The Iraqi Premier Football League (Arabic: الدوري العراقي الممتاز), is the top level of the Iraqi football league system. Contested by 20 clubs, it is operated by the Iraq Football Association (IFA) and operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Division One.
|Organising body||Iraq Football Association|
|Founded||18 August 1974|
|Number of teams||20|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||Iraq Division One|
|Domestic cup(s)||Iraq FA Cup|
Iraqi Super Cup
|International cup(s)||AFC Champions League|
Arab Club Champions Cup
|Current champions||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (7th title) |
|Top goalscorer||Sahib Abbas (177)|
|TV partners||Shabab Sport|
|Current: 2021–22 Iraqi Premier League|
The league was formed by the IFA in 1974 as the Iraqi National League of Clubs, the first nationwide league of clubs in Iraq. The current format sees 20 teams playing 38 matches each (playing each team in the league twice, home and away), totalling 380 matches in the season.
Of the 77 teams to have competed since the inception of the league in 1974, 11 have won the title: Al-Zawraa (14), Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (7), Al-Talaba (5), Al-Shorta (5), Erbil (4), Al-Rasheed (3), Al-Minaa (1), Salahaddin (1), Al-Jaish (1), Duhok (1) and Naft Al-Wasat (1). The current champions are Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, who won the title in 2020–21.
Up until 1973, leagues in Iraq were played at a regional level. The Central FA League, the Basra League and the Kirkuk League were all founded in 1948, while the Mosul League was founded in 1950. The first nationwide league to be held in the country was in the 1973–74 season when the National League was formed, with Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya being crowned champions. The IFA then decided to replace the competition with a new National League of Clubs which would only be open to formally registered clubs and not institute-representative teams.
The league held its first season in 1974–75 and was originally composed of ten clubs. The first ever Iraqi Premier League goal was scored by Falah Hassan of Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (who had been renamed to Al-Tayaran) in a 1–1 draw with Al-Sinaa. Al-Tayaran were crowned champions of the inaugural season which featured the following teams:
"Baghdad's Big Four" dominanceEdit
|out of 13|
| League champions|
Of the four teams, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya have earned more top-four finishes (35) than any other side over the 43 completed seasons, meanwhile Al-Zawraa have won the league title the most times (14) and Al-Shorta have retained the league most recently in the 2012–13 and 2013–14 seasons. From the 1989–90 season until the 2005–06 season, the league was won by one of the four Baghdad teams every time.
After the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, players started to leave the Baghdad-based clubs and join clubs in the North such as Erbil and Duhok due to the poor security situation in the capital city. This led to a shift in the dominance of the "Big Four" as Erbil won three consecutive league titles from 2007 to 2009 with Duhok winning the league in 2010. In the 2008–09 season, none of Baghdad's Big Four clubs finished in the top four and this is the only time that this has happened in the history of the league; the top four spots were occupied by Erbil, Al-Najaf, Duhok and Al-Amana. Baghdad's Big Four have returned to dominating the league in recent seasons though, winning seven out of the last eight league titles.
The Premier League is operated by the Iraq Football Association, which is directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the Premier League and has full control over new rules adopted by the league.
There are 20 clubs in the Iraqi Premier League. During the course of a season each club plays the others twice (a double round-robin system), once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents, for a total of 38 games (however, all matches between Baghdad's Big Four clubs are played at the neutral venue of Al-Shaab Stadium to accommodate more spectators). Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference, and then goals scored. If still equal, teams are deemed to occupy the same position. If there is a tie for the championship, for relegation, or for qualification to other competitions, a play-off match at a neutral venue decides rank. Each club is allowed a maximum of four foreign players in their squad. The winners of the league qualify for the Iraqi Super Cup, a match played against the winners of the Iraq FA Cup (if the league winners also win the Iraq FA Cup, they play the league runners-up instead).
Promotion and relegationEdit
The two teams at the bottom of the table are relegated into the Iraq Division One, while the top two teams in the Division One are promoted. The 18th-placed team and the third-placed team in the Division One play a play-off match. The winner of this play-off plays the next season in the Premier League, and the loser in the Division One.
|Al-Zawraa||14||1975–76, 1976–77, 1978–79, 1990–91, 1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2005–06, 2010–11, 2015–16, 2017–18|
|Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya||7||1974–75, 1989–90, 1991–92, 1996–97, 2004–05, 2016–17, 2020–21|
|Al-Talaba||5||1980–81, 1981–82, 1985–86, 1992–93, 2001–02|
|Al-Shorta||5||1979–80, 1997–98, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2018–19|
|Erbil||4||2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2011–12|
|Al-Rasheed||3||1986–87, 1987–88, 1988–89|
Twenty clubs compete in the 2021–22 Iraqi Premier League, including three promoted from the Division One:
|First season in
|First season of
current spell in
|Al-Sinaa[a]||1st (Division One)||1974–75||38||2021–22||0||–|
|Newroz[b]||2nd (Division One)||2021–22||1||2021–22||0||–|
|Samarra||3rd (Division One)||1989–90||23||2021–22||0||–|
- Founding member of the Premier League
- Never been relegated from the Premier League
Seasons in Premier LeagueEdit
77 teams have taken part in at least a single round of the Iraqi Premier League since its first season in 1974–75 up until the 2021–22 season (not counting the qualifying rounds of the 2000–01 season). The teams in bold are competing in the Iraqi Premier League in the 2021–22 season. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and Al-Shorta are the only teams to have played in every single one of the 48 Iraqi Premier League seasons.
