Azerbaijan Premier League
The Azerbaijan Premier League (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Premyer Liqası) is the top tier in Azerbaijani club football. The league is contested by 8 teams, in which the season runs from August to May. The winner enters the UEFA Champions League from the first qualifying round.
|Number of teams||8|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||Azerbaijan First Division|
|Domestic cup(s)||Azerbaijan Cup|
|International cup(s)||UEFA Champions League|
UEFA Europa Conference League
|Current champions||Neftchi Baku (9th title) |
|Most championships||Neftchi Baku |
|TV partners||CBC Sport|
|Current: 2020–21 Azerbaijan Premier League|
The Azerbaijan Premier League was first organized in 2007 and succeeded the Top Division (Azerbaijani: Yüksək Liqa), which existed from 1992 to 2007.
The league was dominated by teams like Neftchi Baku, Kapaz, Turan Tovuz and Shamkir. However, financial struggles had bad impact on local clubs and most teams such as Khazri Buzovna, Shamkir, Vilash Masalli and Shafa Baku went bust due increasing debts. In 1997, Kapaz were known for their unbeaten run as club's final record for the 1997–98 league campaign stood at 22 wins, 4 draws and 0 losses, out of 26 games total, an unbeaten run not matched in any single season by any team in an Azerbaijani league division.
As league entered a new century, the Neftchi Baku found themselves facing new challengers. They were challenged by emerging Khazar Lankaran, Inter Baku and Baku in both competitions. The country's football received major blow in 2002, when UEFA imposed a two-year ban in response to a long-standing conflict between the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan and majority of the country's top flight clubs. The domestic championship was abandoned as a result of the conflict and the top clubs prevented their players from playing for the national team, with tax officials also probing allegations of fraud at the Azerbaijan federation. Under the management of Agaselim Mirjavadov, Khazar Lankaran finished as Azerbaijan Cup winners in 2006 and 2007, while becoming league champions in 2006–07 despite losing the title to Neftchi in 2004–05 during Championship play-off. Qarabağ was the first ever team from Azerbaijan to reach UEFA Europa League play off-round during the seasons 2009–10 and 2010–11. Few gave chances for qualification to the next round, although the Aghdam side caused quite a stir against favorites Rosenborg, Honka, Twente and Wisła Kraków.
The 2010s brought a bright start, with Neftchi emerged as a champion after six years of unsuccessful run. In the next season, Neftchi repeated its domestic success after sealing their seventh title in club's history. In that year, Neftchi Baku became the first Azerbaijani team which advanced to group stage of a European competition. In 2012–13 season, Neftchi managed to win three titles in a row. In 2013–14 season, Qarabağ managed to win its 2nd title after 21 years, and continue to win domestic title consecutively. In 2014, Qarabağ became the second and most successful Azerbaijani team which advanced to group stage of a European competition. After consecutive participation in Europe League, in 2017, Qarabağ Ağdam became the first Azerbaijani team which advanced to group stage of a Champions League.
On 19 June 2020, the AFFA announced that the 2019–20 was officially ended without the resumption of the remains matches due to the escalating situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in Azerbaijan. As a result, Qarabağ were crowned champions for the seventh season in a row, whilst also qualifying for the 2020–21 UEFA Champions League, with Neftçi, Keşla and Sumgayit qualifying for the 2020–21 UEFA Europa League.
The competition format follows the usual double round-robin format. During the course of a season, which lasts from August to May, each club plays every other club four times, two times at home and two times away, for a total of 28 games. Teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, with the highest-ranked club at the end of the season crowned champion.
A system of promotion and relegation exists between the Azerbaijan Premier League and the Azerbaijan First Division. The lowest placed team in Premier League is relegated to the First Division, and the top team from the First Division promoted to Premier League. Below is a complete record of how many teams played in each season throughout the league's history;
Qualification for European competitionsEdit
The champions qualify for the UEFA Champions League, the second and third placed teams qualifies for the UEFA Europa Conference League. As of the start of the 2020–21 Azerbaijan Premier League season qualification for European competitions is as follows: champions qualify for the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, runners-up and third placed team qualifies for the first qualifying round of the Conference League. A fourth spot is given to the winner of the Azerbaijan Cup, who qualify for the first qualifying round of the Conference League. If the Azerbaijan Cup winner has already qualified for European competition through their league finish, the next highest placed club in the league takes their place.
Kapaz PFK has the highest attendance in the Caucasus region.
|2002–03||†League was cancelled|
The UniBank, who had sponsored the league since 2009, did not renew their sponsorship at the end of the 2011–12 season. Talks began with Topaz betting operator, and a deal was confirmed shortly afterwards.
