United Football League (Philippines)

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United Football League
Ufl logo.png
Country Philippines
Confederation AFC (Asia)
Founded 2009 (2009)
Number of teams 12
Domestic cup(s) UFL Cup
International cup(s) AFC Cup
Current champions Ceres (1st title)
(2015)
Most championships Philippine Air Force
Global
(2 titles each)
Website UFL.ph
2016 United Football League

The United Football League, commonly known as the UFL, is an association football league based in the National Capital Region of the Philippines, governed by the Football Alliance (FA) in partnership with United Football Clubs Association (UFCA).[1][2] The UFL is the Philippines' primary football league. As of the 2016 season, it is contested by 12 clubs and operates without a system of promotion and relegation with UFL Division 2, which was discontinued. Games are often scheduled on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.[3] To avoid the country's rainy season, the league usually kicks off sometime between the months of January and February each year.[4]

The league started as a semi-professional tournament in 2009.[5] For its inaugural season, the first UFL Cup, sanctioned by both the Philippine Football Federation and National Capital Region Football Association, was held in 2009 to determine the clubs that would participate in the league. Since then, it has been described as a thriving football league, organized by former football players and aficionados.[6] A total of 20 clubs have competed in the UFL since its founding. At present, it is organized by the Football Alliance, whose long-term goal is the continued development of football in the Philippines through a premier league.[7]

Since the UFL first started, four clubs have been crowned league champions: Philippine Air Force (2), Global (2), Stallion (1), and Ceres (1). The current champions are Ceres, which won the title in the 2015 season.

Structure and competition[edit]

The league is composed of two divisions, both with clubs playing a double round-robin format. During the course of a season, which commences sometime in January, each team plays every other club twice for a total of 18 games. However, during the 2014 season, the first division implemented a triple round-robin system, which increased the games from 18 to 24.[8] Like most football leagues around the world, it adopts the standard point system wherein match winners receive three points and losers get none. Each club receives a point, on the other hand, if the match ends in a draw.[9] At the end of each season, the team with the most points is crowned league champion. For clubs that are level in points, the following tie-breakers are applied:

  1. Goal difference for the entire season
  2. Total goals scored for the entire season
  3. Head-to-head results (total points)
  4. Head-to-head goals scored
  5. Head-to-head away goals scored
  6. Total away goals scored for the entire season

Promotion and relegation[edit]

Since the start of the 2013 season, a new promotion-relegation system has been adopted by the league. The club that finishes second in UFL Division 2 also has a chance of being promoted via a two-legged aggregate-goal playoff against the ninth-place team in the first division, similar to the system used in the Bundesliga.[10] For the 2015 season, a single team in UFL Division 1, Pasargad, was relegated to the second division. Further, the top two clubs from the latter, Ceres and Manila Jeepney, were both promoted to the first division.[11] Before the start of this season, Manila Nomads' decided to voluntarily step down from the first division to play in UFL Division 2, citing its inability to comply with the league's foreigner cap rule.[12]

With the discontinuation of the UFL Division 2 in the 2016 season, the adoption of the promotion and relegation system has been ceased. Therefore, no clubs will be promoted or relegated.[13]

Below is a complete record of the number of clubs that have played in the first division throughout the league's history.

 
  • 2010: 8 clubs
  • 2011: 7 clubs
  • 2012–2013: 10 clubs
  • 2014: 9 clubs
  • 2015: 10 clubs
  • 2016: 12 clubs

Qualification for Asian competitions[edit]

In January 2013, Global FC chairman Dan Palami posted a picture via Twitter of the letter of approval from Asian Football Confederation general secretary Dato Alex Soosay of his club's participation to the 2013 AFC President's Cup, which was scheduled from 2 to 12 May 2013 for the group stage.[14] The team's participation marked the first time that the UFL and the Philippines sent a team in the cup to compete against clubs such as Taiwan Power Company, Hilal Al-Quds, and FC Dordoi Bishkek, to name a few.[15][16] Global qualified and was chosen to represent the country after winning the league title in the 2012 season.[17] However, for the 2014 AFC President's Cup, instead of the UFL, the PFF–Smart National Club Championship served as the qualifiers for the country's representative. Ceres, the 2013 PFF–Smart National Club Championship champions, represented the Philippines in the 2014 edition of the tournament.[18]

In December 2014, Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta, Jr. announced that the Philippines has been allocated a couple of slots for the 2015 AFC Cup. UFL club Global FC has been assigned an automatic slot for winning the 2014 UFL Division 1 league championship. 2014 FA League Cup champions Ceres FC, on the other hand, entered the 2015 AFC Cup play-off round against Maldivian football club Maziya.[19]

