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|Founded||30 May 1948
1949–2008 (as II liga)
2008– (as I liga)
|Number of teams||18|
|Level on pyramid||2|
|Relegation to||II liga|
|Domestic cup(s)||Polish Cup
|International cup(s)||Europa League (via Polish Cup)|
|Current champions||Arka Gdynia
|Most championships||Gwardia Warszawa (6 titles)|
|TV partners||Polsat Group (Polsat Sport)|
|2016–17 I liga|
I liga (Pierwsza liga, Polish pronunciation: [ˈpjɛrfʂa ˈliɡa]) is the second level of the Polish association football league, below the Ekstraklasa and above the II liga. Run by the Polish Football Association (PZPN) since its inception on 30 May 1948, all teams from 2002 onwards must have a licence, issued by the Association. The league was renamed from Second League to First League in 2008.
Before 1939, there were several plans to create a second, national level of Polish football system, but all failed. Instead, there were regional leagues of most Polish provinces, the so-called A Classes (see also Lower Level Football Leagues in Interwar Poland).
State Class in Austrian Galicia
In 1913 and 1914, the football championship of Austrian Galicia took place. At that time it was called the A Class Championship, with four top teams of the province (Cracovia, Wisla Krakow, Pogon Lwow and Czarni Lwow). Since there were many more football teams in Galicia, the B Class Championship was made for them. Also, in 1921, already in the Second Polish Republic, there were two levels: winners of regional A Classes played in the national championship, while winners of the B Classes (Cracovia II, Pogon Lwow II, AZS Warszawa and Union Łódź) had their own tournament. For financial reasons, this idea was abandoned after one year.
Second Polish Republic
In the Second Polish Republic, there were regional leagues, or A Classes, which were the second level of Polish football system, behind the Ekstraklasa, which was formed in 1927, see Lower Level Football Leagues in Interwar Poland. Since in the late 1930s only two teams were promoted to the Ekstraklasa, and there were as many as fourteen regional champions, there was a complicated system of playoffs. Firstly, winners of neighbouring A Classes played each other, and in the final stage, four teams competed, with two top sides winning the promotion.
Second level league was first created for the 1949 season, and was split into northern and southern sections, each comprising 10 teams. First plans to create this league appeared in 1947. On February 14 and 14, 1948, a meeting of officials of Polish Football Association took place in Warsaw. Officials from Gdańsk promoted the creation of the league, but this idea was opposed by the delegates from the most powerful regions of Polish football: Krakow, Lodz, Upper Silesia and Warsaw. On May 30, 1948, however, the second division was officially approved, with 18 teams in one group. On February 18, 1949, Polish Football Association decided to expand the league to 20 teams, divided into northern and southern groups.
First games of the new, second division, took place on March 20, 1949, with the first goal scored by Jozef Kokot of Naprzod Lipiny, in a game between Naprzod and Blekitni Kielce. First winners of the second division were Garbarnia Krakow (northern group) and Gornik Radlin (southern group): both sides were promoted to the Ekstraklasa. To determine a winner of the 1949 season of the second division, Gornik had to play Garbarnia in three extra games (4:2, 0:2 and 4:3). The top scorer of the first season was Mieczyslaw Nowak of Garbarnia, with 24 goals. Relegated were the teams of Ognisko Siedlce and PTC Pabianice (northern group), and Blekitni Kielce and Pafawag Wroclaw (southern group).
For the 1951 season the format was changed to four groups, with eight teams in each group.
1970s - 2008
For the 1973–74 season the 2nd level was changed to comprise two sections, split into north and south.
For the 1989–90 season the league reverted to a single group.
In 2000 the number of teams was limited to 20 sides, then to 18. Champions and vice-champions received automatic promotion, while third place teams competed in playoffs. The bottom four teams were relegated.
From the 2008–09 season, the league was renamed as I liga. The number of teams competing remained at 18. Teams which place 15-18 were automatically relegated to II liga (West or East). The first and second placed teams were promoted to the Ekstraklasa. In 2014 II liga merged into one group and these rules were changed – the three worst-ranked teams are relegated, and the 15th I liga club compete in playoffs with the fourth placed II liga team.
Champions of the Polish second level
- . "Foul Play". Warsaw Voice. 2003-08-28. Archived from the original on 21 February 2012. Retrieved 2008-07-31.
- Piotr Dąbrowski, Paweł Mogielnicki and Gwidon Naskrent (20 June 2007). "Poland 1949". Poland Final Tables (1st and 2nd level). RSSSF. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- Pawel Mogielnicki (26 July 1998 (last updated 7 July 2000)). "History, part 1 1949-1959". Poland: druga liga. Retrieved 29 July 2012. Check date values in:
- Piotr Dąbrowski, Paweł Mogielnicki and Gwidon Naskrent (20 June 2007). "Poland 1973/74". Poland Final Tables (1st and 2nd level). RSSSF. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Piotr Dąbrowski, Paweł Mogielnicki and Gwidon Naskrent (7 March 2013). "Poland 1989/90". Poland Final Tables (1st and 2nd level). RSSSF. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
- Gwidon Naskrent (9 June 2003). "Poland 2nd Division Champions". RSSSF. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- Official site (Polish)
- Current season table, results and 1 Liga news on PSN Futbol (English)