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)|
|2017–18 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 Soviet Top League reserve squads of the Soviet Top League reserve squads competition and the best performers of the Ukrainian football championship among amateurs, KFK (Fitness clubs).
The Persha Liha (First League) is lower than the Vyshcha Liha (Top 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 (Top, 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
The league conducts its competition in a regular single round-robin format, yet some details change from one season to another including the league's composition and inter-league rotations. The league conducts its competitions from fall to springs, however due to climate conditions in Ukraine, a mid-season break is usually longer than the break between seasons. Since 1995 the league also follows the same system of points calculation that is adopted throughout the whole European continent, 3 points for win, one for draw, and none for loss.
During its history the number of members in the league has fluctuated. 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. The amount of promoted clubs usually stays at two. Only once three teams were promoted to the top division. The league's winner and usually the second placed runner-up get accepted to the Premier League. However there is a well established understanding that a second team of the club cannot be promoted when its senior team plays in a higher tier. Due to the rule, on few occasions the third placed runner up was admitted to the top division. In 2013 there was set a precedent when a club on its own will has refused to be promoted. In 2017 there was created another precedent when a club that earned promotion was denied it based on administrative speculations.
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 2011 relegation playoffs has become a well established tradition.
Since the turn of the millennium the frequency of withdrawals in the First League has increased among the competing clubs. In order to fight this, the league has been applying a stricter approach to every club's financial situation to avoid withdrawals during a season.
Since the 2009-10 season the First League has started to broadcast selected matches over the internet in order to increase its popularity.
The most successful clubs in the league are FC Dynamo-2 Kyiv, FC Hoverla Uzhhorod, and FC Zirka Kropyvnytskyi. All of those teams were either disbanded or went through some sort of reorganizations. In 2016 Dynamo Kyiv withdrew its second team from professional competitions, while FC Hoverla was refused in attestation. Previously in 2008 FC Zirka that went through reorganization was re-established based on a local youth football club FC Olimpik Kropyvnytskyi and in 2016 won its third championship in the league.
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: Ternopil – Bukovyna (relegation series; cancelled)
- 2016–17: Sumy – Balkany (relegation series)
|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|
|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
Considered to be as second tier competitions, the league has number of big stadiums with capacity of 20,000+, among which the most notable is Yuvileiny Stadium in Sumy and Shakhtar Stadium in Donetsk. Just before the Euro 2012, the First League clubs also played at the RSC Olimpiyskiy also located in Donetsk. Among smaller stadiums (10,000 – 20,000) are Central Stadium in Mykolaiv, Dynamo Stadium in Kiev, Avanhard Stadium in Lutsk, Chernihiv Stadium in Chernihiv and Central Stadium in Cherkasy.
- Last one and half months worth several years (in Ukrainian)
- Original source on August 19, 2010 by Bohdan Biletsky (in 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.
- http://wildstat.ru/p/2104/cht/213/stat/summary Чемпионат Украины, первая лига (Суммарная таблица за все годы)