Since the 2015 season, the United Football League champion automatically qualifies for the group stages of the AFC Cup, while the UFL Cup champion earns an AFC Cup playoff spot. In the event that the league and cup champions are the same club, the AFC Cup playoff spot goes to the runner-up of the league competition.[13]

Format[edit]

Season PFF Championship League Cup Cup League FA Cup
1 2009 2010
2 2010 2011
3 2011 2011 2012
4 2012 2012 2013
5 2013 2013 2014 2014
6 2014 2014 2015 2015
7 2016 2016

Originally, the regular season of the UFL was composed of two competitions, namely: the United Football Cup, a single-elimination tournament that allows clubs to participate regardless of their division, and a domestic league. The latter is composed of separate round-robin tournaments for clubs in the first and second divisions.[20] This is similar to the season schedule of the Philippine Basketball Association, which currently follows a three-conference format in a single season. The cup competition used to run from November to December of each year, while the league ran from January to July. Thus, these two competitions used to happen in separate calendar years.[21] Since then, UFL officials have continuously introduced new formats, schedules, and tournaments to align the league calendar with those in the ASEAN region.[22]

Beginning the 2015 season, the football season in the Philippines starts around September of each year with the FA League Cup. Further, the league and the UFL Cup both kick off sometime between the months of January and February every year, and these two competitions would be played simultaneously. Each season ends with the FA Cup, considered the culminating tournament of the UFL.[23] This shift was done to align the UFL calendar with the football leagues in Southeast Asia and to avoid possible conflicts with the schedule of the Philippines national football team.[24]

The schedule of the UFL and its competitions was once again shifted for the 2016 season. The season now begins with the UFL Cup in February, with the league competition set to begin in April. Unlike most football leagues around the world where the league and cup competitions run concurrently, the UFL is reverting to having one competition after another. Additionally, the FA Cup and the FA League Cup have been discontinued.[13]

UFL FA League Cup[edit]

Main article: UFL FA League Cup

The United Football League Football Association League Cup, commonly known as UFL FA League Cup, was a Filipino men's association football competition. It was played on a multistage format that culminated with single-elimination, knockout games. All clubs that played in UFL Division 1 and UFL Division 2 were eligible to compete in the FA League Cup. The cup starts with a qualifier for the bottom eight teams from the second division, with the top four advancing to the 16-club group stage. The top two teams from each of the four groups in this stage would move on to the knockout stages, culminating in a finals match sometime in November.[25] Most of the FA League Cup matches are played at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The competition was introduced to the league calendar before the start of the 2015 season.[26][27]

The competition was discontinued in the 2016 season.[13]

Year Winner Score Runners–up Venue
2014 Ceres 2–1 Global Rizal Memorial Stadium

UFL Cup[edit]

Main article: UFL Cup

The United Football League Cup, also known as the UFL Cup, is an association football competition in the Philippines that starts every January or February. It is the first competition in the United Football League season.[28] The cup is a single-elimination tournament where all of the clubs in the UFL are eligible to compete.

The UFL Cup was first held in October 2009, sanctioned by the National Capital Region Football Association (NCRFA) and the Philippine Football Federation (PFF).[29] The cup was originally formed to determine the distribution of clubs over the first and second divisions in its inaugural season. Philippine Air Force was the inaugural cup champions, defeating Philippine Army, 2–1.[30][31] For the 2012 cup, 28 clubs competed in four groups of five and in two separate stages.[32] Clubs from UFL Division 2, along with other guest teams, participated in the first stage of the cup. Teams from UFL Division 1, on the other hand, played during the second stage. After, the top 10 clubs moved on to the knockout stage of the 2013 PFF National Men's Club Championship. Stallion FC defeated Global FC in the finals of the said cup with a score of 2–1. Stallion FC captain Ruben Doctora, Jr. and Rufo Sánchez scored one goal apiece to upset Global.[33]

Club Won Runner-up Years won Years runner-up
Philippine Air Force 2 1 2011, 2009 2010
Global FC 1 1 2010 2012
Loyola Meralco Sparks 1 1 2013 2011
Kaya 1 2015
Stallion FC 1 2012
Ceres 1 2015
Pachanga Diliman 1 2013
Philippine Army 1 2009

UFL FA Cup[edit]

Main article: UFL FA Cup

The United Football League Football Alliance Cup, also known as the UFL FA Cup, was an annual knockout cup competition in Philippine football, considered as the culminating tournament of each UFL season.[23] On 22 April 2014, it was officially announced that the league's version of a Super Cup would be held annually after the end of each league competition. Its participants would be the top six clubs of the first division. UFL president Randy Roxas said that the FA Cup was supposed to include foreign teams competing against the UFL Cup and league champions. However, he explained that inviting foreign teams became too expensive.[34]

