Persian Gulf Pro League

The Persian Gulf Pro League (Persian: لیگ برتر خلیج فارس), formerly known as the Iran Pro League (Persian: لیگ برتر فوتبال ایران), is the highest division of professional football in Iran. The league was also known as the Persian Gulf Cup (Persian: جام خلیج فارس) from 2006. It is the top-level football league in Iran since its foundation in 2 November 2001. Each year, the top finishing team in the Persian Gulf Pro League becomes the Iranian football champion, and the lowest finishing teams are relegated to Azadegan League.

Persian Gulf Pro League
لیگ برتر خلیج فارس
Founded1970 (1970)
(since 2001 as Pro League)
CountryIran
ConfederationAFC
Number of teams16
Level on pyramid1
Relegation toAzadegan League
Domestic cup(s)Hazfi Cup
Iranian Super Cup
International cup(s)AFC Champions League
Current championsPersepolis (12th title)
(2018–19)
Most championshipsPersepolis (12 titles)
Most appearancesJalal Hosseini (461)
Top goalscorerReza Enayati (149 goals)
TV partners
WebsiteIranLeague.ir
2019–20 Persian Gulf Pro League

Since 2013, the league comprises 16 teams. The winner and runner-up of the Persian Gulf Pro League and the Hazfi Cup champion are automatically qualified for the AFC Champions League group stage. The third of the Persian Gulf Pro League is qualified for the AFC Champions League Play-off round. The bottom two teams in the league are relegated to Azadegan League. In the past, the format and number of teams were changed for various times. Persepolis is the most successful club with five titles, two runners-up, and two third places. Persepolis also holds the Iranian record champion, with 12 titles.

History

To the turn of the millennium the Iranian Football Federation decided to create a new professional football league. In 2001 the Iran Pro League was founded as the new top-level football league in Iran.[1] With the foundation of the Iran Pro League also professional football was finally established in Iran. After the Iran Pro League was established as the professional football league of Iran, Azadegan League was declared as the second-highest league in the Iranian football league system.[1] The Iran Pro League comprised 14 clubs until the 2003–04 season.

Persian Gulf Pro League champions
Season Champions Runners-up
2001–02 Persepolis Esteghlal
2002–03 Sepahan PAS Tehran
2003–04 PAS Tehran Esteghlal
2004–05 Foolad Zob Ahan
2005–06 Esteghlal PAS Tehran
2006–07 Saipa Esteghlal Ahvaz
2007–08 Persepolis Sepahan
2008–09 Esteghlal Zob Ahan
2009–10 Sepahan Zob Ahan
2010–11 Sepahan Esteghlal
2011–12 Sepahan Tractor
2012–13 Esteghlal Tractor
2013–14 Foolad Persepolis
2014–15 Sepahan Tractor
2015–16 Esteghlal Khuzestan Persepolis
2016–17 Persepolis Esteghlal
2017–18 Persepolis Zob Ahan
2018–19 Persepolis Sepahan

The first winner of the Iran Pro League was Persepolis, who beat archrival Esteghlal by one point on the final match day. Esteghlal was the leading team after 25 matchdays, but they lost their last match away against Malavan 0–1, while Persepolis could beat Fajr Sepasi with the same score at home. Esteghlal Rasht and East Azerbaijan's famous club Tractor had been relegated to the Azadegan League. Tractor needs eight years when they returned finally back to Iran's highest division. The first top goal scorer of the Iran Pro League was Reza Enayati of Aboumoslem with 17 goals. The next season was won by Sepahan, the most supported team of Isfahan. Sepahan was the first Iranian football champion based outside of the capital Tehran. At the end of the season three traditional teams were relegated to Azadegan League: Aboumoslem, Malavan and Sanat Naft Abadan.

The vice champion of the 2002–03 season, PAS Tehran, became the Iranian football champion of the 2003–04 Iran Pro League. It was the last Iranian championship for PAS Tehran as one of the most successful Iranian football clubs of all time. PAS Tehran's professional football team was dissolved in 2007. Ali Daei, who returned to Persepolis, became the top goal scorer with 16 goals. The 2003–04 season was the last edition of the league with 14 teams.

