Persian Gulf Pro League
|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 (3rd title)
|Most championships||Sepahan (5 titles)|
|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.
- 1 History
- 2 Current clubs (2017–18)
- 3 Champions
- 4 Competition format and sponsorship
- 5 Media coverage
- 6 Players
- 7 Ranking
- 8 Records
- 9 All-time League top scorers
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 External links
Before the 1970s, Iran did not have an official national football league. Most clubs participated in championships of their city or province. Therefore the champion of the Tehran Premier League was seen as the Iranian football champion. Due to their achievements in the Tehran Premier League, Shahin Tehran and Taj, today known as Esteghlal, were the most popular teams at this time. Also Daraei and PAS Tehran were successful clubs in Tehran's own league.
In 1970, the Local League was created. For the first time, the league comprised also teams from many other cities and provinces including Sepahan from Isfahan and East Azerbaijan's famous club Tractor Sazi. The first recognized Iranian football champion was Taj after beating PAS Tehran 2–1 in the final of the 1970–71 Local League. The incidents of the semi-final between Taj and Persepolis are also of great importance for the rivalry between both clubs. The second and last edition of the Local League was won by Persepolis, today Asia's most supported football club.
Takht Jamshid Cup
In 1972, the Takht Jamshid Cup was founded as the national league and included teams from all over the country. The Iranian Football Federation had decided to create a league similar to European football leagues. The league was named after Jamshid, a mythological figure of Greater Iranian culture and tradition. The Takht Jamshid Cup comprised twelve clubs in the 1973–74 season. Persepolis became the first champions of the Takht Jamshid Cup, two points ahead of rival Taj.
Before the beginning of the 1974–75 season, the number of teams were increased from twelve to 16 teams. Esteghlal claimed its first Takht Jamshid Cup title after winning the league ahead of Persepolis. The 1975–76 Takht Jamshid Cup was won by Persepolis with a great performance by Iranian football legend Ali Parvin. The second place team was another Tehran based club, Homa. The next two seasons were won by PAS Tehran under coach Hassan Habibi. PAS Tehran won their championships both times ahead of Persepolis. At this time the Takht Jamshid Cup was one of the strongest football leagues in Asia. The Iran national football team won in 1976 their third successive AFC Asian Cup and qualified 1978 for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in the country's history.
1979 Revolution and 1980s
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.
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.
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.
To the turn of the millennium the Iranian Football Federation decided to create a new professional football league. In 2001 the Iran Pro League was founded as the new top-level football league in Iran. With the foundation of the Iran Pro League also the professional football was finally established in Iran. After the Iran Pro League was established as the professional football league of Iran, Azadegan League was declared as the second-highest league in the Iranian football league system. The Iran Pro League comprised 14 clubs until the 2003–04 season.
The first winner of the Iran Pro League was Persepolis, who beated archrival Esteghlal by one point on the final match day. Esteghlal was the leading team after 25 matchdays, but they lost their last match away against Malavan 0–1, while Persepolis could beat Fajr Sepasi with the same score at home. Esteghlal Rasht and East Azerbaijan's famous club Tractor Sazi had been relegated to the Azadegan League. Tractor Sazi needs eight years when they returned finally back to Iran's highest division. The first top goal scorer of the Iran Pro League was Reza Enayati of Aboumoslem with 17 goals. The next season was won by Sepahan, the most supported team of Isfahan. Sepahan was the first Iranian football champion based outside of the capital Tehran. At the end of the season three traditional teams were relegated to Azadegan League: Aboumoslem, Malavan and Sanat Naft Abadan.
The vice champion of the 2002–03 season, PAS Tehran, became the Iranian football champion of the 2003–04 Iran Pro League. It was the last Iranian championship for PAS Tehran as one of the most successful iranian football clubs of all time. PAS Tehran's professional football team was dissolved in 2007. Ali Daei, who returned back to Persepolis, became the top goal scorer with 16 goals. The 2003–04 season was the last edition of the league with 14 teams.
