Philippines Football League
|Organising body||Liga Futbol Inc.|
|Number of teams||5|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Domestic cup(s)||Copa Paulino Alcantara|
|International cup(s)||AFC Champions League|
AFC Cup[note 1]
|Last champions||Ceres–Negros (2nd title) |
|Most championships||Ceres–Negros (2 titles)|
|TV partners||People's Television Network (2017)|
The Philippines Football League (PFL) was a Filipino professional association football league, sanctioned by the Philippine Football Federation (PFF). It is the Philippines' highest level of men's club football, supplanting the United Football League (UFL), which was previously the de facto top-tier league in the country.
The PFL followed a home-and-away format as opposed to the UFL and had two seasons in 2017 and 2018 which was won both by Ceres–Negros. However the financial and logistical issues forced the disestablishment of the PFL with the Philippine Premier League established in its place.
- 1 History
- 2 Competition format
- 3 Clubs
- 4 Champions
- 5 Organization
- 6 Media coverage
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
Following the success of the Philippines national team in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, Philippine football experienced a renaissance. With no existing national football league, the Metro Manila-based United Football League (UFL) became the de facto top-tier league in the Philippines. Under the guidance of the Football Alliance (FA) in partnership with United Football Clubs Association (UFCA), the UFL flourished. However, the PFF expressed the need to have a nationwide, community-based football league that is at par with the standards set by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The UFL, which is under the National Capital Region Football Association, cannot be considered as a national league.
With the goal of establishing a truly nationwide professional football league in the Philippines, the PFF launched the PFF National League Task Force on December 2, 2013. The task force was led by Filipino economist Bernie Villegas, and is composed of UFL President Randy Roxas, AFC Deputy General Secretary and Competition Director Windsor John, Filipino FIFA official Domeka Garamendi, AFC Kick-off Program Director Yogesh Desai, UFL Commissioner Bonnie Ladrido, ABS-CBN's Dino Laurena, former PFF' General Secretary Cyril Dofitas and Gelix Mercader. The task force was tasked to do market research studies to determine the possible cities or regions where participating football clubs can be based, as well as assisting clubs in the Philippines to conform to AFC club licensing regulations. The PFF initially set a goal to launch the national league in two to three years from the inception of the task force.
Nielsen was tasked to conduct a study in 2015, where they identified 13 key localities throughout the Philippines as viable home venues for participating clubs in the PFL. Among the factors considered were existing infrastructures, accessibility, capacity of fans to pay, the existence of sponsors, and fan appreciation of the sport. Each applicant club was asked to nominate a home stadium based in the locality of their choosing.
The name "Philippines Football League" was the most-preferred name for the league in a Nielsen survey which covered interviews of 5,000 people nationwide. Other choices included P-League, Maharlika League, Liga Pilipina, and Philippine Premier League.
The Philippines Football League was officially announced on September 7, 2016 and will replace the UFL as the Philippines' top tier football league. At least six teams from all over the Philippines was planned to be part of the PFL, with clubs from the UFL invited to join. Interested clubs were presented with the PFF's Club Licensing Regulations, and were given until December 2016 to formally apply to join the PFL. The league competition was slated to begin in either the late March or early April in 2017.
By April 1, 2017, the PFF confirmed the participation of 8 clubs - Ceres–Negros, Davao Aguilas, Global Cebu, Ilocos United, JPV Marikina, Kaya FC–Makati, Loyola Meralco Sparks, and Stallion Laguna.
The official launching of the PFL happened on April 21, 2017 at the Shangri-La at the Fort in Taguig while the first match of the inaugural season is set to be played on May 6, 2017. The program was started by economist and PFL Task Force Chairman, Bernardo Villegas and ended by PFF President Mariano Araneta.
2017 and 2018 seasons
The inaugural season in 2017 was participated by eight clubs and had two stages; the regular season and the "Final series". The regular season adopted a home-and-away, double round-robin format. The top four teams in the regular season advanced to the play-off round dubbed as the "Finals Series" to determine the champions of the league. A knockout cup competition will also be contested between the PFL's participating clubs, with matches interspersed within the league schedule. Ceres-Negros won the inaugural league title.