As well as sponsorship for the league itself, the Premier League has a number of official partners and suppliers. The technical for the league is Nike who is providing their match ball for the season.
Since the APL began, five of its member clubs have entered administration, while nearly twenty clubs liquidated. A reduction in revenue from ticket sales for APL games and club merchandise impacted negatively on club expenditure. Players were asked to consider wage cuts and team squads were reduced.
A major criticism of the Premier League in the mid-2000s was the emergence of gulf between the Premier League and the First Division. Criticism of the gap between clubs has continued, nevertheless, due to some clubs' increasing ability to spend more than the other Premier League clubs. For some clubs, including Shamkir, Karvan, Absheron, MKT-Araz who have failed to win immediate promotion back to the top flight, financial problems, including in some cases administration or even liquidation have followed.
UEFA Country Ranking for league participation after 2018–19 European football season.
- As of 20 June 2019
|24||(28)||Kazakhstan Premier League||19.250|
|26||(23)||Azerbaijan Premier League||19.000|
|27||(18)||Israeli Premier League||18.625|
|28||(24)||Bulgarian First League||17.500|
Members of the Azerbaijan Premier League (2020–21 season)Edit
Stadia and locationsEdit
- Note: Table lists in alphabetical order.
|Gabala||Gabala||Gabala City Stadium||4,500|
|Neftchi Baku||Baku||Bakcell Arena||11,000|
|Sumgayit||Sumqayit||Kapital Bank Arena||1,500|
|Zira||Zira, Baku||Zira Olympic Sport Complex Stadium||1,500|
Players in the Premier League compete for the Azerbaijan Premier League Golden Boot, awarded to the top scorer at the end of each season. Nazim Aliyev is the league's all-time top scorer with 183 goals, including 39 in the 1992 season. During the 1995–96 season he became the first player to score 100 Premier League goals. Since then, 10 other players have reached the 100-goal mark.
|1||Nazim Aliyev||1992–99||Neftchi Baku||183|
|4||Gurban Gurbanov||1990–06||Neftchi Baku||115|
|5||Samir Alakbarov||1992–01||Neftchi Baku||115|
|6||Alay Bahramov||1992–99||Viləş Masallı||108|
|7||Vadim Vasilyev||1994–07||Baki Fehlesi||102|
|8||Khagani Mammadov||1994–12||Inter Baku||102|
|9||Mubariz Orujov||1992–08||Khazar Lankaran||311|
- Biggest home win
- Kapaz 14–2 Shamkir (1997–98)
- Most consecutive games unbeaten
- Kapaz, 30 games, 1997–98
- Youngest goalscorer
- Orkhan Aliyev, for Sumgayit vs Gabala, 15 years old, 236 days
- Oldest player
- Nadir Shukurov, for Karvan vs Mughan, 42 years, 19 April 2009
- All-time top scorer
- Nazim Aliyev (Khazar Sumgayit, Neftchi, Qarabag, Shafa Baku, Dinamo Baku), (183 goals)
- Most APL appearances
- Azer Mammadov, 445
- Most goals in a season
- Nazim Aliyev (Khazar Sumgayit), (39 goals), 1992
Azerbaijani League Champions and Top ScorersEdit
Performance by clubEdit
|Club||Winners||Runners-up||Third place||Winning years|
|Neftchi Baku||1992, 1995-96, 1996-97, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2020-21|
|Qarabağ||1993, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20|
|Kapaz||1994-95, 1997-98, 1998-99|
|Inter Baku/Keşla||2007-08, 2009-10|
Azerbaijan SSR ChampionsEdit
Azerbaijan Premier League clubs have almost complete freedom to sign whatever number and category of players they wish. There is no team or individual salary cap, no squad size limit, no age restrictions other than those applied by general employment law, no restrictions on the overall number of foreign players, and few restrictions on individual foreign players – all players with foreign nationality, including those able to claim a passport through a parent or grandparent, are eligible to play, and top players from outside the EU are able to obtain Azerbaijani work permits.
The only restriction on selection is the "Under-21 rule". This rule states that each club must include at least two players under the age of 21 in its matchday squad. Opinions on this rule appear to be divided among APL managers.
The current Azerbaijan Premier League trophy was developed by the Professional Football League of Azerbaijan and the trophy has been awarded to the champion of Azerbaijan since the end of the 2009–10 season, replacing the previous Premier League trophy that had existed for only few years.
Monthly and annualEdit
In addition to the winner's Trophy and the individual winner's medal players receive, Azerbaijan Premier League also awards the monthly Player of the Month award. Following the season, the awards such as the Player of the Year, Manager of the Year, and Young Player of the Year from Azerbaijan Premier League are handed out.
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