The League of Ireland Premier Division (Irish: Príomhroinn Sraith na hÉireann), also known as the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, is the top level division in both the League of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland football league system. The division was formed in 1985 following a reorganisation of the League of Ireland. St. Patrick's Athletic and Bohemians are the only current League of Ireland clubs never to have been relegated from the Premier Division. Since 2003 the Premier Division has operated as a summer league.
The top team in the Premier Division currently qualifies for the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round. The second-placed and third placed-teams and winners of the FAI Cup qualify for the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round. Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk have both qualified for the group stages of the UEFA Europa League. In 2011 Rovers became the first team in League of Ireland history to reach the group stages and Dundalk repeated the feat in 2016.
The League of Ireland Premier Division's UEFA coefficient accumulates to a total value of 5.125 as of September 2013. Between 1998 and 2010, the league's place on the coefficient table rose 15 places, the biggest climb of any league in Europe. Its position of 29th in 2010 was also its highest since 1986. Since June 2010, the league's ranking has declined and it stood at 43rd place at the end of the 2013/2014 season, a drop of 14 places since 2010 and the league's worst ranking since 1998. In the 2000s, the Premier Division's coefficient vastly improved relative to the late 1990s, but at a cost. The introduction of full-time professional football by a number of clubs and the league's decision to become a summer league in 2003, improved the performance of Premier Division clubs in Europe. Increased fitness levels resulted from both, while full-time professionalism retained Irish players within the league, attracted foreign players to the league and generally improved the standard of football. At least one League of Ireland club has progressed to the next round of a European competition in every season from 2003 to 2014.
However, the costs associated with professional football and the pursuit of European successs have been blamed for the financial difficulties suffered by Premier Division clubs. This period of improvement came to an end in 2010 with the league's ranking dropping. From 29th in 2010, it dropped to 31st in 2011, 33rd in 2012, 36th in 2013 and 43rd for the 2014 rankings. The league recovered to 40th for the 2015 rankings and finished 41st in the 2016 rankings.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article League of Ireland Premier Division
, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0