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Football in Scotland


Football in Scotland

Association football is one of the national sports of Scotland[1] and popular throughout the country. There is a long tradition of "football" games in Orkney, Lewis and southern Scotland, especially the Scottish Borders, although many of these include carrying the ball and passing by hand, and despite bearing the name "football" bear little resemblance to association football.[2][3][4]

Founded in 1873,[5] Scotland has the second oldest national Football Association in the world (behind England's FA), and the trophy for the national cup, the Scottish Cup, is the oldest national sporting trophy in the world.[6] Scotland and Scottish football clubs hold many records for football attendances.


  • Origins 1
  • Scottish Football Association 2
  • League 3
    • Scottish Professional Football League 3.1
    • Senior non-league level 3.2
    • Junior football 3.3
    • Amateur football 3.4
  • Cup competitions 4
    • Scottish Cup 4.1
    • Scottish League Cup 4.2
    • Scottish Challenge Cup 4.3
    • Scottish Junior Cup 4.4
    • Scottish Irn Bru Schools Cup 4.5
  • European Competitions 5
  • National team 6
  • Clubs 7
  • Seasons 8
  • Women's football 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


A game known as "football" was played in Scotland as early as the 15th century: it was prohibited by the Football Act 1424 and although the law fell into disuse it was not repealed until 1906. There is evidence for schoolboys playing a "football" ball game in Aberdeen in 1633 (some references cite 1636) which is notable as an early allusion to what some have considered to be passing the ball. The word "pass" in the most recent translation is derived from "huc percute" (strike it here) and later "repercute pilam" (strike the ball again) in the original Latin. It is not certain that the ball was being struck between members of the same team. The original word translated as "goal" is "metum", literally meaning the "pillar at each end of the circus course" in a Roman chariot race. There is a reference to "get hold of the ball before [another player] does" (Praeripe illi pilam si possis agere) suggesting that handling of the ball was allowed. One sentence states in the original 1930 translation "Throw yourself against him" (Age, objice te illi).

It is clear that the game was rough and tackles allowed included the "charging" and pushing/holding of opposing players ("drive that man back" in the original translation, "repelle eum" in original Latin). It has been suggested that this game bears similarities to rugby football.[7] Contrary to media reports in 2006 there is no reference to forward passing, game rules, marking players or team formation. These reports described it as "an amazing new discovery" but has actually been well documented in football history literature since the early twentieth century and available on the internet since at least 2000.[8] English public schools, such as Eton and Harrow, "civilised" the game by drawing up rules that encouraged players to kick the ball and forbid them from carrying it.

Scottish Football Association

The clubs in Scotland, affiliated national associations as well as local associations. It was formed in 1873, making it the World's second oldest national football association.

The SFA is responsible for the operation of the Scotland National Football Team, the annual Scottish Cup and several other duties important to the functioning of the game in Scotland.


Professional league football in Scotland is run by the Scottish Professional Football League containing 4 tiers. Beneath these leagues is a system of regional semi-professional and amateur leagues, most notably the Highland League, Scottish Lowland Football League, East of Scotland League, South of Scotland League and the Junior leagues. From 2014-15 season onwards, a promotion and relegation scheme between the SPFL and semi-pro/amateur leagues will be in place at the end of that season and beyond.[9] Rangers' record attendance of 118,567 is a British record for a league match.[10]

Scottish Professional Football League

The Scottish Professional Football League is a four tier football league system consisting of 42 teams. There are 12 team in the top tier, the Scottish Premiership, and 10 in each of the lower three tiers, named the Scottish Championship, Scottish League One and Scottish League Two.

The Scottish Premiership is the top league in Scotland, and consists of 12 teams. It has existed since 2013, when the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League merged into the SPFL. The top tier of Scottish football was traditionally home to one of the world's most famous football rivalries, between Rangers and Celtic. Together the two clubs are known as the Old Firm, by virtue of the profitability of their rivalry. Rangers have won more top-flight, national league championships than any other club in the world (54 titles).[11] Celtic were the first Non-Latin and first team in Britain to win the European Cup, in 1967. The Old Firm rivalry was interrupted in 2012, when the company running Rangers went into liquidation and the club was forced to restart in the fourth tier.

The second, third and fourth tiers in the league structure are called the Scottish Championship, Scottish League One and Scottish League Two respectively, each consisting of 10 teams. Teams are relegated and promoted between the divisions. Relegation from the fourth tier may occur at the end of every season (from 2014-15 thereafter); the last placed team in the fourth tier will enter a play-off with a team nominated by the SFA from outside the SPFL to determine which team enters League Two for the next season.[9] Dismissal from the fourth tier is still possible, however, if a club finishes bottom three seasons in a row. In case of dismissal or withdrawal of a team (such as for economic reasons, etc.) a senior non-League level side can be elected in its place.

