Persian Gulf Pro League

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Persian Gulf Pro League
لیگ برتر خلیج فارس
Founded 2001
Country Iran
Confederation AFC
Number of teams 16
Level on pyramid 1
Relegation to Azadegan League
Domestic cup(s) Hazfi Cup
Iranian Super Cup
International cup(s) AFC Champions League
Current champions Persepolis (10 rd title)
Most championships Persepolis (10 titles)
TV partners IRIB
2017–18 Persian Gulf Pro League

The Persian Gulf Pro League (Persian: لیگ برتر خلیج فارس‎‎), formerly known as the Iran Pro League (Persian: لیگ برتر فوتبال ایران‎‎), is the highest division of professional football in Iran. The league was also known as the Persian Gulf Cup (Persian: جام خلیج فارس‎‎) from 2006 until 2014. It is the top-level football league in Iran since its foundation in 2001. Each year, the top finishing team in the Persian Gulf Pro League becames the Iranian football champion, and the lowest finishing teams are relegated to Azadegan League.

Since 2013, the league comprises 16 teams. The winner of the Persian Gulf Pro League and the Hazfi Cup champion are automatically qualified for the AFC Champions League group stage. The runner-up and the third of the Persian Gulf Pro League are qualified for the AFC Champions League Play-off round. The bottom two teams in the league are relegated to Azadegan League. In the past, the format and number of teams were changed for various times. Persepolis is the most successful club with five titles.


A number of different competitions are regarded as part of the overall history of Iranian football champions. A Regional League was held in 1970 and won by Taj, and in 1971 by Perspolis.[1]

Takhte Jamshid League[edit]

Takhte Jamshid League champions
Season Champions
1973 Persepolis
1974 Taj
1975 Persepolis
1976 PAS Tehran
1977 PAS Tehran

The Takhte Jamshed League was first competed for in 1973 and continued until 1977.[1]

1979 Revolution and 1980s[edit]

Due to the Islamic Revolution and the Iran–Iraq War, the Takht Jamshid Cup was dissolved and also the lower leagues were unorganized. Once again the champion of the Tehran Province League was seen as the Iranian football champion. The league was dominated by Persepolis with five titles and Esteghlal with two championships. In 1987 the 17th of Shahrivar league was created with mainly teams from Tehran, but also with clubs from some others cities. The league was won by Persepolis ahead of Daraei. Due to the fact that the league was part of the Tehran Province League, Persepolis' title is today not accepted as a national championship.

Qods League[edit]

Qods League champions
Season Champions Runners-up
1989–90 Esteghlal Persepolis

In 1989 the Qods League was formed as the national Iranian football league. The first official Iranian football champion since the revolution was Esteghlal. After only one seasion the Qods League was abolished.

Azadegan League[edit]

Azadegan League champions
Season Champions Runners-up
1991–92 PAS Tehran Esteghlal
1992–93 PAS Tehran Persepolis
1993–94 Saipa Persepolis
1994–95 Saipa Esteghlal
1995–96 Persepolis Bahman
1996–97 Persepolis Bahman
1997–98 Esteghlal PAS Tehran
1998–99 Persepolis Esteghlal
1999–00 Persepolis Esteghlal
2000–01 Esteghlal Persepolis

In 1991 the Azadegan League was formed as the top flight of Iranian football. The league was named as Azadegan League in honor of the Iranian prisoners of war who were released. Azadegan means the liberated in Persian. The league started with a format of 12 teams in the first season. In the 1992–93 Azadegan League season the league changed its format. 16 clubs participated in two groups of eight teams. PAS Tehran were the champions in both seasons. Esteghlal relegated for the first time in their history in 1993. Before the start of the 1993–94 season, the league changed its format again. 14 teams participated in one group. Saipa won the Azadegan League title, sitting three points of runners-up Persepolis. Only one year later the league format was changed again. 24 clubs participated in two groups of 12 teams. Saipa defended their title in final against Esteghlal.