In 2004 the number of teams were increased from 14 to 16 teams. Foolad of Ahvaz became the first champion from Khuzestan Province after winning the 2004–05 Iran Pro League six points ahead of Zob Ahan. Reza Enayati of Esteghlal became the league's top goal scorer for the second time in his career after scoring 20 goals in 24 matches. He repeated his success with 21 goals in the 2005–06 Iran Pro League when Esteghlal celebrated their first championship since 2001. They defeated Bargh Shiraz in front of over 100,000 fans at Azadi 4–1 and won the league one point ahead of PAS Tehran. Shamoushak Noshahr and Shahid Ghandi (today known as Tarbiat Yazd) relegated to Azadegan League.

Persian Gulf Cup

On 12 August 2006, the Iranian Football Federation decided to give the league another name.[2] Since then the league primarily had been known in Iran as Persian Gulf Cup. The Football Federation decided this to promote the Persian naming. The name of the Persian Gulf has been disputed by some Arab countries since the 1960s due to political and ethnic differences between Iran and Arab countries. The football Federation decided also to change the logo of the league. The finally logo was selected from over 130 designs and unveiled on 14 November 2006.[3] Under the leadership of Iranian football legend Ali Daei, Saipa won the 2006–07 Persian Gulf Cup two points ahead of Esteghlal Ahvaz. Until 2007 six different teams won the league title successively. For the first time in history a foreign player became the league's top goal scorer. Nigerian striker Daniel Olerum scored 17 goals in 27 matches for Aboumoslem. The winner of only two seasons before, Foolad, had to relegated to Azadegan League.

Before the start of the 2007–08 season the number of teams were increased from 16 to 18 teams. The professional football team of PAS Tehran was also dissolved before the start of the season. Instead of PAS Tehran a new club was founded in Hamadan and named PAS Hamedan. This was part of the strategy by the Iranian Football Federation to locate more teams in cities outside of Tehran. In 2008 also Saba Battery was moved from Tehran to Qom. Since then the club is known as Saba Qom. The championship of the 2007–08 season was decided on the last macthday. Persepolis defeated Sepahan in front of an incredible crowd of 110,000 fans at Azadi 2–1. Sepehr Heidari scored the decisive goal in a dramatic match in the sixth minute of additional time. Sanat Naft and Shirin Faraz (today known as Rahian Kermanshah) relegated to Azadegan League. The next season was dominated by Perspolis archrival Esteghlal and the two surprising teams Zob Ahan and Mes Kerman. Zob Ahan was the leading team after 75 minutes on matchday 34 before they lost their match against Foolad due to three conceded goals in the last 15 minutes with 1–4. In the meantime Esteghlal saved their 1–0 lead against Payam Mashhad and won the league due to better goal difference. Last but not least Payam Mashhad had to relegated alongside Bargh Shiraz and Damash.

The 2009–10 Persian Gulf Cup was dominated by the two Isfahan based clubs Sepahan and Zob Ahan. Ultimately Sepahan won the league six points before Zob Ahan. Sepahan Iraqi striker Emad Mohammed became the second foreign player, who won the league's top goal scorer award. He scored 19 goals, one more as teammate Ibrahima Touré. Sepahan repeated their success by winning the 2010–11 and 2011–12 Persian Gulf Cup. For the first time in history of Iranian football a team became the Iranian champion three times in a row. Esteghlal broke Sepahan's success finally in 2013. Esteghlal won the 2012–13 Persian Gulf Cup and became for the eight time in their history the Iranian champion. During an exciting championship battle between Esteghlal and Sepahan, they faced each other in Tehran's Azadi Stadium on week 32. Moharram Navidkia scored the opening goal for Sepahan, however Esteghlal equalized in the 94th minute due to an own goal by Sepahan defender Mohsen Irannejad. On week 33 Sepahan lost their away game against Damash 1–2 while Esteghlal could beat Foolad in Ahvaz with 1–0 and became the 2013 champion.