The top team in the Championship is eligible for promotion to the Premiership. Since the 2013-14 season, a second promotion place is available via play-offs between 3 Championship sides and 1 Premiership side. Falkirk were refused possible entry to the top tier in 2000[12] and 2003[13] due to not meeting the stadium requirements. Previously, requirements were that clubs had to have 10,000 seats in their ground, but this was changed to 6,000. Clubs must also have under-soil heating systems to prevent cancellation of matches caused by frozen pitches.

Queen's Park, uniquely, is the only true amateur (players are not paid) member of the League still standing, having been a League member since 1900. In theory the club could qualify for Premiership promotion due to its use of Hampden Park, but they have not played in Scotland's top flight since the 1957–58 season.

Senior non-league level

Outwith the SPFL are a series of regionalised leagues. This level is referred to as 'non-league' and these three leagues are known as 'senior' non-league.

Clubs at this level automatically enter the Scottish Cup First Round provided they are members of the Scottish Football Association.

Junior football

Outwith the three 'senior' leagues in the non-league grade, are the 'junior' leagues. Although called junior, this refers to the level of football played, not the age of the participants. The junior leagues are organised by the Scottish Junior Football Association and are regionalised into three areas, North, East and West. There is a Scottish Junior Cup which all members of the association participate in, having done so since the Nineteenth century.

Junior clubs, unlike those in the senior non-league level, were not in the main eligible to participate in the Scottish Cup until 2007–08. The one previous exception to this rule, Girvan, participated in the Scottish Qualifying Cup (South) by virtue of the fact that they opted to switch from the senior level to the junior level, but still retained their right to attempt to qualify. From the 2007–08 Scottish Cup however, the winners of each of the three regional leagues and the winner of the Junior Cup will enter the first round of the Scottish Cup proper, following a decision by the SFA to allow them entry at their previous Annual General Meeting.

Amateur football

There are a vast number of amateur footballers in Scotland.[14] They play in leagues across the country of varying standard, usually confined to a specific localised geographic area. Many amateur clubs run teams in more than one of the amateur leagues. Some of the teams are well known with a history of success and producing players who go on to a higher level, such as Drumchapel Amateur. The activities of clubs at the amateur level are co-ordinated by the Scottish Amateur Football Association.

Cup competitions

Scottish Cup

The Scottish Cup is the world's oldest national cup but not the oldest competition, first contested in 1873 and being predated only by England's FA Cup. It is a pure knockout tournament with single matches, with replays being held if the first match is a tie. All 42 SPFL clubs automatically enter the tournament. A number of non-league clubs used to participate by virtue of having qualified through one of two regionalised qualifying cups (since 2007/08 they have qualified automatically for the First Round); or since 2007–08 by having won the Scottish Junior Cup or one of the three regionalised Junior leagues. The final is usually played at Hampden Park. The attendance of 146,433 for the 1937 Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Aberdeen at Hampden Park is a European record for a club match.[10]

Scottish League Cup

The Scottish League Cup is open to members of the SPFL, and has been contested since the 1946–47 season.

Scottish Challenge Cup

The Scottish Challenge Cup is open to members of the SPFL clubs contesting in the Championship, League One & League Two and the top two clubs in the Highland League since 2011, and has been contested since the 1990–91 season.

Scottish Junior Cup

The Scottish Junior Cup is contested by Scotland's major junior league teams and has been done so since the 1886–87 season. Currently, 163 teams are eligible to take part.

Scottish Irn Bru Schools Cup

The Scottish Irn Bru Schools Cup is contested by Scotland's Schools and has been done since 1999. Currently 190 schools can take part.

European Competitions

Three Scottish clubs have won UEFA competitions. Celtic won the 1967 European Cup Final, then lost the 1970 European Cup Final. The highest ever attendance for a UEFA competition match was in the 1969-70 European Cup semi-final at Hampden Park, Scotland's National stadium. A record 136,505 people attended that Cup semi-final played between Celtic and Leeds United.[10] Celtic also reached the 2003 UEFA Cup Final, which they lost after extra time. Rangers won the 1972 European Cup Winners' Cup Final, and have also reached other finals, most recently the 2008 UEFA Cup Final. Aberdeen won the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup Final and then also won the consequent 1983 UEFA Super Cup. Both Celtic and Rangers have qualified for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. Dundee United reached the 1987 UEFA Cup Final, which they lost to IFK Gothenburg, but their fans won an award for their good behaviour from UEFA. Celtic won a similar award after the 2003 UEFA Cup Final.