Prior to the start of the 1995–96 Azadegan League season, the league changed its format again. 16 teams participated in one group until 1999. Persepolis were the champions in 1995–96, 1996–97 and 1998–99, while Esteghlal became the champion in the 1997–98 season. In 1999 the league was reduced to 14 teams. Persepolis won the 1999–2000 Azadegan League season, sitting seven points clear of rival Esteghlal. The 2000–01 season was the last year of the Azadegan League as the top-level football league of Iran. Esteghlal became the champion in a league of 12 teams.

Persian Gulf Cup[edit]

Persepolis fans during the dramatic league final against Sepahan in 2008

On 12 August 2006, the Iranian Football Federation decided to give the league another name.[2] Since then the league primarily had been known in Iran as Persian Gulf Cup. The Football Federation decided this to promote the Persian naming. The name of the Persian Gulf has been disputed by some Arab countries since the 1960s due to political and ethnic differences between Iran and Arab countries. The football Federation decided also to change the logo of the league. The finally logo was selected from over 130 designs and unveiled on 14 November 2006.[3] Under the leadership of Iranian football legend Ali Daei, Saipa won the 2006–07 Persian Gulf Cup two points ahead of Esteghlal Ahvaz. Until 2007 six different teams won the league title successively. For the first time in history a foreign player became the league's top goal scorer. Nigerian striker Daniel Olerum scored 17 goals in 27 matches for Aboumoslem. The winner of only two seasons before, Foolad, had to relegated to Azadegan League.

Before the start of the 2007–08 season the number of teams were increased from 16 to 18 teams. The professional football team of PAS Tehran was also dissolved before the start of the season. Instead of PAS Tehran a new club was founded in Hamadan and named PAS Hamedan.[citation needed]

Esteghlal fans celebrate the championship in 2013

The 2009–10 Persian Gulf Cup was dominated by the two Isfahan based clubs Sepahan and Zob Ahan. Ultimately Sepahan won the league six points before Zob Ahan. Sepahan Iraqi striker Emad Mohammed became the second foreign player, who won the league's top goal scorer award. He scored 19 goals, one more as teammate Ibrahima Touré. Sepahan repeated their success by winning the 2010–11 and 2011–12 Persian Gulf Cup. For the first time in history of Iranian football a team became the Iranian champion three times in a row. Esteghlal broke Sepahan's success finally in 2013. Esteghlal won the 2012–13 Persian Gulf Cup and became for the eight time in their history the Iranian champion. During a exciting championship battle between Esteghlal and Sepahan, they faced each other in Tehran's Azadi Stadium on week 32. Moharram Navidkia scored the opening goal for Sepahan, however Esteghlal equalized in the 94th minute due to an own goal by Sepahan defender Mohsen Irannejad. On week 33 Sepahan lost their away game against Damash 1–2 while Esteghlal could beat Foolad in Ahvaz with 1–0 and became the 2013 champion.

The League was scaled down from 18 to 16 teams for the 2013–14 Persian Gulf Cup.[citation needed]

Persian Gulf Pro League[edit]

The league changed its name from the Persian Gulf Cup to the Persian Gulf Pro League in 2014. The Iranian Football Federation decided also to change the logos of the Persian Gulf Pro League and of the Azadegan League. The 2014–15 Persian Gulf Pro League was embossed by an exciting championship battle between Sepahan, Tractor Sazi and Naft Tehran. After Sepahan was the leading team at the beginning of the season, Tractor Sazi and Naft Tehran were at the top until the last matchday, one point ahead of Sepahan. Tractor Sazi and Naft Tehran faced each other at Sahand in, while Sepahan had to play Saipa at home. A draw would be enough for Tractor Sazi if Sepahan did not win.

