Football in Scotland
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Association football is the national sport in Scotland1 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.
Founded in 1873,2 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.3 Scotland and Scottish football clubs hold many records for football attendances.
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early as the 15th century: it was prohibited by the Football Act 1424 and although the law fell into disuse it was not repealed until 1906.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. 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 2000.4 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.
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is the principal organising body for Scottish football. Members of the SFA include 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.
Professional league football in Scotland is split between the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League. Beneath these leagues is a system of regional semi-professional and amateur leagues most notable the Highland League, East of Scotland League, South of Scotland League and the Junior leagues. Only the SPL and SFL are connected to one another in a promotion and relegation scheme. Rangers' record attendance of 118,567 is a British record for a league match.5
The Scottish Premier League (SPL) is the top league in Scotland, and consists of a single division of 12 teams. It has existed since 1998, when the clubs comprising the Scottish Football League Premier Division broke away from the Scottish Football League. The SPL 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).6 Celtic were the first Non-Latin and first team in Britain to win the European Cup, in 1967. The rivalry was interrupted in 2012, when the company running Rangers went into liquidation and the club was forced to restart in the Scottish Football League Third Division.
The Scottish Football League resides below the SPL, and consists of three divisions, each containing 10 teams. From its formation in 1890 until the SPL breakaway in 1998 it comprised all of the professional clubs in Scotland. Since the SPL was formed, the Scottish Football League has represented the second, third and fourth tiers of the league system.
Teams are relegated and promoted between the divisions, but relegation from the Third Division does not occur. From the 2005–06 season onwards, dismissal from the Third Division has been possible, 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 First Division is eligible for promotion to the SPL, but in 2003 Falkirk were refused entry 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 SPL promotion due to its use of Hampden Park, but they have not played in Scotland's top flight since the 1957–58 season.
Outwith the SFL are a series of regionalised leagues. This level is referred to as 'non-league' and these three leagues are known as 'senior' non-league.
- Highland Football League, covering the north, north east and north west of Scotland, not just the Highlands as its name would suggest. This has been hard hit by a number of 'defections' to the Scottish Football League, though the Highland League has compensated by admitting new teams to its league in a similar way. Recent examples include Formartine United, Turriff United and Strathspey Thistle, who all joined the league in 2009
- East of Scotland Football League, covering Lothian and the Scottish Borders
- South of Scotland Football League, covering the south west of Scotland
Clubs at this level automatically enter the Scottish Cup First Round provided they are members of the Scottish Football Association.
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.
There are a vast number of amateur footballers in Scotland. 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.
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 12 Scottish Premier League clubs automatically enter the tournament, as do all 30 Scottish Football League clubs. 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.5
The Scottish Irn Bru Schools Cup is contested by Scotland's Schools and has been done since 1999. Currently 190 schools can take part.
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.5 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.
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,8 who they played in the world's first international football match at Hamilton Crescent, Partick, Glasgow in 1872.9 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.5
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.
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.
- Sport in Scotland
- Scottish youth football system
- List of Scotland national football team results
- List of defunct football leagues in Scotland
- "Football - Talent Scotland". TalentScotland. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
- "Scottish FA > About". Scottish Football Association. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
- "Scottish Cup > History & Archives". Scottish Football Association. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
- [Marples, Morris. A History of Football, Secker and Warburg, London 1954]
- "Football". Cypscotwest.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- "Glasgow Rangers Win World Record 54th Scottish Football League Championship". Bleacher Report. 2011-05-15. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Euro 2020: Ireland, Scotland and Wales eye joint bid as hosts
- "The first international football match". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
- "This day in history". The History Channel. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
- Scottish Premier League
- Scottish Football League
- Scottish Football Association
- Scottish Football Forums