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]

The first football leagues in Iran were local city leagues, played between amateur teams with no set promotion and relegation system. When the first national league began it had a playoff elimination format, with participating teams having to play in a qualification tournament beforehand. When the Takht Jamshid Cup began in 1973, it became the highest league in the football system, above one lower league and several provincial leagues. This system continued until 1978.

After the Iranian revolution and during the Iran–Iraq War the national league was closed and clubs played in provincial leagues. After the war, the first Azadegan League began and a football system similar to the one today was implemented, with the only major difference being that the Azadegan League was the top level at the time. In 2001, the IRIFF decided to create a professional league, and the IPL was born. The Azadegan League went down one level and was incorporated into the current system.

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 Province 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]