The Ukrainian football league system has developed over the years.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, all professional clubs from Ukraine have joined own national football competitions as the Soviet competitions transitioned to Russian. The amateur-level clubs/teams played at Ukrainian republican competitions always. The top two tiers traditionally have a single group with double round robin system. The third tier, while having the same type of competition organization, usually has two groups organized geographically. The depth of the nation league competitions is about three levels. The amateur national competitions, while being mandated to participate before joining professional competitions, are often ignored and many teams on various types of "justifications" were allowed to skip those competitions. There is no practical inter-regional league competitions. For short period there existed separate Donbas League which was in an oscillation. Regional competitions in oblasts and the autonomous republic usually have one or two tiers, separate regions had up to five tiers sometimes. Information about regional competitions is not popularized by the FFU/UAF.

A sarcastic comment about activities of the UAF Committee on clubs' certification by the Ukrainian PFL sports director Yevhen Moroz on 9 July 2020[1] was answered by the UAF Control and Disciplinary Committee with an official reprimand.[2]

Parallel to the senior team, there are also junior team competitions, separate student league, female competitions, and other types of football (indoor, beach, others). Female association football, which was struggling after the fall of the Soviet Union, has shaped into a more stable competition with its own two tier league competition and junior team tournament.

League system (senior teams, male)

Level League(s)/Division(s) P/R
1 Ukrainian Premier League
Premier Liha
16 teams

Decrease 2 (2)
2 Ukrainian First League
Persha Liha
16 teams
Increase 2 (2)
Decrease 4 (1)
3 Ukrainian Second League
Druha Liha
Number of teams changes every season
Increase 4 (1)
Decrease 2
4 Ukrainian Amateur League
(before 1998 – KFK competitions)
Amatorska Liha
35 teams
5 Regional championships (first level)
~25 leagues
6 Regional championships (second level)
~20 leagues
District (city) championships (first level)
Multiple leagues
7 Regional championships (third level)
~5 leagues
District (city) championships (second level)
Multiple leagues
8 Regional championships (fourth level)
~5 leagues
District (city) championships (third level)
Multiple leagues
Ukrainian Premier League (UPL)
Professional Football League (PFL)
Ukrainian Football Amateur Association (AAFU)
Regional competitions

Evolution of the Ukrainian football league system

Tier\Years 1992 1992–1993 1993–1994 1994–1995 1995–1997 1997–2008 2008–present
1 Vyshcha Liga Vyshcha Liga Premier Liga
2 Persha Liga Persha Liga
3 Perekhidna Liga Druha Liga Druha Liga
3 (lower) Perekhidna Liga Tretia Liga
4 no competitions KFK Amatorska Liha Amatorska Liga
5+ Regional championships

League system (senior teams, female)

Unlike male club sport that has multiple organizations, female football is administered by a one "All-Ukrainian Association of Women Football" that until 2012 did not have full membership within the Ukrainian Association of Football (at that time FFU). Only the Higher League has a status of professional.

Level League(s)/Division(s) P/R
1 Higher League
Vyshcha Liha
12 teams
2 First League
Persha Liha
multiple groups
3 Regional championships (first level)

League system (youth teams)

The league system is more based on age. All for levels are national leagues. Regional leagues organize own youth competitions along with adults. In independent Ukraine the first youth competition were established in 1998 and had two categories senior and junior.

In 2001 those competitions were transformed into the FFU Youth League which conducts competitions in four categories based on age. The league also has two divisions for each category between each takes place rotation of teams. Following that, in 2002 there were established youth competitions of the Professional Football League of Ukraine which were conducted among players under 19 of age.

Lads

Age League(s)/Division(s)
U-21 UPL U-21 Championship / Reserve championship
12 teams
U-19 UPL U-19 Championship
14 teams
PFL U-19 Championship
24 teams
U-17 Youth Football League
Multiple groups, 100+ teams
U-16
U-15
U-14
U-13 Leather Ball Cup (unisex competitions)
Shkiryanyi myach

Gals

Age League(s)/Division(s)
U-17 Youth competitions
Multiple groups
U-16
U-15
U-14
U-13 Leather Ball Cup (unisex competitions)
Shkiryanyi myach

Organization

National competitions

Professional status

The first three levels of the football League system in Ukraine are the professional level competitions, the rest are the amateur and sometimes inconsistent. The first four levels are the national type competitions and divided among three independent football organizations:

Amateur status

There is also national youth competition that consists of the youth teams from all of the professional clubs as well as some of the amateurs and schools of Olympic Reserve. The competitions are divided among several age group of participants between ages of 14 and 17. Each professional club is obliged to be represented with at least one team in those competitions.

Regional

The regional competitions are considered amateur and primarily organized by the football organizations of their respective regions. For some period there existed the FFU Council of Regions that was providing some degree of uniformity between the competitions of different regions and answering to the Executive Committee of FFU. There are 27 members of the council including representatives from the cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol. Similar to the national, each regional organization also have a leagues system, but usually do not exceed two levels. There are also cup competitions of each region. The regional youth competitions are organized consequently with the senior competitions and each round of those takes place usually a day prior. Each regional football association has the right upon conclusion of a season recommends the best club or clubs of their choice to the Ukrainian Football Amateur Association.