Qualification for Asian competitionsEdit
Qualification criteria for 2022Edit
From the 2021–22 season, the champions of the Premier League qualify for the subsequent season's AFC Champions League group stage, while the league runners-up qualify for the AFC Cup group stage alongside the winner of the Iraq FA Cup. If the same team wins the league and the cup, the third-placed team in the league qualifies for the AFC Cup group stage. The winners of the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup may earn an additional qualification for the subsequent season's AFC Champions League qualifying play-offs if they are not in the top two.
The number of places allocated to Iraqi clubs in AFC competitions is dependent upon the position the country holds in the AFC Club Competitions Ranking, which is calculated based upon the performance of teams in AFC competitions in the previous four years.
|Ranking||Member Association||Club Points||100%||ACL 2023
|AFC Cup 2023 |
|1||3||+2||1 (W)||Saudi Arabia||10.000||26.350||0.000||18.450||54.800||100.000||3+1||0|
|2||6||+4||1 (E)||South Korea||18.350||13.600||0.000||21.875||53.825||98.221||3+1||0|
|8||8||—||5 (W)||United Arab Emirates||8.100||7.633||0.000||14.400||30.133||54.987||1+2||0|
|11||25||+14||5 (E)||Hong Kong||3.300||3.650||0.000||16.500||23.450||42.792||1+2||0|
Collectively, Iraqi clubs have reached nine finals of Asian club competitions. Al-Shorta were the first team to do so when they reached the Asian Club Championship final in 1971, defeating holders Taj Tehran 2–0 in the semis. They were set to face Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final but refused to play the game in protest at the Israeli occupation of Palestine, therefore taking the runner-up spot. They were referred to as champions by the Iraqi media and were greeted with a heroes' reception upon their return to Baghdad, holding an open top bus parade.
Al-Rasheed became the second Iraqi team to reach the final of the Asian Club Championship in 1989 but they lost a two-legged final on away goals to Al-Saad of Qatar. Al-Talaba reached the final of the 1995 Asian Cup Winners' Cup but they lost it 2–1 to Bellmare Hiratsuka, and five years later, Al-Zawraa lost the final of the same competition 1–0 to Shimizu S-Pulse in 2000. Erbil reached the final of Asia's second-tier tournament, the AFC Cup, twice in 2012 and 2014 but lost both times to Al-Kuwait and Al-Qadsia respectively. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya managed to win the AFC Cup when they beat Indian club Bengaluru FC 1–0 in the 2016 final, and they won the competition for the second consecutive season in 2017 by beating FC Istiklol by the same scoreline. They earned a record third AFC Cup title in a row with a 2–0 defeat of Altyn Asyr in 2018.
Performance in Arab competitionEdit
The Premier League champions also qualify for the Arab Club Champions Cup alongside the league runners-up, while the league's third-placed team is admitted into the Arab Club Champions Cup qualifying play-offs.
Al-Shorta won the Arab Club Champions Cup in 1982 by defeating Al-Nejmeh 4–2 on aggregate in the final, Meanwhile, Al-Rasheed won the Arab Club Champions Cup three times in a row in 1985, 1986 and 1987.
The league was founded as the National League and has been renamed several times, with the current Premier League name remaining in place since 2013. The competition has had title sponsorship rights sold to two companies, which were Asiacell in the 2011–12 season and Fuchs Petrolub in the 2015–16 season.
|1974–1988||No sponsor||National League|
|2011–2012||Asiacell||Asiacell Elite League|
|2012–2013||No sponsor||Elite League|
|2015–2016||Fuchs||Fuchs Premier League|
|2016–present||No sponsor||Premier League|
- As of 25 November 2021.
|1||Sahib Abbas||177||1988–1989, 1991–1998, 2001–2002, 2004–2007, 2008, 2008–2010, 2011–2012||Salahaddin (42), Al-Zawraa (62), Al-Talaba (18), Karbalaa (50), Al-Sinaa (5)|
|2||Karim Saddam||170||1979–1986, 1987–1996||Al-Sinaa (23), Al-Jaish (11), Al-Rasheed (4), Al-Zawraa (126), Al-Shorta (6)|
|3||Ali Hashim||169||1987–1998, 1999, 2000–2001, 2002–2004||Al-Najaf (148), Al-Karkh (21)|
|4||Hussein Abdullah||165||1991–2010||Al-Sinaa (32), Al-Naft (16), Diyala (40), Duhok (56), Erbil (14), Kirkuk (2), Peris (5)|
|5||Amjad Radhi||162||2006–2015, 2016–present||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (98), Erbil (61), Al-Najaf (3)|
|6||Younis Abid Ali||157||1983–1993, 1993–2000||Al-Shorta (135), Al-Rasheed (15), Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (3), Al-Difaa Al-Jawi (4)|
|7||Hammadi Ahmad||152||2004–present||Samarra (19), Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (133)|
|8||Ahmed Radhi||146||1981–1993, 1997–1999||Al-Zawraa (103), Al-Rasheed (43)|
|9||Alaa Kadhim||143||1988–1993, 1996–1998, 1998–2007||Al-Sinaa (8), Al-Talaba (135)|
|Alaa Abdul-Zahra||143||2004–2006, 2012–2014, 2014–present||Al-Zawraa (54), Duhok (26), Al-Shorta (63)|
Italics denotes players still playing professional football,
Bold denotes players still playing in the Iraqi Premier League.
