The Malta Independent 18 September 2021, Saturday

The Premier League Is 25 years old

Malta Independent Sunday, 14 August 2005, 00:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Maltese Premier league. Since league football started in Malta, 92 editions of league championships have been held, first known as the First Division, and from season 1980/81, as the Premier League.

It was in a letter appearing in the Daily Malta Chronicle (2 December 1907) that it was proposed that a league Championship between the military teams serving in Malta be played to make the game of football more popular in Malta.

In season 1903/04 on the initiative of the same daily newspaper, it had been announced that a civilian league championship would be introduced in Malta. Yet it was not played.

Four years later, in 1907/08 the Boys Empire League introduced their League Championship. Six teams, four of them Maltese (Melita-Vittoriosa, Lyceum, the British Empire League and Dockyard Athletics) participated. The R.A. Burgles won this unofficial championship.

Original organisers

The Malta Athletic Club is still considered as the original organisers of the Civilian League Championship. In fact this active club, the best of its kind at that time, introduced the League Championship in 1909/10. It was played at Marsa on a single round between five teams – all Maltese – Floriana FC, the eventual winners, Sliema Wanderers, St Joseph (Msida), the Boys’ Empire League and the Malta University. The Championship was intended to create a good sporting spirit among the civilian teams.

The Malta Football Association

The Malta Football Association organised the League Championship regularly and then also introduced several other competitions, including the national Knock-Out.

In those early seasons, the League championship was played in a period between six or eight weeks. Single round fixtures were a failure. To overcome the many difficulties, a few experiments were made and these helped to improve matters, including the financial aspect of the new sport. The clubs always depended on the revenue from the gates.

Second round fixtures were introduced in 1929/30 and interest in the League Championships increased.

Weekend programmes

Almost from the beginning, the Malta Football Association adopted the procedure that competitive matches were to be played on the afternoons of Saturday and Sunday and on public holidays.

The MFA obliged its affiliated clubs to play at full strength, in all matches. Promotion and relegation (Competition Rule 3) were introduced in season 1939/40, but because of World War II, the methods became effective in season 1945/46.

The three eras

The first era of the League Championship was played between 1909/10 and 1939/40.

The second era started just after the Second World War (1944/45-1979/80). During these two phases of the League Championship, the highest division was the First Division.

The third era started in 1980/81 when the Malta Football Association introduced the Premier League. Yet the Association maintained the status of the First Division. Second Division teams replaced the First Division teams. The Third Division became the Second Division, though the Third Division was never abandoned.

Our League Championship is placed in the eighth place in the World Standings of the World League Championships. Founded in 1909/10, the Malta League Championship follows England (1882), Sweden (1896), Italy, Holland (1896), Switzerland (1898), Hungary (1901) and Germany (1903).

27 teams have taken part in Premier League so far

It is interesting to note that 27 teams have taken part in the Premier League, though since the MFA started its Division One in 1909/10, 70 teams have taken part – 43 of them in the Division One, that is, till 1979/80.

The 27 teams who have played in the Premier League are Valletta, Hibernians, Sliema, Floriana, Hamrun S., Birkirkara, Zurrieq, Rabat, Pieta H., Naxxar L., Luxol St Andrew’s, Lija A., St Patrick, Marsa, Tarxien R., Marsaxlokk, Xghajra T., Mqabba H., Msida SJ, Mosta, St George’s, Gozo FC, Balzan Y., Mellieha, Zebbug R., Senglea and Gzira.

In the 67 editions of Division One, 2,281 matches were played. 1,759 were won and 522 were drawn. 7,624 goals were scored.

In the 25 years of the Premier League, the number of matches played has been 2,298, of which 1,829 were won and 469 were drawn with the amount of goals scored being 6,925.

Overall, 4,579 matches have been played of which 3,588 were won and 991 were drawn. The total number of goals scored over the 92 editions of league football in Malta is 14,549.

The highest win recorded was that in season 2002/2003 when Sliema Wanderers beat Xghajra Tornadoes 11-0.

Footballer of the Year

Hibernians and Sliema had the biggest number of players winning the prestigious award – six each – during the past 25 years.

These were Ernest Spiteri Gonzi, Charles Scerri, Michael Woods, Mario Muscat, Adrian Mifsud and Andrew Cohen (Hibernians) and Noel Turner (2), John Buttigieg, Leli Fabri, Ernest Barry and Stefan Giglio of Sliema.

Valletta had five players – Gilbert Agius (2), Nicki Saliba (2) and Leonard Farrugia, while Hamrun S. had four – Raymond Vella (2), Michael Degiorgio and Joe Brincat.

Rabat had three with Carmel Busuttil winning the award twice and the other being Silvio Vella. Zurrieq’s Charles Muscat also won the award once.

Undefeated champions

Hibernians and Hamrun won the Premier League title twice undefeated. The others were Rabat and Valletta.

Danilo Doncic, now with Sliema after a successful spell with Valletta, is the leading scorer with 101 goals. He scored 32 in season 1996/97 for Valletta, and 32, 18 and 19 respectively in the three seasons from 2001 to 2004.

Joe Zarb of Valletta follows with 57 goals, scoring them over four seasons (11, 17, 12 and 17) between 1988 and 1994.

Premier League victories

Valletta lead the list of Premier League championship victories with seven. They are followed by Hibernians and Sliema on five each, Hamrun 4, Rabat 2, Floriana and Birkirkara once each.

Valletta and Sliema have registered a hat-trick of successive wins, the citizens between 1996 and 1999 and Sliema between 2002 and 2005.

  • don't miss