Current clubs (2017–18)[edit]

Note: Table lists in alphabetical order

Team City Venue Capacity
Esteghlal Tehran Azadi 78,116
Esteghlal Khuzestan Ahvaz Ghadir 38,900
Foolad Ahvaz Foolad Arena 27,300
Gostaresh Tabriz Bonyan Diesel 12,000
Naft Tehran Tehran Takhti Tehran 30,122
Padideh Mashhad Imam Reza 27,000
Pars Jonoubi Jam Jam Takhti Jam 10,000
Paykan Tehran Shahr-e Qods 25,000
Persepolis Tehran Azadi 78,116
Saipa Tehran Shahid Dastgerdi 8,250
Sanat Naft Abadan Takhti Abadan 8,000
Sepahan Isfahan Naghsh-e-Jahan 75,000
Sepidrood Rasht Dr. Azodi 11,000
Siah Jamegan Mashhad Samen 35,000
Tractor Sazi Tabriz Yadegar-e Emam 66,833
Zob Ahan Isfahan Foolad Shahr 15,000


List of champions by season since 2001[edit]

Season Winner No. IPL titles
[Total titles]
2001–02 Persepolis 1 [8]
2002–03 Sepahan 1 [1]
2003–04 Pas Tehran 1 [5]
2004–05 Foolad 1 [1]
2005–06 Esteghlal 1 [6]
2006–07 Saipa 1 [3]
2007–08 Persepolis 2 [9]
2008–09 Esteghlal 2 [7]
2009–10 Sepahan 2 [2]
2010–11 Sepahan 3 [3]
2011–12 Sepahan 4 [4]
2012–13 Esteghlal 3 [8]
2013–14 Foolad 2 [2]
2014–15 Sepahan 5 [5]
2015–16 Esteghlal Khuzestan 1 [1]
2016–17 Persepolis 3 [10]

Most successful clubs since 2001 in the Persian Gulf Pro League[edit]

Team Winners Runners-up Third Place
Sepahan 5 (2002–03, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2014–15) 1 (2007–08) 1 (2012–13)
Esteghlal 3 (2005–06, 2008–09, 2012–13) 4 (2001–02, 2003–04, 2010–11, 2016–17) 4 (2004–05, 2009–10, 2011–12, 2015–16)
Persepolis 3 (2001–02, 2007–08, 2016–17) 2 (2013–14, 2015–16) 2 (2002–03, 2006–07)
Foolad 2 (2004–05, 2013–14) 2 (2001–02, 2003–04)
Pas Tehran 1 (2003–04) 2 (2002–03, 2005–06)
Saipa 1 (2006–07) 1 (2005–06)
Esteghlal Khuzestan 1 (2015–16)
Zob Ahan 3 (2004–05, 2008–09, 2009–10) 1 (2010–11)
Tractor Sazi 3 (2011–12, 2012–13, 2014–15) 1 (2016–17)
Esteghlal Ahvaz 1 (2006–07)
Naft Tehran 2 (2013–14, 2014–15)

Competition format and sponsorship[edit]


There are currently 16 clubs in the league,[4] although the competition started in 2001–02 with 14 teams.[5] The season lasts from August to May, with each club playing the others twice, once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents for a total of 30 games for each club, with a total of 240 games in each season. Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference and then goals scored. At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned as champion. At the end of the season, the three worst teams are relegated directly to the Azadegan League.

In the Azadegan League the top three teams are automatically promoted to the top flight.

In 2012, the league considered reducing the number of teams to 16, for the 2012–13 season. This idea was dismissed for the 2012–13 season, but was adopted for the 2013–14 season.

Qualification for Asian competitions[edit]

As of 2008 four teams from Iran qualify for the AFC Asian Champions League annually. This includes the top three teams of the PGPL together with the winner of the Hazfi Cup. If the winner of the Hazfi Cup is also among the three top PGPL teams then the fourth best PGPL team also qualifies.


Former logo, used from 2006 to 2014

The Persian Gulf Pro League has been sponsored since 2005. There have been four sponsors since the league's formation. In 2014, Irannovin Company became the League's sponsor for a record fee.