In 2004 the number of teams were increased from 14 to 16 teams. Foolad of Ahvaz became the first champion from Khuzestan Province after winning the 2004–05 Iran Pro League six points ahead of Zob Ahan. Reza Enayati of Esteghlal became the league's top goal scorer for the second time in his career after scoring 20 goals in 24 matches. He repeated his success with 21 goals in the 2005–06 Iran Pro League when Esteghlal celebrated their first championship since 2001. They defeated Bargh Shiraz in front of over 100,000 fans at Azadi 4–1 and won the league one point ahead of PAS Tehran. Shamoushak Noshahr and Shahid Ghandi (today known as Tarbiat Yazd) relegated to Azadegan League.
Persian Gulf Cup
On 12 August 2006, the Iranian Football Federation decided to give the league another name. 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. 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. This was part of the strategy by the Iranian Football Federation to locate more teams in cities outside of Tehran. In 2008 also Saba Battery was moved from Tehran to Qom. Since then the club is known as Saba Qom. The championship of the 2007–08 season was decided on the last macthday. Persepolis defeated Sepahan in front of an incredible crowd of 110,000 fans at Azadi 2–1. Sepehr Heidari scored the decisive goal in a dramatic match in the sixth minute of additional time. Sanat Naft and Shirin Faraz (today known as Rahian Kermanshah) relegated to Azadegan League. The next season was dominated by Perspolis archrival Esteghlal and the two surprising teams Zob Ahan and Mes Kerman. Zob Ahan was the leading team after 75 minutes on matchday 34 before they lost their match against Foolad due to three conceded goals in the last 15 minutes with 1–4. In the meantime Esteghlal saved their 1–0 lead against Payam Mashhad and won the league due to better goal difference. Last but not least Payam Mashhad had to relegated alongside Bargh Shiraz and Damash.
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 before the beginning of the next season. Foolad won the 2013–14 Persian Gulf Cup after an exciting, though a very defensive season at the same time. At the end Foolad ranged just 36 goals for the title. On the last matchday four other teams, Esteghlal, Naft Tehran, Persepolis and Sepahan, had the chance to win the championship alongside Foolad. While Esteghlal were defeated by Tractor Sazi at home with 1–3 and lost their AFC Champions League spot, Persepolis won their away game against Esteghlal Khuzestan with 1–0. Sepahan and Naft Tehran faced each other directly. Also Sepahan lost their AFC Champions League spot although they won the match with 1–0. Both teams had the same goal difference but Naft Tehran scored more goals in the season. Finally Foolad saved their championship after they defeated Gostaresh Foulad away by a goal of Mehrdad Jama'ati.
Persian Gulf Pro League
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. Tractor Sazi was ahead of their opponents Naft Tehran on goal difference, and a point of Sepahan. Tractor Sazi and Naft Tehran faced each other at Sahand in, while Sepahan had to play Saipa at home. Tractor Sazi were in front 3–1 after an hour thanks to goals from Brazilian striker Edinho, Andranik Teymourian and Farid Karimi. But then the game started to turn worse for Tractor Sazi. A very controversial red card for national team captain Andranik Teymourian and two goals by the visitors destroyed Tractor Sazi dreams. Furthermore, there were strange events in the stadium, including a lot of misinformation and disturbed telecommunication. Although Sepahan secured their title with a 2–0 victory over Saipa, thousands of Tractor Sazi supporters celebrated on the pitch, believing that they won the league for the first time in club's history.
Current clubs (2017–18)
Note: Table lists in alphabetical order
|Naft Tehran||Tehran||Takhti Tehran||30,122|
|Pars Jonoubi Jam||Jam||Takhti Jam||10,000|
|Sanat Naft||Abadan||Takhti Abadan||8,000|
|Tractor Sazi||Tabriz||Yadegar-e Emam||66,833|
|Zob Ahan||Isfahan||Foolad Shahr||15,000|
List of champions by season since 2001
|Season||Winner||No. IPL titles
|2003–04||Pas Tehran||1 |
|2015–16||Esteghlal Khuzestan||1 |
Most successful clubs since 2001 in the Persian Gulf Pro League
|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
There are currently 16 clubs in the league, although the competition started in 2001–02 with 14 teams. 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The summer transfer season for teams in the Persian Gulf Pro League lasts from June 18 to 12 pm on August 8.