The League was scaled down from 18 to 16 teams before the beginning of the next season. Foolad won the 2013–14 Persian Gulf Cup after an exciting, though a very defensive season at the same time. At the end Foolad ranged just 36 goals for the title. On the last matchday four other teams, Esteghlal, Naft Tehran, Persepolis and Sepahan, had the chance to win the championship alongside Foolad. While Esteghlal were defeated by Tractor at home with 1–3 and lost their AFC Champions League spot, Persepolis won their away game against Esteghlal Khuzestan with 1–0. Sepahan and Naft Tehran faced each other directly. Also Sepahan lost their AFC Champions League spot although they won the match with 1–0. Both teams had the same goal difference but Naft Tehran scored more goals in the season. Finally Foolad saved their championship after they defeated Gostaresh Foulad away by a goal of Mehrdad Jama'ati.

Persian Gulf Pro League

The league changed its name from Persian Gulf Cup to Persian Gulf Pro League in 2014. The Iranian Football Federation decided also to change the logos of the Persian Gulf Pro League and of the Azadegan League. The 2014–15 Persian Gulf Pro League was embossed by an exciting championship battle between Sepahan, Tractor and Naft Tehran. Tractor was ahead of their opponents Naft Tehran on goal difference, and a point of Sepahan. Tractor and Naft Tehran faced each other at Sahand, while Sepahan had to play Saipa at home. Tractor were in front 3–1 after an hour thanks to goals from Brazilian striker Edinho, Andranik Teymourian and Farid Karimi. But then the game started to turn worse for Tractor. A very controversial red card for national team captain Andranik Teymourian and two goals by the visitors destroyed Tractor dreams. Furthermore, there were strange events in the stadium, including a lot of misinformation and disturbed telecommunication. Although Sepahan secured their title with a 2–0 victory over Saipa, thousands of Tractor supporters celebrated on the pitch, believing that they won the league for the first time in club's history.[4][5]

Also the 2015–16 Persian Gulf Pro League was not decided until the last matchday. Thanks to two goals from Rahim Zahivi at the last matchday against Zob Ahan, the Ahvaz based team Esteghlal Khuzestan won the league sensational in front of Persepolis and Esteghlal.[6] Persepolis missed their big opportunity winning the league after eight years. They were shocked on matchday 28 as they lost their match against Naft Tehran 0–2 at a packed Azadi. However Persepolis dominated the next season and won the 2016–17 Persian Gulf Pro League clear before Esteghlal and Tractor.[7] Persepolis football team claimed the Iran Professional League (IPL) with three games to spare and repeated the title in 2017-18 Season. The Following Season Persepolis again were champion for three times in a row.

Format

In the past, the number of teams were changed for various times. Since 2013, the league comprises 16 teams. Over the course of a season, which runs annually from July to the following May, each team plays twice against the others in the league, once at home and once away, resulting in each team competing in 30 games in total. Three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss. The teams are ranked in the league table by points gained, then goal difference, then goals scored and then their head-to-head record for that season.

At the end of the season, the club with the most points becomes the Iranian champion. Currently, the Championand the Hazfi Cup champion qualify automatically for the group phase of the AFC Champions League, while the second and third-place teams enter the AFC Champions League at the Play-off round. The bottom two teams are relegated to Azadegan League. Furthermore, all teams in the Persian Gulf Pro League can participate in the Hazfi Cup.