  • 2001–2005: No sponsor
  • 2005–2007: Zamzam
  • 2007–2009: Padideh
  • 2009–2014: Irancell
  • 2014–2016: Sun Star
  • 2016–present: Fanap

According to a November 2012 study, in the 2010–11 season Iran Pro League clubs on average obtained 15% of their income from sponsorship.[6]


Media coverage[edit]

Channel 3 broadcast two games a week nationally and IRIB 2 broadcast two games a week internationally, however due to the immense popularity of Tehran teams Persepolis F.C. and Esteghlal F.C. only these teams' matches are shown on IRIB 2 internationally. Since the 2012–13 season IRIB Varzesh has televised a second game each week nationally, with the provincial channels broadcasting the rest of their local games. Occasionally on important match days, such as the final day, Channel 2 and Shoma broadcast games nationally.[citation needed]

On 20 July 2011, IRIB and the IFF came to agreement regarding TV rights of both IPL and national team matches worth $96.5 million that will run until 2014.[7]


As of 2014 it was ranked as the 61st strongest league in the world by the IFFHS.[8]


All-time top scorers[edit]

All-time League top scorers[edit]

last update: May 4, 2017

No. Player Goals Years
1 Iran Reza Enayati 149 2001–2017
2 Iran Mehdi Rajabzadeh 114 2001–present
Iran Arash Borhani 114 2002–2017
4 Iran Fereydoon Fazli 85 2001–2010
5 Iran Edmond Bezik 84 1994–2006
6 Brazil Édinho 82 2008–present
7 Iran Ali Asghar Modirroosta 80 1991–2003
8 Iran Karim Ansarifard 77 2007–2014
9 Iran Jalal Rafkhaei 75 2005–present
10 Iran Ali Daei 72 1994–2007
11 Iran Mohammad Gholami 71 2001–present
12 Iraq Emad Mohammed 70 2005–2012
13 Iran Rasoul Khatibi 68 1997–2010
Iran Reza Sahebi 67 1989–2003
14 Iran Reza Norouzi 67 2007–present
Iran Siavash Akbarpour 65 2004–2015
16 Iran Gholam Hossein Mazloumi 63 1971–1979
17 Iran Mohsen Garousi 61 1989–2002
Iran Mohsen Bayatinia 61 2001–2014
18 Senegal Ibrahima Touré 60 2007–2011
19 Iran Behnam Seraj 59 1996–2004
Iran Faraz Fatemi 59 1997–2011
20 Iran Aziz Espandar 58 1971–1979
Iran Mohammad Momeni 58 1989–2003
Iran Hossein Khatibi 58 1991–2000
Iran Iman Razaghirad 58 2001–2013
21 Iran Alireza Vahedi Nikbakht 55 1998–2014
22 Iran Hadi Asqari 52 2005–2010
Iran Farshad Pious 52 1989–1997
Iran Bahman Tahmasebi 52 1999–2011
23 Iran Samad Marfavi 51 1989–1998
Iran Ali Samereh 51 1999–2012
24 Iran Davoud Haghi 50 2003–2014
25 Iran Mehdi Taremi 44 2014–
Includes when Azadegan League and Takht Jamshid Cup were Top Division[citation needed]

Players in bold are still active in the league.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hooshyar F. Naraghi (24 August 2017). "Iran - List of Champions". RSSSF. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 
  2. ^ برنامه‌ي كامل دور رفت ششمين دوره‌ي ليگ برتر فوتبال؛ ليگ برتر به "خليج فارس" تغيير نام داد (in Persian). ISNA. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  3. ^ برترين طرح ارائه شده براي ليگ برتر انتخاب شد (in Persian). IRIFF Official Website. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  4. ^ "Persian Gulf Cup". Soccerway. Global Sports Media. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  5. ^ "Iran League Seasons". Retrieved 17 December 2011. [dead link]
  6. ^ Mahsa Qorbani; Mohammad Javad Sheikh; Meysam Bagheri (November 2012). "A comparative study of how to finance professional football premier leagues in Iran and England" (PDF). Scholarly Journal of Business Administration. 2 (9): 147. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ The World's Strongest National League 2014, IFFHS, 19 January 2015, retrieved 12 July 2015

External links[edit]