- The winter transfer season for teams in the Persian Gulf Pro League lasts from January 1 to 12 pm on January 31.
Each team is allowed as many foreign players in their squad as they desire, however there is a rule that only permits three foreign players on the pitch at any one time for each side. In the past there have been breaches of this rule, and in the 2006–07 season Pas Tehran were penalized one point for fielding four foreigners on one occasion and handed a 3–0 loss. Shortly after the 2011–12 Iran Pro League season finished, the IFF announced that foreign goalkeepers on Iranian teams would be banned from the Azadegan League, Iran Pro League, Hazfi Cup, and Asian Champions League. A few weeks later, the IFF announced that the ban of foreign goalkeepers had been lifted, and that each team would be allowed 4 foreign players on the field including the goalkeeper.
As of 2014 it was ranked as the 61st strongest league in the world by the IFFHS, behind the K-League, Saudi Professional League, J.League and the Qatar Stars League. It was also ranked the third best league in Asia and the second best in Western Asia by the Asian Football Confederation in the 2015 AFC Champions League Ranking.
All-time top scorers
All-time League top scorers
last update: May 4, 2017
|7||Ali Asghar Modirroosta||80||1991–2003|
|16||Gholam Hossein Mazloumi||63||1971–1979|
|21||Alireza Vahedi Nikbakht||55||1998–2014|
|Includes when Azadegan League and Takht Jamshid Cup were Top Division|
Players in bold are still active in the league.
last update: April 15, 2017
|2001–02||Iran||Parvin, AliAli Parvin||Persepolis|
|2002–03||Iran||Kazemi, FarhadFarhad Kazemi||Sepahan|
|2003–04||Iran||Jalali, MajidMajid Jalali||Pas Tehran|
|2005–06||Iran||Ghalenoei, AmirAmir Ghalenoei||Esteghlal|
|2006–07||Iran||Daei, AliAli Daei||Saipa|
|Ghotbi, AfshinAfshin Ghotbi||Persepolis|
|2008–09||Iran||Ghalenoei, AmirAmir Ghalenoei||Esteghlal|
|2009–10||Iran||Ghalenoei, AmirAmir Ghalenoei||Sepahan|
|2010–11||Iran||Ghalenoei, AmirAmir Ghalenoei||Sepahan|
|2011–12||Croatia||Kranjčar, ZlatkoZlatko Kranjčar||Sepahan|
|2012–13||Iran||Ghalenoei, AmirAmir Ghalenoei||Esteghlal|
|2013–14||Iran||Faraki, HosseinHossein Faraki||Foolad|
|2014–15||Iran||Faraki, HosseinHossein Faraki||Sepahan|
|2015–16||Iran||Veisi, AbdollahAbdollah Veisi||Esteghlal Khuzestan|
|2016–17||Croatia||Ivanković, BrankoBranko Ivanković||Persepolis|
Multiple winning managers
last update: April 15, 2017
|No.||Winning manager||Club||No. titles|
|1||Amir Ghalenoei||Esteghlal, Sepahan||5|
|2||Hossein Faraki||Foolad, Sepahan||2|
- Hazfi Cup
- Iranian Futsal Super League
- 17th of Shahrivar league
- Qods League
- Iranian Super Cup
- Tehran Football Competitions
- List of foreign IPL players
- Takht Jamshid Cup
- List of Iranian Football League managers
- برنامهي كامل دور رفت ششمين دورهي ليگ برتر فوتبال؛ ليگ برتر به "خليج فارس" تغيير نام داد (in Persian). ISNA. Retrieved 2006-08-14.
- برترين طرح ارائه شده براي ليگ برتر انتخاب شد (in Persian). IRIFF Official Website. Retrieved 2006-11-24.
- "Persian Gulf Cup". Soccerway. Global Sports Media. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- "Iran League Seasons". Persianleague.com. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- 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.
- The World's Strongest National League 2014, IFFHS, 19 January 2015, retrieved 12 July 2015
- شهريار به بزيک، مديرروستا و عنايتى نرسيد على دايى در 72 متوقف شد (in Persian). khabars.net. Archived from the original on 2014-02-01. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
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