegan League is now the name of the 2nd highest division in Iran, only the IPL is higher.

Total Championships[edit]

The number of national championships that clubs in Iran have attained. (Since 1970). It has to be noted that not all championships were truly national during the period (1979-1991) with some involving only teams from the capital, Tehran.

Club
Winner
Runner Up
Persepolis 9 8
Esteghlal 8 8
Pas Tehran 5 5
Sepahan 5 2
Saipa 3 0
Foolad 2 0
Zob Ahan 0 3
Tractor Sazi 0 3
Bahman 0 2
Homa 0 1
Esteghlal Ahvaz 0 1

Current system[edit]

Level League/Division(s)
1 Iran Pro League
(Persian Gulf Cup)
16 clubs
2 Azadegan League Group 1
1st Division Group 1
12 clubs
Azadegan League Group 2
1st Division Group 2
12 clubs
3 2nd Division Group 1
14 clubs
2nd Division Group 2
14 clubs
4 3rd Division
Group 1

8 clubs
3rd Division
Group 2

8 clubs
3rd Division
Group 3

8 clubs
3rd Division
Group 4

8 clubs
3rd Division
Group 5

8 clubs
3rd Division
Group 6

8 clubs
5 Provincial Leagues
Alborz Province League, Ardabil Provincial League, Bushehr Province League, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province League, East Azarbaijan Province League, Esfahan Province League, Fars Province League, Gilan Province League, Golestan Province League, Hamadan Province League, Hormozgan Province League, Ilam Province League, Kerman Province League, Kermanshah Province League, Khuzestan Province League, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province League, Kordestan Province League, Lorestan Province League, Markazi Province League, Mazandaran Province League, North Khorasan Province League, Qazvin Province League, Qom Province League, Razavi Khorasan Province League, Semnan Province League, Sistan and Baluchestan Province League, South Khorasan Province League, Tehran Province League, West Azarbaijan Province League, Yazd Province League, Zanjan Province League
(league organized by provincial committees)

See also[edit]

References[edit]