National team

The Scottish national team represents Scotland in international football and is controlled by the Scottish Football Association. The team has played international football longer than any other nation in the world along with England,[15] who they played in the world's first international football match at Hamilton Crescent, Partick, Glasgow in 1872.[16] Scotland have qualified for eight World Cups and two European Championships, but have never progressed beyond the first round.

The Scottish team have become famous for their travelling support, known as the Tartan Army, who have won awards from UEFA for their combination of vocal support, friendly nature and charity work. The attendance of 149,415 for the Scotland vs. England match of 1937 at Hampden Park is also a European record.[10]



The following articles detail the major results and events in each season since 1890, when the Scottish League was formed. Each article provides the final league tables for that season, with the exception of the current one, as well as details on cup results, Scotland national football team results and a summary of any other important events during the season.

1870s 1871–72 1872–73 1873–74 1874–75 1875–76 1876–77 1877–78 1878–79 1879–80
1880s 1880–81 1881–82 1882–83 1883–84 1884–85 1885–86 1886–87 1887–88 1888–89 1889–90
1890s 1890–91 1891–92 1892–93 1893–94 1894–95 1895–96 1896–97 1897–98 1898–99 1899–00
1900s 1900–01 1901–02 1902–03 1903–04 1904–05 1905–06 1906–07 1907–08 1908–09 1909–10
1910s 1910–11 1911–12 1912–13 1913–14 1914–15 1915–16 1916–17 1917–18 1918–19 1919–20
1920s 1920–21 1921–22 1922–23 1923–24 1924–25 1925–26 1926–27 1927–28 1928–29 1929–30
1930s 1930–31 1931–32 1932–33 1933–34 1934–35 1935–36 1936–37 1937–38 1938–39 1939–40
1940s 1940–41 1941–42 1942–43 1943–44 1944–45 1945–46 1946–47 1947–48 1948–49 1949–50
1950s 1950–51 1951–52 1952–53 1953–54 1954–55 1955–56 1956–57 1957–58 1958–59 1959–60
1960s 1960–61 1961–62 1962–63 1963–64 1964–65 1965–66 1966–67 1967–68 1968–69 1969–70
1970s 1970–71 1971–72 1972–73 1973–74 1974–75 1975–76 1976–77 1977–78 1978–79 1979–80
1980s 1980–81 1981–82 1982–83 1983–84 1984–85 1985–86 1986–87 1987–88 1988–89 1989–90
1990s 1990–91 1991–92 1992–93 1993–94 1994–95 1995–96 1996–97 1997–98 1998–99 1999–00
2000s 2000–01 2001–02 2002–03 2003–04 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10
2010s 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20

Women's football

Like its English counterpart, Scottish women's football is largely seen as an amateur game, given the emphasis on the male competitions. As in the men's game, the women's league structure consists of a Premier League and a Football League with Divisions One and Two, but the second division is split into North, West, and Central & East regions. In the women's SFL, reserve and youth squads may compete as long as they do not compete in the same division as the titular club. There are also four cup competitions, the Scottish Cup, Scottish Premier League Cup, Scottish First Division Cup and the Scottish Second Division Cup.

See also


  1. ^ "Football - Talent Scotland". TalentScotland. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  2. ^ "Scotland's amazing role in football's success". The Scotsman. 2006-06-29. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  3. ^ Patrick Barclay (2013-08-11). "After 150 years the truth: Scotland invented football - News & Comment - Football". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  4. ^ Jim Spence. "Jim Spence: Should Scottish football go back to go forward?". BBC. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  5. ^ "Scottish FA > About". Scottish Football Association. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  6. ^ "Scottish Cup > History & Archives". Scottish Football Association. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  7. ^ Karon, Tony (2012-04-02). "Why England Is Playing Catch-up In Global Soccer |". Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  8. ^ [Marples, Morris. A History of Football, Secker and Warburg, London 1954]
  9. ^ a b "The Rules of the SPFL" (PDF).  
  10. ^ a b c d "Football". Retrieved 2012-08-01. 
  11. ^ "Glasgow Rangers Win World Record 54th Scottish Football League Championship". Bleacher Report. 2011-05-15. Retrieved 2012-08-01. 
  12. ^ Sinclair, Paul (1 April 2000). "SPL throw out Falkirk's Murrayfield plea.". Daily Record (Trinity Mirror). Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  13. ^ "SPL nixes Falkirk promotion bid". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 24 May 2003. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "Outdated football culture has meant the modern game has passed us by . . .". Herald Scotland. 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  15. ^ "The first international football match". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2007-05-15. 
  16. ^ "This day in history". The History Channel. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 

External links

  • Scottish Professional Football League
  • Scottish Football Association
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