Philippines Football League

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Philippines Football League
Philippines Football League Logo.png
Organising bodyLiga Futbol Inc.
Founded2017; 2 years ago (2017)
Number of teams5
Level on pyramid1
Domestic cup(s)Copa Paulino Alcantara
International cup(s)AFC Champions League
AFC Cup[note 1]
Last championsCeres–Negros (2nd title)
Most championshipsCeres–Negros (2 titles)
TV partnersPeople'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.[1]

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.



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).[2] The UFL, which is under the National Capital Region Football Association, cannot be considered as a national league.


13 localities deemed viable home venues by the Nielsen Company for prospect clubs in the PFL.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[2]

Singaporean sports marketing agency, Red Card Group led by former Singaporean international, R. Sasikumar, assisted the PFF in the initial stages of planning the league.[6]

Nielsen study[edit]

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.[3]

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.[7]


Shangri-La at the Fort at Bonifacio Global City where the official launch of the PFL was hosted.

The Philippines Football League was officially announced on September 7, 2016 and will replace the UFL as the Philippines' top tier football league.[8] 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.[3] The league competition was slated to begin in either the late March or early April in 2017.[1]

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.[9]

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.[10] The program was started by economist and PFL Task Force Chairman, Bernardo Villegas and ended by PFF President Mariano Araneta.[11]

2017 and 2018 seasons[edit]

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.[12] A knockout cup competition will also be contested between the PFL's participating clubs, with matches interspersed within the league schedule.[8] 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.[13] 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.[14]

Replacement by the Philippine Premier League[edit]

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.[15] He was appointed as the league's new commissioner.[16] 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.[15]

It was also planned that the number of clubs for the 2019 season be brought back to eight.[15] 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.[15]

Competition format[edit]

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.[17] A knockout cup competition will also be contested between the PFL's participating clubs, with matches interspersed within the league schedule.[8]

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.[8] The UFL has expressed its openness to serve as the second tier competition or youth league to the PFL.[18]

Qualification for Asian competitions[edit]

History of Asian qualification
  • AFC Cup
    • 2017: Second placers qualifies for the group stage of the AFC Cup with the third placers eligible to play in the continental cup in the event the second placers were unable to play. Starting the 2018 season, winners of the Copa Paulino Alcantara qualifies instead of the second placers in the PFL.



Total titles won by region
Region Number of titles Clubs
Negros Occidental
Ceres–Negros (2)
By City / Town
City / Town Championships Clubs
Ceres–Negros (2)


The Philippines Football League, along with the PFF Cup, was managed by Liga Futbol Inc..[28] Singapore-based Red Card Global, a sports marketing agency has exclusive commercial rights to the PFL.[29] Each club had to pay a franchise fee to participate in the league.[8] 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.[30]

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.[1]

The professional status of the league is recognized by the Games and Amusements Board, the regulatory body for professional sports in the Philippines.[31]

In October 2018, the Philippines Football Federation was awarded the League Development Award by the Asian Football Confederation for its organization of the PFL.[32]

Club identity[edit]

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.[33]

Players and salaries[edit]

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.[7] On January 17, 2017, it was reported that this foreign player limit rule is yet to be finalized by the PFF.[34]

The PFL reportedly planned to have a salary cap and a salary floor.[8]

Youth development[edit]

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.[33]


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.[33]

Media coverage[edit]

Press conference held prior to a league match between Ceres-Negros and Kaya-Iloilo. May 11, 2018.

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[35] though the network coverage of the league didn't last at least half a season.[36] Matches since then were live streamed through the MyCujoo online platform.[37]

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.[28][38] In April 2018, Liga Futbol Inc. approved a budget to secure a broadcasting partner for the 2018 season.[39]


  1. ^ Starting the 2018 season, qualification is through winning the Copa Paulino Alcantara and not performance in the league itself.
  2. ^ 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".


