Association football is one of the national sports of Scotland and the most popular sport in 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, 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. 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early as the 15th century: it was prohibited by the Football Act 1424 and although the law fell into disuse it was not repealed until 1906.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. 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 run by the Scottish Professional Football League comprising 4 tiers. Feeding into the bottom tier of the SPFL is the Scottish Highland Football League, and the Scottish Lowland Football League. Other leagues - East of Scotland League, South of Scotland League, North Caledonian League are deemed to be "senior" and are administered by the Scottish Football Association. Administered separately are clubs in the Scottish Junior Football Association and Scottish Amateur Football Association. In 2014-15 season, a promotion and relegation scheme between the SPFL and the Highland and Lowland Leagues came into operation.
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). 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. 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 and 2003 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.
|Level||Division||Number of Clubs|
|1||Scottish Professional League Premiership||12|
|2||Scottish Professional League Championship||10|
|3||Scottish Professional League Division One||10|
|4||Scottish Professional League Division Two||10|
Immediately below the SPFL are two regionalised leagues:
At the end of the season a play-off is held between the champions of the Highland League and the Champions of the Lowland League. The winner plays the bottom club in the SPFL Division 2 for a place in Division 2 in the following season.
Other "senior" leagues are
There is no automatic promotion between these leagues and the Lowland or Highland Leagues.
|Level||League||Number of Clubs (2017–18)|
|5||Highland Football League||18|
|5||Lowland Football League||16|
|Other Senior leagues|
|6||East of Scotland Football League||13|
|6||South of Scotland Football League||15|
|North Caledonian Football League||9|
Clubs at this level automatically enter the Scottish Cup First Round provided they are members of the Scottish Football Association.
Operating separately from the SPFL professional leagues and the three 'senior' leagues, 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. Additional junior clubs (Linlithgow Rose, Banks o'Dee) have received an SFA licence which permits them to participate in the Scottish Cup.
|SJFA Region||Number of Divisions||Number of Clubs (2016–17)|
|Scottish Junior Football Association, East Region||4||60|
|Scottish Junior Football Association, North Region||3||35|
|Scottish Junior Football Association, West Region||5||64|
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 winner of the Scottish Amateur Cup enters the Scottish FA Cup in the following season.
There are three categories of amateur football administered by the SAFA - "Winter" Saturday, "Winter" Sunday and Summer football. Summer football tends to be popular in the Northern and Western Isles and in the north of the mainland. In addition to the Scottish Amateur Cup (for 'Saturday' teams) there is the Scottish Sunday Amateur Trophy and the Highland Amateur Cup for summer teams.
|Saturday Amateur Leagues||Number of Divisions||Number of Clubs (2016–17)|
|Ayrshire Amateur Football Association||4||49|
|Aberdeenshire Amateur Football Association||6||82|
|Border Amateur Football League||3||30|
|Caledonian Amateur Football League||2||23|
|Central Scottish Amateur Football League||3||33|
|Dundee Saturday Morning Amateur Football League||3||34|
|Glasgow & District Saturday Morning Amateur Football League||2||28|
|Glasgow Colleges Football Association||3||31|
|Greater Glasgow Premier Amateur Football League||3||36|
|Kingdom of Fife AFA||3||37|
|Lothians & Edinburgh Amateur Football Association||6||60|
|Midlands Amateur Football Association||2||28|
|North & South Lanarkshire Amateur Football Association||1||16|
|Paisley & District Amateur Football Association||2||17|
|Perthshire Amateur Football Association||3||29|
|Scottish Amateur Football League||4||41|
|Stirling & District Amateur Football Association||4||44|
|Strathclyde Evangelical Churches Football League||3||34|
|Strathclyde Saturday Morning Amateur Football League||4||42|
|West of Scotland Amateur Football League||1||9|
|Sunday Amateur Leagues||Number of Divisions||Number of Clubs (2016–17)|
|Aberdeen Sunday Football Association||1||15|
|Airdrie & Coatbridge Sunday Amateur Football League||3||33|
|Ayrshire Sunday Amateur Football Association||1||14|
|Dundee Sunday Amateur Football Association||1||8|
|Dumfries Sunday Amateur Football League||2||18|
|Fife Sunday Amateur Football League||2||26|
|Forth Valley Amateur Football Association||1||10|
|Lothians & Edinburgh Amateur Football Association||5||47|
|Stewartry Sunday Amateur Football League||1||7|
|Sunday Central Amateur Football League||5||55|
|West Lothian Sunday Amateur Football League||2||22|
|Summer Amateur Leagues||Number of Divisions||Number of teams (2016)|
|Barra & Uist Amateur Football Association||1||6|
|Caithness Amateur Football Association||2||17|
|Inverness & District Amateur Football Association||3||25|
|Lewis & Harris Amateur Football Association||1||8|
|North West Sutherland Amateur Football Association||1||10|
|Orkney Amateur Football Association||2||15|
|Shetland Amateur Football Association||2||15|
|Skye & Lochalsh Amateur Football Association||1||9|
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.
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.
The Scottish Amateur Cup is the principal competition for amateur clubs, competed for since 1909-10. Currently around 600 clubs enter.
The Scottish Irn Bru Schools Cup is contested by Scotland's Schools and has been done since 1999. Currently 190 schools can take part.
|Level||League(s)||Scottish Cup||Scottish League Cup||Scottish Challenge Cup||Scottish Junior Cup|
|3||SPFL League One||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|4||SPFL League Two||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|5||Highland /Lowland Leagues||Yes||League Champions||4 teams from each league||No|
|East of Scotland/South of Scotland Leagues||Licensed clubs and champions||No||No||No|
|SJFA Junior Leagues||Regional league winners, Scottish Junior Cup winners and licensed clubs||No||No||Yes|
|Scottish Amateur FA||Scottish Amateur Cup winners||No||No||No|
|Additional participants||Golspie Sutherland (North Caledonian League), Glasgow University (Caledonian League)||No||12 x U20 Teams, 2 x Welsh Premier League teams, 2 x NIFL Premiership teams||No|
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. 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, whom they played in the world's first international football match at Hamilton Crescent, Partick, Glasgow in 1872. Scotland have qualified for eight World Cups and two European Championships, but have never progressed beyond the first round.
The majority of Scotland's home matches are played at Hampden Park in Glasgow, opened in 1903. 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.
The following articles detail the major results and events in each season since 1871-72. 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.
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.