Number of teams Period
14 2001–02 until 2003–04
16 2004–05 until 2006–07, since 2013–14
18 2007–08 until 2012–13

Ranking

As of 21 March 2018

Ranking Member Association Total Points FIFA Points Club Points 2018 2017 2016 2015
20182017MvmtPoints(10%)Points(90%)
13 +2 China96.4145086.41463.26790.000 8.20024.56714.75015.750
26 +4 Qatar93.8123324.19263.00089.620 8.60013.40022.00019.000
31 -2 United Arab Emirates87.8654305.42957.95082.436 3.60011.35018.00025.000
42 -2 South Korea83.8835546.99554.05076.888 6.6009.95020.75016.750
57 +1 Iran76.57579210.00046.80066.575 6.35016.20013.00011.250
65 Japan82.4555937.48752.70074.968 5.10021.85010.50015.250
74 -3 Saudi Arabia75.0174946.23748.35068.780 5.00018.6009.50015.250
88 Australia53.7267409.34331.20044.383 3.8005.90014.0007.500
910 +1 Thailand48.8822383.00532.25045.877 6.20015.0501.00010.000
109 -1 Uzbekistan41.1864515.69424.95035.492 5.4005.0509.7504.750

Clubs (2019-20)

Team Location Stadium[8] Capacity
Esteghlal Tehran Azadi 76,807
Foolad Ahvaz Ghadir
Takhti Stadium (Ahvaz)
Ghadir:51,000
Takhti:30,000
Gol Gohar Sirjan Sirjan Imam Ali Stadium
Gol Gohar Sport Complex
Imam Ali Stadium:2,000
Gol Gohar Sport Complex:3,000
Machine Sazi Tabriz Bagh Shomal Stadium, TractorSazi Complex, Yadegar-e-Emam Stadium, Bonyan Diesel Stadium Bagh Shomal Stadium:25,000
TractorSazi Complex:8,000
Yadegar-e-Emam Stadium:66,833
Bonyan Diesel Stadium:12,000
Naft Masjed Soleyman Masjed Soleyman: Behnam Mohammadi 8,000
Nassaji Mazandaran Qaemshahr Vatani
Shohada Sari Stadium
Vatani:15,000
Shohada Sari:10,000
Pars Jonoubi Jam Jam Takhti Jam 10,000
Paykan Shahr-e Qods etc. Shahre Qods Shahr-e Qods:25,000
Persepolis Tehran Azadi 76,807
Saipa Tehran Pas Stadium 8,250
Sanat Naft Abadan Takhti Abadan 22,000
Sepahan Isfahan Naghsh-e-Jahan
Folad Shahr Stadium
Naghsh-e-Jahan:75,000
Folad Shahr Stadium:20,000
Shahin Bushehr Bushehr Shahid Beheshti Stadium 20,000
Shahr Khodro Mashhad Samen Al-Aeme Stadium 35,000
Tractor Tabriz Sahand 66,833
Zob Ahan Fuladshahr Foolad Shahr 20,000

Champions

Club Winners Runners-up Winning seasons
Persepolis
12
9
1971–72, 1973–74, 1975–76, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2007–08, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2018–19
Esteghlal
8
9
1970–71, 1974–75, 1989–90, 1997–98, 2000–01, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2012–13
Pas Tehran
5
5
1976–77, 1977–78, 1991–92, 1992–93, 2003–04
Sepahan
5
2
2002–03, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2014–15
Saipa
3
0
1993–94, 1994–95, 2006–07
Foolad
2
0
2004–05, 2013–14
Esteghlal Khuzestan
1
0
2015–16

