The Maltese Premier League goes back a surprisingly long time to 1909. With the exception of a year in World War I and 4 years during World War II, it has been held constantly for 101 seasons. Although nowhere near the popularity of the English Premier League or Serie A in households and bars throughout Malta, it is however experiencing somewhat of a resurgence.
Considering Malta was a British colony, the early start in football is hardly surprising. Amateur competitions took place as early as the late 1800’s. By 1900, the Malta Football Association had been formed, and the first professional league was played in the 1909-1910 season, won by Floriana F.C. The first trophy was awarded in 1935, and when the league resumed after World War II, multiple tiers were added as the number of participating clubs surged.
The two teams that finish at the bottom of the Premier League are relegated to the lower tier, the First Division. Conversely, the Champions and Runners up from the First Division are relegated to the Premier League.
The Maltese Premier League’s 12 teams play in two stages. First, the teams play the traditional round-robin format typical in European football. This part of the competition generally lasts from August to February, and teams play 22 matches each. At the end of this round, all points gained are halved, and the teams proceed to play a final 11 matches each until late April/early May. Games are typically held on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 5pm or 7pm. Times do tend to move earlier as the days grow shorter in winter.
Most successful team
Sliema Wanderers have lifted the trophy most, with 26 wins, however Floriana is just 1 title behind at 25. That being said, the last year Floriana won was in 1993. Lately the real battle seems to be between Valletta, Hibernians and Birkirkara, who have 22, 11 and 4 titles respectively.
Should I watch?
The Maltese premier league provides Maltese fans the opportunity to actually go to a stadium, join a communal atmosphere and rally behind a team. And while admittedly Maltese football doesn’t score quite as high on the quality scale as some of the leagues abroad, it still has the capacity to surprise, enthral and entertain (especially when the crowd starts singing the ‘traditional anthems’). And more pertinently, the only way to improve quality is by supporting the league in the first place. Full stands will make players give it their all, and also attract foreign talent, which fuels greater attendance, and greater revenue. While small, Malta has a surprisingly large talent pool playing overseas, so don’t count out local talent just yet.
Which team should I support?
This one is easy, at least for us locals. The one you’re from of course! Or, if they haven’t made it to the Premier League, choose the one closest to where you’re from. That being said, Valletta, Hibernians and Birkirkara are the ‘big ones’, but Pembroke Athleta’s rise has been nothing short of remarkable, and capitalizing on their huge momentum, they might deliver some surprises in the coming seasons.