The FA Cup was first introduced to conclude the 2014 season. The league champion and runner-up of that season received byes to the cup's semi-finals, while the other four clubs competed in two-legged knockout games.[35] Global defeated Kaya, 3–1, on 26 July 2014 to capture the first ever FA Cup.[36] During this inaugural tournament, the league also implemented its foreigner cap rule, which means that only five foreign players were allowed for each club during their matches. This number would be further reduced to four players in the succeeding years.[37]

In the 2016 season, the UFL FA Cup was discontinued.[13]

Year Winner Runner-up Result Date Venue City
2014 Global Kaya 3–1 26.07.14 Rizal Memorial Stadium Manila

History[edit]

Origins and foundation[edit]

In September 2009, with the aim of reviving the interest of Filipinos in the sport, the Football Alliance, composed of Santi Araneta, Randy Roxas, Phil Hagedorn, Javier Mantecon, Dong Longa, Mike Camahort, Monchu Garcia, and Christopher Hagedorn, discussed the possibility of creating a football league in the Philippines.[38] At the time, the Filipino Premier League, the country's top level football league governed by the Philippine Football Federation, has already been discontinued after its inaugural season. But instead of creating a whole system and competition, the United Football Clubs Association agreed to partner with the Football Alliance in operating the United Football League, which was then a semi-professional league.[39]

Corporate backing and sponsorship[edit]

Local courier company LBC became the principal sponsor of the UFL in 2009

The first season of the United Football League, officially named then as LBC United Football League for sponsorship reasons, was made possible with the aid of several local companies, namely: LBC Express Inc., Magma Inflatables, 2GO, Mutual Fund Management Corp., Orient Freight, and ATR Kim Eng.[40]

Since its inception, UFL Division 1 has received corporate sponsorship. After air cargo delivery service company LBC Express Inc. committed as its principal sponsor in October 2009, the league kicked off as a premier tournament composed of several football teams around the nation.[41]

  • 2009–2011: LBC (LBC United Football League)

Founding members[edit]

The inaugural year of the league was held in the 2010 season, and was originally composed of 16 local clubs. The 16 founding teams of the league are the following:

Expansion year and TV coverage[edit]

After the end of 2011 season, AKTV became the league's new TV partner with the signing of a P150 million (~$3.4 million), 5-year deal with two live matches every week.[42] Seven new clubs also entered the league after its successful third season of United Football Cup. Agila FC, Cebu Queen City, Diliman, Forza FC, Laos FC, Pachanga, and Team Socceroo participated in the UFL Division 2, which started on 14 January 2012.[43] Three clubs from the second division were also promoted to the first division, namely: Nomads, Pasargad, and Stallion.[44]

In December 2011, UFL president Randy Roxas entered into discussions with the Philippine Football Federation regarding the possibility of sending the league champions to the AFC President's Cup, a regional club competition that is run by the Asian Football Confederation.[45] In addition, Pasargad represented the league and the Philippines in the 2013 AFC Futsal Club Championship qualifiers.[46]

The league struck a deal to use the artificial pitch that was constructed by real estate giant Megaworld Corporation at McKinley Hill, Taguig City in April 2012. The field was then known as the McKinley Hill Football Field. Work on the football field was set to be completed by September of the same year, just in time for the start of the 2013 season. This was followed by the construction of a grandstand that accommodates 2,000 people.[47]

Stadium and officiating developments[edit]

UFL president Randy Roxas announced in December 2012 the completion of the McKinley Hill football field in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig. The $1-million artificial pitch became the new home of the league starting the 2013 season. The field was built in partnership with Megaworld Corporation, and is said to be up to FIFA standards.[48] The first two weeks of the tournament, which included the opening games scheduled on 5 February 2013, were still played at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, but most of the matches of the league were played at the said artificial pitch after the Chinese New Year.[49]

The UFL started to use Megaworld's Emperador Stadium on 9 February 2013.[50] The first league game in the stadium, Dolphins United versus Cebu Queen City United, got cancelled as the latter forfeited the match. The second match slated for the same day, Philippine Air Force against Nomads FC, became the first official league game in the stadium. Nomads FC won, 1–0, against Philippine Air Force.[51]

In an effort to hold matches outside Metro Manila, United Football League marketing manager Coco Torre confirmed on 30 January 2013 that the league entered into discussions with its broadcast partner, AKTV, on the possibility of staging a few games in the provinces.[52] During this time, UFL assistant technical director Ritchie Gannaban said that they considered staging at least two provincial matches during the second round of the 2013 season, which was supposed to be played either at the Cebu City Sports Complex, Cebu City or at Panaad Stadium, Bacolod City.[53]