All-time table

Pos. Club Seasons Matches Win Draw Loss GF GA GD Pts Champions Runners-up Third place Relegated Best rank
1Esteghlal1 18552266174107813505+3089723461st
2Persepolis3 4 5 18552254179119777534+2439415221st
3Sepahan2 18552245179127787535+2529145211st
4Zob Ahan6 18552219188145682553+129845412nd
5Foolad 17518195177146607541+667622211st
6Saipa 18552176192184617632−15720111st
7Saba Qom 13414128159127468460+8543113rd
8Malavan7 14436121145170403502−9950727th
9Tractor8 1134212910875415322+964943112nd
10Paykan 14398122113163413495−8148945th
11Fajr Sepasi 12368101135132347406−5943824th
12Rah Ahan 1142891114149353447−9438718th
13Naft Tehran 8252918873284258+27361213rd
14Mes Kerman 8264859980310292+18354113rd
15Aboumoslem 9270839097295304−933914th
16Esteghlal Ahvaz 92748078116327402−75318122nd
17Sanat Naft 82596877107269347−7828139th
18PAS Tehran9 6168725937263181+82274121st
19Bargh Shiraz 8236607898250335−8525817th
20Damash10 82485681111228344−11624827th
21Esteghlal Khuzestan 6180456864174219−45197111st
22Shahr-e Khodro 5150505149146145+11954th
23Gostaresh Foulad 5150396051147161−141778th
24PAS Hamedan 4136384850143165−2216215th
25Shahin Bushehr 310223384196118−22107113th
26Steel Azin11 26819232685112−278015th
27Pars Jonoubi Jam 2601823196257+5775th
28Shamoushak Noshahr 38616264464118−5474114th
29Siah Jamegan 39015274864117−5372113th
30Shahrdari Tabriz 2681429257997−1871112th
31Sepidrood 2601117324892−4450113th
32Machine Sazi 260724293771−3445116th
33Naft Masjed Soleyman 260626283573−3844114th
34Nassaji Mazandaran 1307158292903610th
35Aluminium Hormozgan 134714132640−1435115th
36Payam 13498173352−1935116th
37Mes Sarcheshmeh 13459202354−3124118th
38Rahian Kermanshah12 134312192559−3421118th
39Tarbiat Yazd13 13047192143−2219116th
40Gahar Zagros14 134310212459−3519118th
41Gol Gohar Sirjan
2019–20 Persian Gulf Pro League
2019–20 Azadegan League
2019–20 League 2
Dissolved

Source: iplstats.com
Notes:
Only league matches; play-offs are not included in the all-time table.
1 Esteghlal was deducted one point in the 2013–14 season.
2 Sepahan was deducted three points in the 2007–08 season.
3 Persepolis was deducted six points in the 2005–06 season.
4 Persepolis was deducted six points in the 2007–08 season.
5 Persepolis was deducted one point in the 2013–14 season.
6 Zob Ahan was deducted one point in the 2005–06 season.
7 Malavan was deducted one point in the 2013–14 season.
8 Tractor was deducted one point in the 2013–14 season.
9 PAS Tehran was deducted one point in the 2006–07 season.
10 Damash was deducted one point in the 2013–14 season.
11 Steel Azin was formerly known as Ekbatan.
12 Rahian Kermanshah was formerly known as Shirin Faraz.
13 Tarbiat Yazd was formerly known as Shahid Ghandi.
14 Gahar Zagros was formerly known as Damash Lorestan.

Attendances

Average league attendances

Season Average Highest attended club Club average Lowest attended club Club average
2005–06 9,179 Esteghlal 33,467 Shamoushak Noshahr 3,542
2006–07 10,119 Esteghlal 35,000 Rah Ahan 4,073
2007–08 11,235 Persepolis 60,000 Rah Ahan 2,647
2008–09 8,954 Persepolis 40,688 PAS Hamedan 3,706
2009–10 12,298 Tractor 57,647 Paykan 2,313
2010–11 9,383 Tractor 42,000 Paykan 1,941
2011–12 9,488 Tractor 39,533 Mes Sarcheshmeh 1,706
2012–13 7,964 Esteghlal 34,250 Rah Ahan 1,942
2013–14 7,631 Persepolis 29,467 Rah Ahan 1,664
2014–15 6,921 Tractor 27,488 Saba Qom 1,365
2015–16 8,048 Persepolis 47,036 Naft Tehran 1,594
2016–17 8,086 Persepolis 48,567 Gostaresh Foulad 1,018
2017–18 9,060 Persepolis 39,786 Gostaresh Foulad 817
2018–19 12,212 Tractor 46,963 Esteghlal Khuzestan 1,507

Notes:
Matches with spectator bans are not included in average attendances.