The current Iraqi Premier League trophy has been in use since the 2009–10 season and was designed by Iraq Football Association member Zuhair Nadhum, with the design being implemented by Qahtan Salim. The materials used to make the trophy were imported from China.
The trophy is a flat shield, predominantly golden in colour. In the centre of the shield is a football made from golden and mirrored pieces, with a map of Iraq in the centre of the ball. Inside the map reads the word Iraq in Arabic, with the words Premier League Shield underneath (also in Arabic) completed with the season. Surrounding the football are the words Iraq Football Association written in Arabic at the top and in English at the bottom in silver text. Surrounding that text is another ring, the top half of which contains the Flag of Iraq and the bottom half of which contains 18 golden stars, representing the 18 historical provinces of Iraq. Connecting the two halves of the outer ring on both sides is the IFA's logo.
- Most titles: 14, Al-Zawraa
- Most consecutive title wins: 3 – joint record:
- Most consecutive wins in a season: 11, Al-Shorta (13 March 1998 – 22 May 1998)
- Most consecutive wins from beginning of season: 9 – joint record:
- Fewest losses in a season: 0 – joint record:
- Longest unbeaten run: 39 games – joint record:
- Highest attendance, single game: 68,000, Al-Shorta v. Al-Zawraa (at Al-Shaab Stadium, 13 December 1991)
- Most consecutive matches without conceding a goal: 14, Erbil (16 July 2009 – 20 March 2010)
- Fewest failures to score in a match in a season: 0 (scored in every game) – joint record:
- Biggest win: joint record:
- Youngest player: Amjad Kalaf, 13 years and 101 days (for Al-Kut v. Al-Basra, 14 January 2005)
- First ever non-Iraqi players to play in the league: Ismaël Bangoura (Guinea) for Erbil, Yousef Saeed Meziyan (Palestine) for Zakho and Soualio Bakayoko (Benin) for Zakho (2 January 2010)
- Most Premier League titles: 7 – joint record:
- Salam Hashim (three with Al-Rasheed in 1986–87, 1987–88 and 1988–89 and four with Al-Zawraa in 1990–91, 1993–94, 1994–95 and 1995–96)
- Mohamed Jassim Mahdi (seven with Al-Zawraa in 1990–91, 1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01)
- Hussein Abdul-Wahid (two with Al-Zawraa in 2005–06 and 2015–16, two with Erbil in 2008–09 and 2011–12 and three with Al-Shorta in 2012–13, 2013–14 and 2018–19)
- Most Premier League titles as captain: 3 – joint record:
- First Premier League goal: Falah Hassan (for Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya v. Al-Sinaa, 4 October 1974)
- Most top scorer awards: 4, Karim Saddam (1988–89, 1989–90, 1990–91, 1992–93)
- Most consecutive top scorer awards: 3 – joint record:
- Most consecutive Premier League matches scored in: 15, Ahmed Radhi (for Al-Zawraa, 1992–93)
- Most goals in a season: 36, Younis Abid Ali (1993–94, 50 rounds)
- Most goals in a single game: 6 – joint record:
- Fastest goal: 7 seconds, Alaa Abdul-Sattar (for Al-Zawraa v. Al-Kadhimiya, 25 January 2002)
- First non-Iraqi player to score a hat-trick: Jean Michel N'Lend (for Al-Shorta v. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, 18 November 2012)
- First goalkeeper to score a goal: Raad Hammoudi (for Al-Shorta v. Al-Samawa, 1975–76)
- First goalkeeper to score a goal from open play: Ahmed Obaid (for Al-Karkh v. Al-Sulaikh, 21 February 1997)
- "Football leagues set up in Iraq's main centres". The Iraq Times. 16 October 1948.
- "Mosul forms new football group". The Iraq Times. 11 December 1950.
- Al-Sabti, Ali (2018). Iraqi League History 1956-1974. Iraq.
- Al-Sabti, Ali (2014). Iraqi League History 1974-2011. Iraq.
- "The story of Al-Tayaran winning the first Iraqi League championship". Kooora. 9 May 2009.
- Al-Munshi, Dr.Dhia (2005). Iraqi Football Encyclopedia: Chico.. Jamoli… and football in Iraq. Citadel Printing & Design, Al-Saadoun, Baghdad.
- http://www.goalzz.com/main.aspx?c=4070 Goalzz.com
- "The Iraq Football Association reveals the league shield for the 2012–13 season with materials imported from China". Goal.com (in Arabic). September 3, 2013.