Ukrainian Premier League

Called Vyshcha Liha (Top League) when first established in 1992, Ukraine's Premier League (a name adopted in 2008) has been the country's top-level category since independence. Despite football's immense popularity in Ukraine, the league has struggled through the years with huge problems, the war in the eastern part of the country being the latest and possibly the biggest of them all. Even so, the existence of Dynamo Kyiv, Shakhtar Donetsk, and other historic clubs, offers a competition that is definitely fun to follow.

Basic facts

Founded: 2008 (1992)
Country: Ukraine
Organizer: Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF)

Names

Vyshcha Liha (1991-2008)
Premier League (2008-)

League records

Most championships: Dynamo Kyiv (15)
Most played seasons: Dynamo Kyiv, Shakhtar Donetsk (28)

History

The first competition in 1992 was the shortest of all, it started in March and was over in a matter of just three months, with Tavriya Simferopol earning the title. Right after that, the organizers of the competition switched to a late summer to late spring format, with a significant winter break, a calendar that has been in use ever since.

Amazingly, starting from the 1992-93 season, only two teams have won the Championship, Dynamo Kyiv and their huge domestic rivals, Shakhtar Donetsk. Dynamo and Shakhtar are the only clubs that have participated in every single Championship since the league's inaugural season in 1992.

League system

Ukrainian Premier League is the top tier of the Ukrainian football league system. The second football league in the country is since 1991 known as Ukrainian First League (or Persha Liha). The third tier is since 1992 called Ukrainian Second League.

Table 1. Ukrainian football tiers
Club Tier
Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) 1
Ukrainian First League 2
Ukrainian Second League 3

Below the third level follows the Ukrainian Amateur Football Championship parted in several regional divisions.

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Stats

Teams with most titles

Statistics of all Ukrainian clubs that have won the top league, concerning the period 1992-2019.

Table 2. Clubs and UPL titles
Club Titles
Dynamo Kyiv 15
Shakhtar Donetsk 12
Tavriya Simferopol 1

As the table show, Ukrainian football has for a long time been dominated by two teams. The only exception occured in the very first season of the league, when called Vyshcha Liha.

Teams with most league participation

Statistics of the Ukrainian clubs that have participated over 20 times in the national top division during the period 1991-2019.

Table 3. Clubs and league participation
Club Participation
Dynamo Kyiv 28
Shakhtar Donetsk 28
Dnipro 26
Karpaty Lviv 26
Chornomorets Odesa 24
Metalurh Zaporizhya 24
Vorskla Poltava 23
Tavriya Simferopol 23
Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih 21

Between the first season and season 2019-2020, in total 40 clubs has participating in top division of the Ukrainian league.

Players

Records

Interestingly, the league's top scorer is a former Uzbekistan international, Maksim Shatskikh, who scored most of his 124 goals playing for Dynamo Kyiv between 1999 and 2009. His goal number 124 came on 4 October 2014. His at that time team, Hoverla Uzhhorod, lost the game to Zorya Luhansk, but with the goal Shatskikh scored he surpassed another Dynamo Kyiv great, Serhiy Rebrov, who had finished his career in 2009 having scored 123 league goals.

At the moment, the only one who seems capable of breaking Shatskikh's record is Yevhen Seleznyov, currently third in the list. The former Dnipro, Shakhtar, and Arsenal Kyiv striker, has 110 league goals to his name, and even though at the moment he is playing abroad and is at 32, he could return to Ukraine and surpass both Rebrov and Shatskikh.

Former Dynamo Kyiv goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy holds the record of the most appearances, putting an end to his incredible career in December 2016, having played in 423 league games, and having spent his entire football life wearing Dynamo's jersey, starting in 1993.

By Dimitris Basias

Ukrainian Premier League timeline

1992 Vyshcha Liha (predecessor to Premier League) is established.
1992 The league is expanded to 16 clubs.
1993 The league is expanded to 18 clubs.
1996 The league is reduced to 16 clubs.
2000 The league is reduced to 14 clubs.
2002 The league is expanded to 16 clubs.
2008 The Ukrainian Premier League is established.
2014 The league is reduced to 14 clubs.
2016 The league is reduced to 12 clubs.

References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_Premier_League
https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Прем%27єр-ліга_(Україна)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maksim_Shatskikh
https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Шовковський_Олександр_Володимирович
http://fpl.ua/eng/pl/history