Highest attended season matches

Season Home team Score Away team Attendance Date Week Stadium
2005–06Esteghlal4–1Bargh Shiraz100,00021 April 2006 (2006-04-21)30Azadi
2006–07Persepolis2–1Esteghlal95,0003 November 2006 (2006-11-03)8Azadi
2007–08Persepolis2–1Sepahan110,00017 May 2008 (2008-05-17)34Azadi
2008–09Persepolis2–0Damash90,00025 September 2008 (2008-09-25)8Azadi
Persepolis1–1Esteghlal90,0003 October 2008 (2008-10-03)9Azadi
Esteghlal1–1Persepolis90,00013 February 2009 (2009-02-13)26Azadi
2009–10Tractor0–0Moghavemat95,00022 January 2010 (2010-01-22)24Sahand
2010–11Esteghlal1–0Persepolis100,00015 October 2010 (2010-10-15)11Azadi
2011–12Persepolis0–2Esteghlal100,00016 September 2011 (2011-09-16)7Azadi
2012–13Esteghlal0–0Persepolis100,00025 January 2013 (2013-01-25)23Azadi
Esteghlal1–2Damash100,00010 May 2013 (2013-05-10)34Azadi
2013–14Esteghlal0–0Persepolis100,0006 September 2013 (2013-09-06)8Azadi
2014–15Tractor3–3Naft Tehran80,00015 May 2015 (2015-05-15)30Sahand
2015–16Persepolis4–2Esteghlal100,00015 April 2016 (2016-04-15)26Azadi
2016–17Persepolis4–0Padideh80,00019 April 2017 (2017-04-19)28Azadi
2017–18Esteghlal1–0Persepolis100,0001 March 2018 (2018-03-01)25Azadi
2018–19Persepolis0–0Sepahan90,00026 April 2019 (2019-04-26)27Azadi

Records

All-time top scorers

As of 21 September 2019
No. Player Goals Years
1 Reza Enayati1492001–2017
2 Mehdi Rajabzadeh1162001–2018
3 Arash Borhani1142002–2017
4 Fereydoon Fazli852001–2010
5 Édinho822008–2017
6 Jalal Rafkhaei792005–2016
7 Karim Ansarifard772007–2014
8 Mohammad Reza Khalatbari752004–present
9 Luciano Periera 742012–present
10 Mohammad Gholami 732001–present

Players in bold are still active in the league.

All-time top appearances in Iran league

As of 21 May 2019
No Player Appearance Years
1 Jalal Hosseini 460 2002–present
2 Mehdi Rahmati 444 2001–present
3 Ebrahim Sadeghi 438 2000–2017
4 Mehdi Rajabzadeh 381 2001–2018
5 Morteza Asadi 380 2005–2018
6 Amir Hossein Sadeghi 379 2003–2018
7 Mohsen Bengar 372 2003–2018
8 Khosro Heydari 370 2002–2019
9 Pejman Nouri 367 2001–2016
10 Reza Enayati 358 2001–2017

Broadcasting and sponsorship

Broadcasting

The state-owned television channel IRIB has the broadcasting rights for the most matches of the Persian Gulf Pro League, Azadegan League and Hazfi Cup. Each match of Esteghlal and Persepolis is broadcasting by IRIB TV3, IRIB's popular channel. In addition to that Esteghlal and Persepolis playing not at the same time with the exception of the Sorkhabi derby and the last two matchdays of each season. IRIB Varzesh shows other important matches, while the remaining games are shown on IRIB regional channels. Furthermore, Navad, a popular weekly football program broadcast by IRIB TV3, shows highlights of all Persian Gulf Pro League and Azadegan League matches.

Sponsorship

The Persian Gulf Pro League has been sponsored since 2005. There have been four sponsors since the league's formation.

  • 2001–2005: no sponsor
  • 2005–2007: Zamzam
  • 2007–2009: Padideh
  • 2009–2014: Irancell
  • 2014–2016: Sun Star
  • 2016–present: Fanap


Ownership

See also

References

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