Latvian Higher League

Latvian Higher League or Virslīga is a professional football league and the top tier of association football in Latvia. Organised by the Latvian Football Federation, the Higher League is contested by 10 clubs. The full name of the league is Optibet Virslīga for sponsorship reasons since 2019.

Latvian Higher League
Logo virsliga.svg
Founded1927
CountryLatvia
ConfederationUEFA (Europe)
Number of teams10
Level on pyramid1
Relegation toLatvijas 1. līga
Domestic cup(s)Latvian Cup
Latvian Supercup
International cup(s)UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa Conference League
Current championsRiga FC
(2020)
Most championshipsSkonto (15)
Websitehttps://optibetvirsliga.com
Current: 2021 Latvian Higher League

History and league formatEdit

HistoryEdit

The first all-national Latvian championship, which succeeded the Riga Football League and other regional leagues, was organized in 1927, which lasted until the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940. After World War II, between 1945 and 1991 the championship of Soviet Latvia was the main footballing competition in the Latvian SSR.

With Latvia regaining full independence in August 1991, the newly established Latvian Football Federation (LFF) decided to reorganise its competitions within the Virslīga from 1992.[1] The same year Latvia returned to FIFA and became a member of UEFA.

FormatEdit

After the 2007 season the league increased from eight to ten sides.[2] In 2008 each side played the others four times. From 2015 till 2018 there were eight participating clubs. This was increased to nine for the 2019 season and ten for the 2020 season.[3]

At the end of the season, the lowest placed team are automatically relegated into 1. līga, and the winner of the 1. līga automatically takes their place. The second lowest placed team in Virslīga and the second team of 1. līga play two matches for a place in the Virslīga the following season. The winner of Virslīga, the champion of Latvia, plays in the UEFA Champions League qualifying round. The second and third placed clubs play in the UEFA Europa League qualifying games.[4]

A winter off-season league cup, the Virslīga Winter Cup, was played in January of each year from 2013 to 2017, which was replaced in 2018 by the Virslīga Cup (Latvian: Virslīgas kausa izcīņa).[5]

Sponsorships and name changesEdit

 
LMT Virslīga logo (2005–2010)

The League has changed sponsors for several times. From 2005 until 2010 it was known as the LMT Virslīga. No sponsorships were established for the 2011 season. Starting from the 2012 season, the league was reorganised in partnership with an NGO as "Latvijas Futbola virslīga",[6] adopting the NGO's name in the 2012 season. From 2013 to 2015, the league was known as the SMScredit.lv Virslīga due to a contract with the online microfinance company SMScredit.[7] In March 2016, it was announced that the Virslīga would be sponsored by SynotTip Sports Bar on a three-year contract.[8] They were succeeded by betting firm Optibet on a two-year contract, beginning with the 2019 season.[9]

Clubs (2020)Edit

Locations of the 2021 Latvian Higher League teams
Club Position
in 2020
Liepāja 5th
Metta / LU 9th
Riga FC 1st
Rīgas FS 2nd
Spartaks Jūrmala 6th
Valmiera 3th
Ventspils 4rd
BFC Daugavpils 8th
Noah Jurmala 1st in First League

Titles by yearEdit

Source:[10]

Riga Football LeagueEdit

Latvian Championship 1922–1940 (independent)Edit

Football Championship of Latvian SSR 1942–1990Edit

Since independence in 1991Edit

Notable managers and playersEdit

Most titlesEdit

This is a list of clubs, in order of most titles won in championships in independent Latvia (1922–1940 and 1991 to date).[10] Teams in bold are part of 2020 Virslīga.

 
Players of FK Ventspils celebrate after becoming champions in 2010

By clubEdit

Club No. of Titles Years won
Skonto Riga 15 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010
RFK Riga 8 1924, 1925, 1926, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1935, 1940
Olimpija Liepāja 7 1927, 1928, 1929, 1933, 1936, 1938, 1939
Ventspils 6 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014
Riga FC 3 2018, 2019, 2020
Liepājas Metalurgs 2 2005, 2009
Kaiserwald Riga 2 1922, 1923
JPFS/Spartaks Jūrmala 2 2016, 2017
FK Liepāja 1 2015
Daugava Daugavpils 1 2012
ASK Riga 1 1932

RivalriesEdit

The most well-known rivalry is the Kurzeme Derby (Kurzemes derbijs) between Ventspils and Liepāja.[11][circular reference] The two biggest clubs in Kurzeme have played 86 matches between themselves with a record of 31–28–27 (including Metalurgs) in favor of Liepāja prior to the 2019 Virslīga.[12]

Since 2016, the Riga Derby (Rīgas derbijs) was started between Riga FC and Rīgas FS as two clubs were promoted at the same time. A 2019 match in Skonto Stadium between the two sides broke a ten-year attendance record.[13]

Virslīga clubs in international competitionsEdit

UEFA competitions

Ventspils was the Latvian first club who qualified for the group stage of a UEFA club competition, reaching the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League group stage.[14][circular reference]

Skonto reached the UEFA Champions League last qualifying stage for a number of times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but lost to such teams like FC Barcelona in 1997, Internazionale FC in 1998 and Chelsea FC in 1999.

Commonwealth of Independent States Cup

Runners-up (3): 2001, 2003, 2004.

Runners-up (1): 2007.

Baltic League

Champions (1): 2007.

Champions (1): 2010.

Runners-up (2): 2007, 2011.

Champions (1): 2011.

Runners-up (1): 2008.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Latvia". UEFA. All rights reserved. 3 September 2018.
  2. ^ Mike Dryomin (14 March 2008). "Latvia 2007". RSSSF. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Sacensību sistēmas modeļa apstiprināšana". lff.lv (in Latvian).
  4. ^ Hartmanis, Martins (1 December 2007). "LMT Virslīga new season calendar published". Latvian Football Federation. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  5. ^ "Ziemas kauss futbolā vairs nenotiks, to aizstās Virslīgas kausa izcīņa". LA.lv (in Latvian). 22 December 2017. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  6. ^ "About Virslīga". Biedrība Latvijas Futbola Virslīga. Futbolavirsliga.lv. Archived from the original on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 16 June 2013. (in Latvian)
  7. ^ "Latvijas futbola virslīgai nākamajā sezonā būs jauns ģenerālsponsors". Public Broadcasting of Latvia (in Latvian). 17 October 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  8. ^ "Virslīga ar "SynotTip" noslēdz vērienīgāko līgumu līgas vēsturē" (in Latvian). Sportacentrs.com. 10 March 2016. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Becomes main sponsor of Latvian football league". Enlabs AB. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  10. ^ a b Almantas Lauzadis and Hans Schöggl (23 March 2017). "Latvia – List of Champions". RSSSF. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  11. ^ "Kurzeme derby".
  12. ^ "Futbola virslīgā tiks aizvadīts Kurzemes derbijs". TVNET (in Latvian). 20 June 2019.
  13. ^ Suveizda, Agris (2 June 2019). "Rīgas derbijs labo Virslīgas desmitgades apmeklētības rekordu". SportaCentrs.com (in Latvian).
  14. ^ "Europa League group stage".

External linksEdit