In cooperation with the Philippine Football Federation, the league directed its referees to undergo a training module to better their decision making and player management. The training was facilitated by Football Association of Singapore committee member Augustine Arlando, a former FIFA match official, and Football Association national referee tutor Dave Roberts.[54]

Refinements in league structure[edit]

In November 2013, the UFL started charging for admission during the knockout stages of the 2013 cup competition.[55] The league partnered with online ticket company Ticketworld in selling the tickets, priced at P100 for the grandstand and P50 for the bleachers. UFL president Randy Roxas said that the league decided to start selling match tickets to give more value to the games. In addition, Roxas explained that the selling of tickets is also in compliance with the requirements of the Asian Football Confederation, which the UFL wants follow so that the league would be further recognized in the international scene.[56]

The UFL introduced the UFL FA League Cup in its calendar so that the start of each season would be in September.[57] The move aligns the league's schedule with those in the ASEAN Football Federation. The FA League Cup pushes both the cup and league competitions to January every year, which aligns to the schedules of leagues in the Southeast Asian region such as the Malaysia Super League, V.League 1, and the Indonesia Super League. Twenty clubs from both divisions participated in the 2014 FA League Cup.

To promote football awareness in the country, the UFL conducted mall tours around Metro Manila in June 2014 before the start of the 2014 FA League Cup.[58] Several UFL players conducted football clinics in a number of shopping malls, which include the Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall in Cainta, Rizal, SM City Fairview in Quezon City, and Robinsons Place in Manila.

In September 2014, UFL general manager Rely San Agustin announced the plans of holding an all-star event to showcase the growing number of UFL stars within the 2015 season. In addition, San Agustin also hinted on the a possibility of staging the first provincial game in the Visayas region.[59]

In the 2016 season, the UFL Division 2 was discontinued. The second division clubs joined the first division clubs to form a single twelve team division. Additionally, the FA Cup and the FA League Cup were discontinued. The PFF National Men's Club Championship was also discontinued, possibly to give way to the upcoming Philippine National League that is slated to begin in 2017.[13]

Past league champions[edit]

Results by year[edit]

Season Champion Runners-up Third place
2010
Philippine Air Force Kaya Union
2011
Philippine Air Force Global Philippine Army
2012
Global Kaya Loyola Meralco Sparks
2013
Stallion Global Loyola Meralco Sparks
2014
Global Loyola Meralco Sparks Kaya
2015
Ceres Global Loyola Meralco Sparks

Titles by club[edit]

Rank Club Number of titles Years of titles
1
Global
2
2012, 2014
Philippine Air Force
2
2010, 2011
2
Stallion
1
2013
Ceres
1
2015
Note: Bold indicates clubs currently playing in the first division.

Current members[edit]

Since its inception, a total of 20 clubs have played in the UFL. The following 12 clubs will be competing in the 2016 season:

Club Founded Home city Head coach Team captain 2015 position
Agila
2011
Quezon City Philippines Richard Leyble Japan Shinji Shozu 4th in UFL Division 2
Ceres
2012
Bacolod Serbia Risto Vidaković Philippines Juan Luis Guirado 1st
Forza
2010
Muntinlupa City Philippines Arvin Jay Soliman Philippines Stephen Burda 3rd in UFL Division 2
Globala, b
2000
Tacloban Scotland Leigh Manson Philippines Misagh Bahadoran 2nd
Green Archers Uniteda, b
1998
Muntinlupa City Philippines Rodolfo Alicante Philippines Tating Pasilan 6th
JP Voltesa
2009
Manila Japan Yu Hoshide Japan Masaki Yanagawa 2nd in UFL Division 2
Kayaa, b
1996
Makati Philippines Chris Greatwich Philippines Alexander Borromeo 4th
Laos
2000
Tacloban Philippines Jovanie Villagracia Sudan Badreldin Elhabib 1st in UFL Division 2
Loyola Meralco Sparksa, b
2006
Quezon City Scotland Simon McMenemy Philippines Phil Younghusband 3rd
Manila Nomadsa
1914
Parañaque Brazil Ronaldo Luis Bernardo Nigeria Ubiam Okoro New entry
Pasargad
1996
Manila Philippines Joel Villarino Philippines Jean Claude Delos Reyes 6th in UFL Division 2
Stallion
2001
Iloilo Philippines Ernest Nierras Philippines Ruben Doctora, Jr. 5th
Origin of clubs in Metro Manila for the 2016 United Football League

a: Founding member of the United Football League
b: Never relegated to UFL Division 2

