|Football Association of the Lower Rhine|
|Number of Teams|
|Level on Pyramid|
|Current champions 2012–13|
|KFC Uerdingen 05|
The Oberliga Niederrhein (English: Premier League of the Lower Rhine) is a German amateur football division administered by the Football association of the Lower Rhine, one of the 21 German state football associations. Being the top flight of the Lower Rhine state association, the Oberliga is currently a level 5 division of the German football league system.
Until 1956, a total of ten Landesliga divisions, among them three divisions of Landesliga Niederrhein were the highest amateur level in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. After the regular season, the ten Landesliga champions had to play-off for two promotion spots to 2. Oberliga West. Upon decision of the superior Western German football association, in 1956 four divisions of Verbandsliga were introduced, one of them being the Verbandsliga Niederrhein. These four divisions of Verbandsliga still exist today, with the Verbandsliga Niederrhein in 2008 renamed to Niederrheinliga and later in 2012 renamed to Oberliga Niederrhein.
The Verbandsliga Niederrhein was upon its interception the third tier of the German football league system. The league champion had to play-off the winners of the Verbandsliga Mittelrhein and the two divisions of Verbandsliga Westfalen for two promotion spots to the 2. Oberliga West. Upon introduction of the Bundesliga in 1963, the league was set below the new Regionalliga West but remained as the third tier. With the exception of 1963 and 1974, when the league systems were changed, the champion continued to have the opportunity to win promotion. In 1964, 1970, 1976 and 1978, the league winner failed to do so, every other season they were successful. In 1977, the runners-up was promoted as Fortuna Düsseldorf II was ineligible.
The league operated with 16 clubs throughout most of its existence, only occasionally altering the numbers to balance out promotion and relegation.
With the replacement of the Regionalliga by the 2nd Bundesliga Nord in 1974, the league champion had to gain promotion through a play-off system with the winners of the other tier-three leagues in northern Germany.
In 1978, the Amateur-Oberliga Nordrhein was formed as the third tier of football in the region compromising the area of the Verbandsliga Niederrhein and Verbandsliga Mittelrhein. One of the main reasons for this move was to provide direct promotion for the tier-three champions again. The clubs placed one to seven in the league were admitted to the new Oberliga, these being:
- Olympia Bocholt
- Rot-Weiß Oberhausen
- VfB Remscheid
- TuS Xanten
- 1. FC Viersen
- ASV Wuppertal
- RSV Meerbeck
Verbandsliga Niederrhein, together with Mittelrhein, remained as a feeder league for the new Oberliga, but now as a tier-four competition. Its champion, and some years the runners-up, were directly promoted to the Oberliga Nordrhein.
With the re-introduction of the Regionalligen in 1994, the league slipped to tier five but remained unchanged otherwise.
From 2008, with the introduction of the 3rd Liga, the Verbandsliga Niederrhein was downgraded to the sixth tier. The league above it was then the new NRW-Liga, a merger of the Oberligen Nordrhein and Westfalen. The champion of the Verbandsliga continued to be directly promoted but since there were now four Verbandsligen below the Oberliga, the runners-up didn't have the option of promotion unless the league winner declined.
The NRW-Liga existed for only for seasons before it was disbanded again in the wake of the Regionalliga West becoming a league for clubs from North Rhine-Westphalia only. While the Oberliga Westfalen was established again in one half of the state the regions of Lower Rhine and Middle Rhine opted to elevate the Niederrheinliga and Mittelrheinliga to Oberliga status instead of reforming the Oberliga Nordrhein.
The league champions:
Source:"Verbandsliga Niederrhein". Das deutsche Fußball-Archiv. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
- Union Solingen holds the record number of titles in the league with four.
Founding members of the league
From the Landesliga Gruppe 1:
From the Landesliga Gruppe 2:
From the Landesliga Gruppe 3:
- Deutschlands Fußball in Zahlen, (German) An annual publication with tables and results from the Bundesliga to Verbandsliga/Landesliga, publisher: DSFS
- Kicker Almanach, (German) The yearbook on German football from Bundesliga to Oberliga, since 1937, published by the Kicker Sports Magazine
- Die Deutsche Liga-Chronik 1945–2005 (German) History of German football from 1945 to 2005 in tables, publisher: DSFS, published: 2006
- Das deutsche Fußball-Archiv Historic German league tables (German)
- Niederrheinliga at fussball.de (German)
- Niederrhein Football Association (FVN) (German)