Student

There also is the Student Football League, which is less notable and it is NOT a part of the league system. The players of the league represent Ukraine in Universiadas as a national team. There were some discussions to spread a similar type of competition through Europe. The national student team sometimes is composed of professional-level players and can be considered as a type of B-team.

Cases with clubs bypassing league structure

FC Boryspil→CSKA-Borysfen→Arsenal Kyiv

See also: FC Borysfen Boryspil and FC Arsenal Kyiv

In early March 1993 there was established a football club in Boryspil which joined the already on going competitions (1992–93 Ukrainian Transitional League) merging with FC Nyva Myronivka, which (the merging) later became temporary. That way in 1993 in the Second League appeared FC Boryspil without competing in the Transitional League. In 1995 FC Boryspil playing in the First League as Borysfen Boryspil received financial support from the Central Sports Club of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (CSK ZSU) and was renamed as CSKA-Borysfen, while the CSK ZSU kept its original club FC CSKA Kyiv playing in the Third League. That year CSKA-Borysfen was promoted to the 1995–96 Ukrainian Premier League and finished just outside of the prize podium placing 4th. In 1996 to manage the CSK ZSU were placed individuals from a company known as "Kiev-Donbass".[3] After that season the original ownership of the Boryspil football club was removed out of CSKA-Borysfen to stop merger with FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk sponsored by Ihor Bakai and the club was renamed as CSKA Kyiv.[4] In 1997 FC Borysfen Boryspil was readmitted to the Second League without participating at amateur competitions. By 2001 CSKA Kyiv ended up in financial crisis, but was bought out by a mayor of Kyiv Oleksandr Omelchenko as he ran for the 2002 Ukrainian parliamentary election and renamed as Arsenal Kyiv after another factor club that existed some 50 years ago.

Yavir Krasnopillia, Spartak Sumy, PFC Sumy

Yavir Krasnopillia from a small town near Sumy which existed since 1982 and represented local forestry made it to the First League. In 1999 there was established FC Spartak Sumy in the First League instead of FC Yavir-Sumy Sumy that couple of years before moved to Sumy. While Spartak continued on, in 2000 Yavir Krasnopillia was revived again in Krasnopillia. Yavir again made it to professional level playing in the Second League and, soon after Spartak Sumy went bankrupt, Yavir was brought again to Sumy and in 2008 transformed into PFC Sumy.

Arsenal Kharkiv, FC Kharkiv

In 2005 Arsenal Kharkiv earned promotion to the 2005–06 Ukrainian Premier League, but instead to the top league was promoted a newly created FC Kharkiv and Arsenal was demoted to the Second League.

Other cases (swapping for promotion or avoiding relegation)

A practice of team swapping is also practiced as a way to avoid league system. In 2007 FC Zirka Kropyvnytskyi failed to get a promotion to the Second League and in 2008 it swapped with FC Olimpik Kropyvnytskyi which already competed in the Second League. In 2003 Prykarpattia Ivano-Frankivsk finished in relegation zone. It soon announced that it merged with LUKOR Kalush that won the Second League and was expected to get promoted. For few years FC Kalush was forced to become the farm team of the club from regional center. In 2017 there was established SC Dnipro-1 as supposedly completely unrelated to FC Dnipro that was under FIFA sanctions for avoiding paying own debts. SC Dnipro-1 was admitted to the 2017–18 Ukrainian Second League without playing in amateur competitions and during the season many FC Dnipro players along with a head coach were transferred to SC Dnipro-1.

Case with Veres and FC Lviv

In 2015 in Rivne was revived NK Veres Rivne and was admitted to the Second League without playing in any amateur competitions. For justification there was used a claim that NK Veres Rivne is a "people's club" like no other that existed before in Ukraine and comparing it to 1. FC Union Berlin. In 2016 it gained promotion to the First League. In 2017 NK Veres Rivne was promoted ahead of FC Desna Chernihiv on pretense that the Chernihiv club had problems with a home stadium. After being promoted Veres Rivne was forced to play in Lviv as its home stadium was in emergency conditions. The next season Veres announced that it merging with FC Lviv that was recently admitted to the Second League from amateur competitions, but instead joined the Second League, while FC Lviv ended up in the Premier League.

Number of professional clubs

With asterisk (*) identified leagues which in certain season carried transitional (semi-professional) status.

Season \ Tier Premier League
(Tier 1)
First League
(Tier 2)
Second League
(Tier 3)
Third League Total
1992 20 28 18* 66
1992–93 16 22 18 18* 74
1993–94 18 20 22 18* 78
1994–95 18 22 22 22 84
1995–96 18 22 43 83
1996–97 16 24 33 73
1997–98 16 22 51 89
1998–99 16 20 46 82
1999–00 16 18 44 78
2000–01 14 18 48 80
2001–02 14 18 55 87
2002–03 16 18 46 80
2003–04 16 18 48 82
2004–05 16 18 44 78
2005–06 16 18 43 77
2006–07 16 20 30 66
2007–08 16 20 34 70
2008–09 16 18 36 70
2009–10 16 18 26 60
2010–11 16 18 24 58
2011–12 16 18 28 62
2012–13 16 18 24 58
2013–14 16 16 19 51
2014–15 14 16 10 40
2015–16 14 16 14 44
2016–17 12 18 17 47
2017–18 12 18 23 53
2018–19 12 16 20 48
2019–20 12 16 22 50
2020–21 14 16 27 57
2021–22 16 16 31 63

References