Scottish football league system

Scottish football league system

The Scottish football league system is a series of generally unconnected leagues for Scottish football clubs. The Scottish system is a more complicated than many other national league systems, consisting of two completely separate systems of leagues and clubs, senior football and junior football. It should be noted that the two systems have nothing to do with the ages of the players involved.

In senior football in Scotland there are two national leagues, the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League (which has three divisions). There are also several regional leagues (most notably the Highland Football League), but there is no regular promotion or relegation between the regional leagues and the national league.

One senior club based in England, Berwick Rangers, plays in the Scottish system in the Scottish Football League. A small number of English amateur clubs in the lowest levels of the game, based on or around the Anglo-Scottish border, also compete in the Scottish system for geographical and travel reasons.

Rejection of a Pyramid System

Overall, the structure of football in Scotland is amongst the most fractured and multi-faceted in Europe, being unique in having a plurality of adult male governing bodies (with Seniors, Juniors, Amateurs and Welfarers - see below). It is also unusual in the modern era in having declined to create a structured pyramid system, and as a result it is practically impossible for clubs at the bottom of the system to progress to the top, or for weak clubs to be relegated down the leagues.

While discussion about the creation of a pyramid system have existed for many decades, no serious action has ever been taken by the Scottish Football Association or the leagues. This is often attributed to narrow-mindedness and self-interest on behalf of some clubs.

Gretna's resignation from the Scottish Football League injected new life into this debate, with SFA chief executive, Gordon Smith, starting discussions with the regional and junior leagues. [cite news |url= |title= Smith wants pyramid system |work= | date= 2008-06-04 |accessdate= 2008-06-04]

It is not uncommon for a given town or county to have clubs in as many as 3 or 4 separate systems.

Current system

Senior football

The current system has been in place since the creation of the Scottish Premier League at the start of the 1998–99 season. For each division, its official name, sponsored name and number of clubs is given:

Below this national structure, but entirely separate of it and of each other, are the three regional leagues, the Highland Football League consisting of 15 clubs, the East of Scotland Football League consisting of 24 clubs and the South of Scotland Football League consisting of 15 clubs (two of which are reserve teams of clubs in the East of Scotland Football League). They are all overseen by the Scottish Football Association and most enter the Scottish Cup, although some are not eligible because their grounds are not adequately appointed. All three leagues have their own cup tournaments, sometimes involving reserve teams fielded by the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League clubs.

In the 2007/8 season, the Scottish qualifying cups were disbanded and a new structure was adopted for the Scottish Cup. All non SPL/SFL sides that are entitled to enter now start in the first round. A phasing in of SFL/SPL division clubs happen in later rounds. A point of controversy is that a small number of Junior sides are now invited to enter.

Junior football

Also outside of the national structure, overseen by the Scottish Junior Football Association, are the three junior regions, Scottish Junior Football Association, West Region of 63 clubs; Scottish Junior Football Association, East Region also of 63 clubs; and the Scottish Junior Football Association, North Region of 38 clubs. These clubs operate entirely separately of the Scottish Football Association (except Girvan who for historical reasons are a member of both the SFA and the SJFA) and participate in a number of their own cup competitions, as well as the nationally renowned Scottish Junior Cup. The term 'junior' refers not to the age of the players but the level of football played, similar levels of football in England are often referred to as 'Non-League football'.

Amateur football

Again separate from the above, and generally agreed to lie 'below' the senior and junior levels, are the over 1,000 clubs in membership of the Scottish Amateur Football Association which claims to oversee 35,000 players competing in 67 different leagues - although this includes a small number of Sunday League football and Futsal competitions, and a few youth football bodies which did not amalgamate with many others into the Scottish Youth Football Association. Again due to historical anomaly, certain local associations of the Scottish Amateur Football Association - including the North Caledonian Football League - are also associated with the Scottish Football Association. Three members clubs of the Scottish Amateur Football Association - Glasgow University F.C., Burntisland Shipyard Amateur and Golspie Sutherland - are members of the Scottish Football Association and are permitted to enter the Scottish Cup.

Welfare football

Roughly concurrent with the Scottish Amateur Football Association is the Scottish Welfare Football Association, which has a very low profile nationally. The SWFA was established in the aftermath of World War I, and oversees around 500 clubs competing in summer and winter football, predominantly in the north of Scotland.

Cup eligibility

Domestic cups

All Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League clubs directly enter the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup, while all Scottish Football League clubs also contest the Scottish Challenge Cup.

From 2007-2008 season a restructuring of the Scottish cup saw the Scottish Qualifying Cup competition scrapped and the 36 SFA member clubs outwith the SPL and SFL given direct entry to the 1st Round of the cup. Additionally, the league winners of the East of Scotland and South of Scotland Leagues are also in the draw. Clubs from Scottish Junior football have been admitted for the first time. Up to four Junior clubs are allowed to enter, these being the winners of the previous season's North Premier League, West Premier League and East Superleague, and the winner of the Scottish Junior Cup if they have not also won one of the three regional league champions.

European cups

Currently, the top two sides in the Scottish Premier League qualify for the Champions League. The third place team qualifies for the UEFA Cup and sides finishing in the top eight may apply for a place in the Intertoto Cup. In practice some Scottish teams have been reluctant to apply for the Intertoto place.

The winners of the Scottish Cup also qualify for the UEFA Cup. If the Scottish Cup winners have already secured a place in the Champions League then the losing finalists take the UEFA cup spot. If both Scottish Cup finalists have qualified for the Champions League, the UEFA Cup slot passes to the Scottish Premier League, potentially resulting in the fourth placed side qualifying for the UEFA Cup.


See also

* League system
* List of football clubs in Scotland

External links

* [ Scottish Football Association]
* [ Scottish Premier League]
* [ Scottish Football League]
* [ Highland Football League]
* [ East of Scotland Football League]
* [ Scottish Junior Football Association]
* [ Scottish Amateur Football Association]

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