For the second season, the Final Series was scrapped due to the introduction of the Copa Paulino Alcantara, the cup competition for the league. The number of clubs in the league was reduced to six from eight after the departure of Ilocos United F.C. and FC Meralco Manila. Ceres-Negros won their second title.
Replacement by the Philippine Premier League
In late-2018, Triple CH led by Thailand-based Filipino businessman Bernie Sumayao became involved in the league and has entered talks with PFF chairman Mariano Araneta. He was appointed as the league's new commissioner. Sumayao plans to institute financial and structural reforms in the league; including a rebrand of the league to the "Philippine Premier League" starting the 2019 season, more favorable sponsorship policies, and the disestablishment of the franchise fee in favor of a less expensive registration fee for clubs.
It was also planned that the number of clubs for the 2019 season be brought back to eight. However the end of the 2017 season also saw the departure of a third club in the league's history, Davao Aguilas F.C.. Despite of this, the league has received applications from new clubs aspiring to join the PFL.
The PFL follows a traditional home-and-away double round robin format since the 2018 season.
In the inaugural season of 2017, the league had two phases, the regular season, which adopted a home-and-away, double round-robin format, and the "Finals Series", a play-off round where the top four teams of the regular season played each other to determine the champions of the league. A knockout cup competition will also be contested between the PFL's participating clubs, with matches interspersed within the league schedule.
The league only had one division since its existence but there are plans to introduce a second division as the league expands, with a system of promotion and relegation with the PFL to be put in place. The UFL has expressed its openness to serve as the second tier competition or youth league to the PFL.
Qualification for Asian competitions
- History of Asian qualification
- AFC Cup
- Total titles won by region
|Region||Number of titles||Clubs|
|Negros Occidental||Ceres–Negros (2)|
- By City / Town
|City / Town||Championships||Clubs|
The Philippines Football League, along with the PFF Cup, was managed by Liga Futbol Inc.. Singapore-based Red Card Global, a sports marketing agency has exclusive commercial rights to the PFL. Each club had to pay a franchise fee to participate in the league. Reportedly in April 2017, the franchise fee was pegged at $500,000 by the PFF which can be paid by member clubs within a period of five years.
The league is professional in nature and not a developmental league. The clubs are intended to have a share of the league's broadcast revenues and sponsorship and each club are to be assisted by the league in securing their own sponsors.
All PFL clubs were required under the PFF Club Licensing Regulations to have a name that includes the name of their home locality. The clubs were also required to have nicknames, crests, and colors based on the unique characteristics of their home locality.
Players and salaries
Participating clubs were allowed to have a minimum 25 and a maximum of 30 players. Reportedly in September 2016, only four foreigners are to be allowed per club, with at least one foreigner coming from an AFC country. On January 17, 2017, it was reported that this foreign player limit rule is yet to be finalized by the PFF.
All participating clubs in the PFL were required to commit to the organization and development of at least two youth teams, an under-18 and an under-15. The clubs' youth teams were required to participate in competitions organized by the Philippine Football Federation.
The clubs of the PFL were required to have a certified home stadium either through ownership of the stadium or having an active contract with the owners of the stadium. Likewise, all clubs were required to have access to or own a training field and facility.
The Philippine Football Federation had an agreement with the People's Television Network to broadcast matches of the league which was signed in April 2017 though the network coverage of the league didn't last at least half a season. Matches since then were live streamed through the MyCujoo online platform.
On February 22, 2018, the league had signed an agreement with Sportradar which would enable it livestream matches through Sportradar’s Over-The-Top (OTT) platform. In April 2018, Liga Futbol Inc. approved a budget to secure a broadcasting partner for the 2018 season.
- Starting the 2018 season, qualification is through winning the Copa Paulino Alcantara and not performance in the league itself.
- The home stadium of the club is located in Bantay, Ilocos Sur, a nearby town. For administrative and marketing purposes, the home city of Ilocos United is designated as "Vigan".
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