Ukrainian First League
|Number of teams||18|
|Level on pyramid||2|
|Promotion to||Ukrainian Premier League|
|Relegation to||Ukrainian Second League|
|Domestic cup(s)||Ukrainian Cup|
|Current champions||FC Illichivets Mariupol
|Most championships||3 – FC Dynamo-2 Kyiv, FC Hoverla Uzhhorod, FC Zirka Kirovohrad|
|Most capped player||429 – Andriy Tsvik (2014)|
|Top goalscorer||118 – Vadym Plotnikov (2013)|
|2016–17 Ukrainian First League|
The Persha Liha (Ukrainian: Перша ліга) or Ukrainian First League is a football league in Ukraine and the second tier of national football competitions. Members of the league also participate in the Ukrainian Cup. Unlike the Ukrainian Premier League, Persha Liha does not conduct a parallel tournament for junior teams of its clubs.
The very first round of games that took place for this league was on March 14, 1992. The league itself was organized just a few months before that and consisted mostly of those clubs that previously competed in the Soviet Second League (see Ukrainian Soviet competitions). To the league were also added some second squads of the Vyshcha Liha clubs and the best performers of the Soviet amateur level of competition, KFK (Fitness clubs). The Persha Liha (First League) is lower than the Vyscha Liha (Supreme League) (currently known as the Ukrainian Premier League) and is the second division of the Ukrainian professional football league system.
The First League was incorporated into the PFL organization that combined all the football leagues of non-amateur clubs (Supreme, First, and Second). On May 26, 1996 the Constituent Conference of non-amateur clubs took place which created the professional league, and confirmed its statute as well as its administration. Most of the clubs that had previously participated in the Ukrainian football league competitions were reorganized as professional, a process that actually started in the late 1980s. On July 17 the professional league signed an agreement with several other national football organizations to organize competitions among the professional clubs (its members). According to the newspaper Halychyna (Ivano-Frankivsk) the annual budget of league's clubs varied between 6 mln to 30 mln hryvnias in 2010.
The League officially became the top league of the Professional Football League (PFL) from April 15, 2008 when the Ukrainian Premier League reorganized itself into a self-governed entity. Usually the top two teams from the First League are promoted to the Premier League, while the two lowest teams from the Premier League are demoted to the First League. Because each club is only allowed to be represented with a single squad per each league, the second squad's promotion often is voided, thus, allowing the promotion of the third placed club during a season. One of the most successful second squads is of Dynamo Kyiv (FC Dynamo-2 Kyiv).
Format of competition
During its short history the number of members in the league has fluctuated. However, in recent years it has more or less stabilized at 18. In its first years the league consisted of 20 or more participants. Later there was an idea to decrease the number of members in all leagues in order to improve the quality of competition. The amount of relegated clubs was changing also almost annually and several times reaching up to five. Since the latest reorganization of the Second League it has remained at two clubs being demoted. For the 2010-11 season it was decided to return to the three club relegation principal involving relegation play-offs. The relegation or promotion play-offs were previously usually organized under unforeseen circumstances such as a team's withdrawal from the league and often were not scheduled until after the season had concluded. Since the turn of the millennium the frequency of withdrawals in the First League has increased among the competing clubs. Concurrently with this, the league now applies a stricter approach to every club's financial situation and support in order to participate at this level and avoid those withdrawals during the season. Since the 2009-10 season the First League has started to broadcast select matches over the internet in order to increase its popularity.
The most successful club in the league is the second squad of Dynamo Kyiv. Out of non-second squads the most successful are Zakarpattya Uzhhorod (two 1st place and two 2nds) and Zirka Kirovohrad (two 1st places). Zirka, however, went through some reorganizations in the 2000s after going into bankruptcy. A couple of seasons afterwards it returned to the competitions. Pointswise over the whole history the other two teams that follow Dynamo-2 Kyiv are Naftovyk Okhtyrka and Stal Alchevsk. The second squad of the militiamen (Dynamo) is the only team that has participated in every single season in the Ukrainian First League. Naftovyk Okhtyrka and Stal Alchevsk have missed two and three seasons respectively.
Winners by year
Promoted teams are in bold.
