The Ukrainian Premier League is the highest division of Ukrainian annual football championship. The league was founded in 1991 and 2008-09 is the league's 18th season. There are 16 clubs in the competition. At the end of the season, the bottom two clubs are relegated to the Persha Liha and replaced by the two top clubs from that league. As of the end of the 2007 season, FC Dynamo Kyiv became the reigning Ukrainian Premier League champion, having won the most titles, 12 in 16 years. SC Tavriya Simferopol won the first championship, and all subsequent titles have gone to either Dynamo or FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Only 5 teams, Dynamo, Shakhtar, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Tavria, and Metalurh Zaporizhia have participated in all 16 Ukrainian Vyscha Liha competitions.
The league, as well as the lower divisions, is governed by the Professional Football League (PFL) of Ukraine. The PFL is an association that represents 67 Ukrainian professional football clubs, which are represented by 78 teams (a few clubs have more than one team, which play in different divisions. The professional league was organized in 1996; before that, Vyscha Liha was governed by the Football Federation of Ukraine.
As a result of this increase in foreign-born players, clubs in the Vyscha Liha are allowed to field no more than seven foreigners at one time from this season and this limit is expected to worsen to six foreigners. In addition, clubs are subject to a $15,000 fine upon acquiring a foreign player. One of the biggest proponents of the foreigner limit is the national team coach Oleg Blokhin, who threatened to quit the national team if the limit was not made stricter.
The clubs mainly affected by this rule include the few clubs that participate annually in European competitions. They argue that the foreigner-limit is detrimental to the development of Ukrainian football in general. However, as a result of this limit, these clubs have had to increase their efforts finding and training Ukrainian talent that is good enough to represent these teams.
The foreigner-limit itself has also been recently contested by several cases, but primarily by one filed by Georgian international Georgi Demetradze, who argued that the limit impeded on his working rights and is illegal under the Ukrainian constitution. The courts however argued that no case exists, such that players are not guaranteed first-team football, and subsequently the limit is not considered a violation of trade.
Previous Champions 2008-09 Dynamo Kyiv 2007-08 Shakhtar Donetsk 2006-07 Dynamo Kyiv 2005-06 Shakhtar Donetsk 2004-05 Shakhtar Donetsk 2003-04 Dynamo Kyiv 2002-03 Dynamo Kyiv 2001-02 Shakhtar Donetsk 2000-01 Dynamo Kyiv 1999-00 Dynamo Kyiv 1998-99 Dynamo Kyiv 1997-98 Dynamo Kyiv 1996-97 Dynamo Kyiv 1995-96 Dynamo Kyiv 1994-95 Dynamo Kyiv 1993-94 Dynamo Kyiv 1992-93 Dynamo Kyiv 1992 Tavriya Simferopol
Ukrainian Premier League 2008-09 For a overview of who plays where in the Ukraine, go to Footiemap.com to access their excellent Ukranian Football map. At the half way point of the season Dynamo Kiev continued their excellent form in Europe by leading the league, dropping only 8 points from a possible 51. In second place were Metalist Kharkiv. Donestk were some 12 points behind in fifth place. However, the two rivals met in the semi final of the Ukranian Cup in March 2009, the winner playing the successful team from the Metalist Kharkiv Vorskla Poltava tie. Dynamo ended up winning the league by fifteen points.
In Europe the Ukranians have had a very good season. Both Dynamo Kiev and Shaktar finished third in their respective groups and thus went through to the knock out stages of teh UEFA Cup in February. Dynamo came within 3 minutes of causing an upset in the final game against Arsenal when a winning goal relegated them to 3rd place.
In the Round 32 of the UEFA Cup Dynamo draw Valencia, Doneskt hosted Spurs and Metalist NEC after coming through their first round group. All made it through and eventually the two great rivals ended up playing each other in the UEFA Semi-final with Donestk eventually winning 2-1 on aggregate and going on to beat Werder Bremen in the last ever UEFA Cup final in Istanbul.
FC Arsenal Kyiv from Kiev The strange named Arsenal used to be known as CKSA Kiev. Funded by government money for most of the 1980's. They play at the 16,750 Dynamo Stadium - pictured left. The stadium is also home to Dynamo Kyiv, Ukraines most famous club with 12 Championships. For more details on the club and the ground click here.
Chornomorets from Odessa A couple of Ukranian Cup wins during the 1990's are about all that the club from Odessa can muster. The Tsentralnyi Stadium is pencilled in as one of the host venues for Euro2012. The stadium, pictured right, currently holds 34,362 fans.
Dnipro from Dnipropetrovsk Russian champions as recenly as 1988, the club have struggled since the Soviet league broke up. The club moved to the new 31,800 seater stadium, pictured left, in September 2008 and is the first venue for Euro2012 to be completed.
Karpaty Lviv from Lviv. Another stadium that looks set to host matches in Euro2012. The club have finished 3rd in the league on two occasions. The current stadium pictured right, is known simply as the Ukraina and seats 29,000 fans.
FC Kharkiv from Kharkiv Actually known as FC Arsenal Kharkiv after they were promoted to the top league for the first time in 2006. The Metalist Stadium, pictured left, in the centre of the city, holds just over 30,000 fans.
Kryvbas Kryvyi from Rih A mid table team from the city of Rih. The club have played in the top league for six season. They play at the Metalurg Stadium which can seat 29,782 and is pictured on the right.
Metalist Kharkiv from Kharkiv Last season the club finished in 3rd place - their best ever finish and qualified for the UEFA Cup where they narrowly lost over two legs to Everton. They play at the Metalist Arena, pictured left, that holds just over 30,000.
Metalurh Donetsk from Donetsk Donetsk's other club, Metalurh have finished 3rd on three occasions in the past 10 years. Their stadium, confusingly known as the Shahktar stadium holds 31,718 fans. See the picture on the right for an overview of the stadium.
Metalurh Zaporizhzhya from Zaporizhzhya. The club have played in all of the Ukranian championships since inception in the 1990's. The Staluych Arena, pictured left, opened its doors in July 2006 and holds nearly 12,000 fans.
Naftovyk-Ukrnafta from Okhtyrka. Promoted to the top league in 2006 but relegated after just one season and having the smallest stadium in the league, which holds just 5,256. The Naftovyk Stadium is pictured to the right.
Shakhtar Donetsk from Donetsk. Shakhtar are now a major name in European football, having played in the Champions League Group Stages on a number of occasions including this season. They play at the 25,800 seater RSK Olimpiyskyi stadium - pictured left.
SC Tavriya from Simferopil. The club were actually the first ever Ukrainian champions back in 1992. They haven't managed to win any honours since. Their stadium, pictured right, is known as the Lokomotiv Stadium and holds 19,978 fans in an open air bowl.
Vorskla Poltava from Poltava Since promotion in 1996 the team have finished in the top 3 once, and even made the UEFA Cup in 1997. Their stadium, the Vorskla Stadium (pictured left) holds 25,000 in a classic Eastern bloc style stadium.
Zakarpattia Uzhhorod from Uzhorod. Promoted back to the top league in 2006, the club lasted just twelve months in the top flight before relegation again in April 2008. Their Avanhard Stadium, pictured right, holds 12,000 fans.
Zorya Luhansk from Luhansk. Russian Champions from 1972, Zorya won the Ukrainian first division in 2006 and returned to the Premier League. They play at the 22,320 all seater Avanhard Stadium - pictured left.
Newly promoted to the top division for the 2008/09 season were FC Illichivets Mariupol who play in the 12,680 stadium of the same name (see left), and FC Lviv who groundshare the 28,000 capacity Ukraina Stadium.