Scottish football league system

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

In senior football in Scotland there is one national league, the Scottish Professional Football League (which has four divisions). There are also several regional leagues (most notably the Highland Football League and since 2013 the Lowland Football League). From 2014–15, regular promotion or relegation between the regional leagues and the national league will be introduced for the first time.[1]

Rangers are the current record holders with 54 titles. One senior club based in England (Berwick Rangers) plays in the Scottish system in the Scottish League Two. 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.

Men's system[edit]

Overall, the structure of men's football in Scotland is among 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 not uncommon for a given town or county to have clubs in as many as three or four separate systems.

Until recently Scottish football had no pyramid league system, and as a result it was near impossible for clubs at the bottom of the system to progress to the top, or for weak clubs to be relegated down the leagues. Progress towards creating a pyramid system began in 2008 under the tenure of Scottish Football Association (SFA) chief executive Gordon Smith, with discussions between the SFA and the regional and junior leagues.[2] and on 7 May 2013 Scottish Premier League clubs unanimously agreed on the introduction of a pyramid structure to Scottish football along with the reintroduction of a single governing body for all 42 senior clubs, a revised financial distribution model, and the possibility of a promotion/relegation play-off between the top two divisions.[3]

Senior football[edit]

The current system has been in place since 2013–14, when the Scottish Professional Football League was formed by a merger of the Scottish Premier League (tier 1) and the Scottish Football League (tiers 2-4) in a merger. At the same time, the Lowland Football League was founded. For each division, its official name, sponsor name, number of clubs and number of games is given:




Scottish Premiership
12 clubs playing 38 games


Scottish Championship
10 clubs playing 36 games


Scottish League One
10 clubs playing 36 games


Scottish League Two
10 clubs playing 36 games

Non-league football


Highland Football League
(Press & Journal Highland League)
18 clubs playing 34 games

Lowland Football League
(Scottish Sun Lowland League)
14 clubs playing 26 games


East of Scotland Football League
Premier Division
(Central Taxis EOS Premier Division)
9 clubs playing 24 games over 27 dates

South of Scotland Football League
14 clubs playing 26 games


East of Scotland Football League
First Division
(Central Taxis EOS First Division)
8 clubs playing 28 games

The leagues below level four are classed as "non-league football", meaning they are outside the Scottish Professional Football League and are played on a regional not a national basis. The Lowland League is parallel to the Highland League. These divisions will create level 5 on the pyramid and from season 2014-15 the two league winners will play off against each other, with the winner then playing the team finishing 10th in League Two in a promotion and relegation playoff. Below the Lowland League is the East of Scotland Football League (17 clubs including 2 second teams divided into Premier and First divisions) and the South of Scotland Football League (14 clubs in a single division) with promotion and relegation into the Lowland League.

All 103 senior league clubs are members of the Scottish Football Association and many clubs enter the Scottish Cup, although some in the lower levels are not eligible because their grounds are not adequately appointed. All leagues have their own cup tournaments, sometimes involving reserve teams fielded by the SPFL clubs, and some cups are played by clubs from multiple leagues.

Junior football[edit]

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 62 clubs; and the Scottish Junior Football Association, North Region of 34 clubs: 159 clubs in all. These clubs operate entirely separately from 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.

Amateur football[edit]

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. Two member clubs of the Scottish Amateur Football Association - Glasgow University and Golspie Sutherland - are members of the Scottish Football Association and are permitted to enter the Scottish Cup.

Welfare football[edit]

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.

Women's system[edit]

The three levels of women's football in Scotland are structured as follows:




Scottish Women's Premier League
12 clubs


Scottish Women's Football League First Division
12 clubs


Second Division East/Central
up to 12 clubs

Second Division North
up to 12 clubs

Second Division South East
up to 12 clubs

Second Division West
up to 12 clubs

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Rules of the SPFL" (PDF). Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "Smith wants pyramid system". 2008-06-04. Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  3. ^ "SPL clubs agree league reform package for next season". BBC Sport. 2013-05-07. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 

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