Post-season play-offs are not common feature of the First League competition. Over the years there were several instances when clubs contested promotion or relegation berths. The first post-season feature consisted of a relegation mini tournament that took place in July of 1998 in Kiev and Boryspil. It involved three group winners of the Second League and Bukovyna that placed 18th place in the First League. The tournament identified clubs which would qualify for the 1998–99 Ukrainian First League. The next year the league featured its first promotion play-off.
- 1997–98: mini-tournament (relegation)
- 1998–99: Cherkasy – Prykarpattia (promotion)
- 2001–02: Polissya – Polihraftekhnika (promotion)
- 2010–11: Enerhetyk – Sumy (relegation)
- 2011–12: Mykolaiv – Avanhard (relegation)
- 2012–13: Odessa – Nyva T, Dynamo-2 – Shakhtar (two relegation series)
- 2014–15: Mykolaiv – Kremin (relegation series)
- 2015–16: FC Ternopil – Bukovyna (relegation series; cancelled)
|Club||Winner||Runners-Up||3rd Position||Seasons Won|
|Dynamo-2 Kyiv||3||2||1||1998–99, 1999–00, 2000–01|
|Hoverla-Zakarpattia Uzhhorod||3||2||0||2003–04, 2008–09, 2011–12|
|Zirka Kirovohrad||3||0||0||1994–95, 2002–03, 2015–16|
|FC Oleksandriya||2||1||5||2010–11, 2014–15|
|FC Sevastopol||2||0||1||2009–10, 2012–13|
|Illichivets Mariupol||2||0||1||2007–08, 2016–17|
|FC Veres Rivne||1||0||1||1992 (group winner)|
|FC Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih||1||0||0||1992 (group winner)|
|PFC Nyva Vinnytsia||1||0||0||1992–93|
|FC Prykarpattia Ivano-Frankivsk||1||0||0||1993–94|
|FC Vorskla Poltava||1||0||0||1995–96|
|FC Metalurh Donetsk||1||0||0||1996–97|
|FC Olimpik Donetsk||1||0||0||2013–14|
League winners by regions
Included all clubs that played over five seasons (incomplete)
- Naftovyk Okhtyrka carried also name Naftovyk-Ukrnafta Okhtyrka
- Oleksandria carried name Polihraftekhnika Oleksandria
- Zakarpattia Uzhhorod carried name Verkhovyna Uzhhorod
- MFC Mykolaiv (Municipal Futball Club) used to be organized as Sport Club - SC and generically as Football Club - FC. It also carried name Evis
- Metalurh Nikopol in the last seasons was named as Elektrometalurh-NZF Nikopol
- Volyn Lutsk used to be organized as SC Volyn-1 Lutsk
- Polissya Zhytomyr carried name Khimik Zhytomyr
- CSKA Kyiv carried name SKA Kyiv and CSKA-2 Kyiv (being a farm-club of Arsenal Kyiv before 2001), not including CSKA-Borysfen
- Dnipro Cherkasy used to be simply named after the city of Cherkasy
- Podillya Khmelnytskyi carried name Nord-Am-Podillya Khmelnytskyi, not including record after uniting with Krasyliv's club
- Nyva Vinnytsia used to be simply named after the city of Vinnytsia, includes records of FC Bershad
- Lviv carried name Hazovyk-Skala Stryi, not including results of Lviv nor Skala Stryi before 2001
- Karpaty-2 Lviv includes results of Lviv before 2001
- Spartak Sumy carried name Spartak-Horybyna Sumy and includes results of Yavir-Sumy Sumy and Yavir Krasnopillya before 1999
- Spartak Ivano-Frankivsk carried name Prykarpattia Ivano-Frankivsk, not including Prykarpattia Ivano-Frankivsk after 2007
- Obolon Kyiv carried name Obolon-PPO Kyiv
- Zirka Kirovohrad carried name Zirka-NIBAS Kirovohrad
- Chornomorets-2 Odessa formerly Odessa and SKA Odessa, not including Chornomorets-2 Odessa in 1992
- Shakhtar Makiivka carried name Bazhanovets Makiivka
- IhroServis Simferopol carried name Dynamo-IhroServis Simferopol
- Last one and half months worth several years (Ukrainian)
- Original source on August 19, 2010 by Bohdan Biletsky (Ukrainian)
- "FC Stal refuses to participate in Ukrainian Premier League". Interfax-Ukraine. 13 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- "In Ukrainian Premier League will be 14 teams: Oleksandriya do not need the elite division". LB. 2 June 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.