  1. ^ a b c "Ceres FC ready to apply for PFL license". The Visayan Daily Star. 15 October 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b Bautista, Roehl Niño (2 December 2013). "Philippine Football Federation set to launch national league". GMA News. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Del Rosario, Paolo (6 September 2016). "PFF bares plans for national football league". CNN Philippines. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  4. ^ "PFF to Establish National League in 2016". Philippine Football Federation. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  5. ^ Guerrero, Bob (2 December 2013). "PFF announces national football league to launch in 2015 or 2016". Passionate Fan. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  6. ^ Tan, Noah (11 November 2016). "Sasikumar a key player in new Philippines pro football league". Today. Mediacorp Press Ltd. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  7. ^ a b Ventura, Sid (6 September 2016). "With PFF Backing, National Pro Football League Set to Debut in 2017". Sports 5. TV5 Network Inc. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Guerrero (6 September 2016). "PFF one step closer to launching nationwide pro football league". Rappler. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  9. ^ Doble, Henry (1 April 2017). "8 teams for PFL inaugural kickoff". Sun Star Bacolod. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  10. ^ Jacinto, Christian (22 April 2017). "Finally, a national league for the Philippines after launch of PFL". Sport Interactive Network Philippines. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Inaugural PFL season draws 8 teams from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao". Fox Sports Philippines. 22 April 2017. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  12. ^ "PFF to brief interested clubs on Philippines Football League". Philippine Football Federation. 6 September 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  13. ^ "PFL Season 2018 Begins March 3". Philippines Football League. 31 January 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Ceres captures back to back PFL titles". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 25 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d Guerrero, Bob (8 December 2018). "Bernie Sumayao looks to transform Philippine club football". Rappler. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  16. ^ Saldajeno, Ivan Stewart (16 December 2018). "New PPL chief saddened by Davao Aguilas pullout". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  17. ^ "PFF to brief interested clubs on Philippines Football League". Philippine Football Federation. 6 September 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  18. ^ Valderrama, Aeron Paul (6 September 2016). "Formation of Philippines Football League officially underway". Tiebreaker Times. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  19. ^ a b c Biantan, Jack (24 November 2016). "UFL teams disperse to provinces to form PH Football League". Sun Star Cagayan de Oro. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  20. ^ Galunan, Jerome (28 November 2016). "Ceres FC denies having 2 teams in the PFL". Watchmen Daily Journal. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  21. ^ Biantan, Jack. "Biantan: Davao Aguilas vow to build a strong team". SunStar. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  22. ^ "Limpag: Global FC to become Global Queen City FC". Sun.Star. 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2017-01-01.
  23. ^ Sevilla, Jeremiah M. (19 January 2018). "Ilocos United FC withdraws from PFL 2018 season". The Manila Times. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  24. ^ a b Co, Adrian Stewart. "Stallion, JP Voltes jump ship to PH Football League". Panay News. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  25. ^ Tupas, Cedelf (15 January 2017). "Football's next kick". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  26. ^ Ferer, Cindy (6 February 2018). "Kaya Futbol Club chooses Iloilo as its new home court". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  27. ^ "PFF to Issue Club Licenses to 8 Clubs for the Inaugural Season of the Philippines Football League". Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  28. ^ a b "Philippines Football League (PFL) partners Sportradar for multiyear data, OTT and integrity services". 22 February 2018. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  29. ^ Osman, Shamir (13 April 2017). "Phillippines [sic] reiterates opposition to ASL after launch of new pro league". The New Paper. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  30. ^ Biantan, Jack (10 April 2017). "Biantan: Aguilas FC lucky to have Jefferson Cheng". Sun Star Cagayan de Oro. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  31. ^ "GAB grants PFL professional license". Fox Sports Philippines. 3 May 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  32. ^ "Philippine FF receives League Development Award". Asian Football Confederation. 31 October 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  33. ^ a b c "Club Licensing Regulations for Philippines Football League" (PDF). Pasig: Philippine Football Federation. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  34. ^ Biantan, Jack (17 January 2017). "Stallions FC Laguna prepares for Philippine Football League". Sun Star. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  35. ^ PTV Network at PFF, pumirma ng kasunduan [PTV Network and the PFF signed an agreement] (Television production). People's Television Network. 12 April 2017.
  36. ^ Limpag, Mike (28 December 2017). "Here's hoping to a better PFL in 2018". Sun Star Cebu. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  37. ^ del Carmen, Lorenzo (1 January 2018). "Smart Sports' Best of 2017: Banner year for Filipinas, Ceres-Negros". Tiebreaker Times. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  38. ^ del Carmen, Lorenzo (22 February 2018). "PFL, Sportradar sign deal for online broadcast platform". Tiebreaker Times. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  39. ^ Doble, Henry (4 April 2018). "PFL soon to air live coverage". Sun Star Bacolod. Retrieved 4 April 2018.