Origin of clubs in Western Visayas for the 2016 United Football League

Former clubs[edit]

1: Merged with Philippine Army in 2014

Venues[edit]

Primary venues used in the United Football League first division include the following:

Manila Taguig Makati
Rizal Memorial Football Stadium Emperador Stadium University of Makati Stadium
Capacity: 12,873[60] Capacity: 2,000[61] Capacity: 4,000[62][63]
Rizal Memorial Track and Football Stadium.jpg Emperadorstadium.jpg

Players[edit]

Eligibility of foreign players[edit]

Starting the 2014 season, the UFL executive committee decided to implement a version of the foreign player rule. Under such rule, a club may only field in a maximum of five foreign players on the pitch at any given time. However, two of the six remaining players on the pitch may still be foreigners provided that they are permanent residents of the Philippines for at least five years.[64] In the first year of the rule's implementation, Manila Nomads had to voluntarily step down from UFL Division 1 to the second division due to the inability to comply with the foreign player rule.[12] For the 2016 edition the foreign player cap is reduced to four from five foreign foreign players in a playing squad of 18 players, including 7 substitutes. At least one of the four maximum allowable foreign players must be from the Asian country. This is to align to the guidelines followed at the AFC Cup and AFC Champions League. However, a club with more than 25 players may have more than four foreign players in their whole squad provided that they comply with the 4-player foreign player limit rule during match day.[65]

Individual awards[edit]

Emelio Caligdong won the Mr. Football Award twice with UFL club Philippine Air Force.

The most notable football-related individual award in the Philippines is the Footballer of the Year Award, also known as the PSA Mr. Football Award, given annually by the Philippine Sportswriters Association. This local version of the Mr. Football Award is given to Filipino footballers who made the most impact for the sport.[66] Phil Younghusband and Emelio Caligdong were the first to receive such award while playing for UFL clubs Loyola Meralco Sparks and Philippine Air Force, respectively.[67] Below is a complete list of those who won the award while playing for UFL clubs.

Year Player Club
2011
[67]
Emelio Caligdong Philippine Air Force
Phil Younghusband Loyola Meralco Sparks
2012
[68]
Eduard Sacapaño Philippine Army GTI
Emelio Caligdong Philippine Air Force
Note: Bold denotes players still playing in the UFL.

Honours[edit]

Golden Ball award[edit]

The UFL Golden Ball Award is the league's equivalent for the Most Valuable Player award. The award has been given since the 2012 season after the league's expansion to two divisions. SpanishFilipino footballer Carli de Murga of Global was awarded the inaugural Golden Ball for the first division. Freddy Gonzalez of Pachanga, on the other hand, won it the same year for the second division.[69]

Year Player Position Club
2012 Philippines Carli de Murga Midfielder Global FC
2013 Spain Rufo Sánchez Forward Stallion FC
2014 Philippines Jason de Jong Midfielder Global FC
2015 Philippines Manuel Ott Midfielder Ceres

Golden Boot winners[edit]

The UFL Golden Boot is awarded to the footballer who has scored the most number of goals in a single season. Izzeldin El Habbib, while playing for Kaya FC, was given the league's first golden boot at the end of the 2010 season.

Season Player Club Goals
2010 Sudan Izzeldin El Habbib Kaya 14
2011 Sudan Izzeldin El Habbib Global 10
2012 Philippines Phil Younghusband Loyola Meralco Sparks 23
2013 Spain Rufo Sánchez Stallion FC 18
2014 Philippines Mark Hartmann Global 27
2015 Spain Adrián Gallardo Ceres 18

Golden Glove trophy[edit]

The UFL Golden Glove is an annual association football award presented to the best goalkeeper who has kept the most clean sheets in UFL Division 1.[69] Roland Sadia of Global FC won the award twice consecutively in 2013 and 2014.

Year
Player
Club
2012 Iran Saba Garmaroudi Kaya
2013 Ivory Coast Roland Sadia Global
2014 Ivory Coast Roland Sadia Global
2015 Philippines Tomas Trigo Loyola Meralco Sparks

For the list of UFL Division 2 honours, see here.

Media coverage[edit]

The UFL has an exclusive broadcasting agreement with AksyonTV, which is owned and operated by ABC Development Corporation. Originally, the league signed a 5-year agreement with AKTV after the end of the 2011 season worth P150 million to air two live matches every week.[42] However, on April 11, 2013, TV5 announced that its blocktime agreement with IBC will not be renewed, which means that AKTV would cease broadcasting on May 31 of the same year.[70] Thus, broadcasts of the UFL were moved to AksyonTV.[71][72]

Official match ball[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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