Highland Football League

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Highland Football League
Highland Football League (emblem).png
Country Scotland
Founded 1893
First season 1893–94
Number of teams 18
Level on pyramid 5
Promotion to Scottish League Two
Domestic cup(s) Scottish Cup
League cup(s) Highland League Cup
Current champions Cove Rangers (5th title)
Most championships Clachnacuddin
Caledonian (18 titles each)
Website highlandfootballleague.com
Current season

The Scottish Highland Football League (commonly known as the Highland League) is a part-time professional senior football league in the north of Scotland. The league, which is the fifth level within Scottish football, is a full member of the Scottish Football Association. It currently consists of 18 teams from the Scottish Highlands as well as the lowlands of Moray and Aberdeenshire.

Until the reorganisation of Scottish football during the 2012–13 season, the league was historically one of the senior leagues in Scottish football. The others being the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League, along with the East of Scotland and South of Scotland Leagues. Since the 2014–15 season, the league (along with the newly formed Lowland Football League) is a feeder division for SPFL's Scottish League Two. The Highland Football League champions play the winners of the Lowland Football League for a chance to face the bottom club in League Two.[1]

All current league members are full members of the Scottish Football Association so qualify automatically for the following season's first round of the Scottish Cup. The league champions and the runner-up team receive a bye into the cup's second round. Since 2014, the season's league champion team has also gained a place in the Scottish Challenge Cup; this was extended to the top four clubs from 2016.

The league's current sponsorship deal is with the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal media group.

Season structure[edit]

Each team in the league plays each other twice during a season – once at home, once away, for a total of 34 matches. The standard league scoring system of 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw is applied, with ties in the league table broken by goal difference. The champions are presented with the League trophy and a flag, either immediately after the match which secures the victory, or at the next match at which it is practical to do so.

With the introduction of the new pyramid structure in Scottish football, a new schedule was introduced in the 2014-15 season, in order to ensure that all matches affecting the title are completed in time for the promotion playoffs beginning in April. As the region is prone to severe weather in winter, postponements have sometimes caused the conclusion of the season to be delayed (e.g. in 2013, a prolonged spell of bad weather meant the final matches were not played until 25 May). Various proposals which would have reduced the number of matches a team would play (either by instituting a two-phase season like that used in the Scottish Premiership, or by dividing the League into two smaller divisions), were considered but did not find favour with League members. Instead, clubs now play both a Saturday and a Wednesday fixture most weeks from August through October, taking advantage of milder weather at the start of the season. The new schedule builds in a four-week buffer near the end of the season during which no matches are initially scheduled, allowing any backlog of postponed matches to be cleared before the final fixtures.



The Highland Football League was formed on 4 August 1893, at the Inverness Workman's Club by employees of the Highland Railway Company who had their Company Headquarters, Locomotive and Carriage & Wagon Workshops (Loch Gorm Works), based in the Highland capital. The original league consisted of seven teams: Inverness Thistle, Caledonian, Clachnacuddin, Forres Mechanics, Inverness Union, Inverness Citadel and Cameron Highlanders. Ross County were an eighth original member, but resigned membership in November 1893. The inaugural champions were Inverness Thistle. Of the original teams, two are still playing in the league today (Clachnacuddin and Forres Mechanics) and two merged to become current Scottish League club Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Recent history[edit]

Many of the member clubs have performed well when competing against SFL clubs in the Scottish Cup. However, from the 1990s onwards, the HFL has been a victim of its own success, with various teams defecting to the Scottish Football League (SFL). Furthermore, it has also had to contend with overexposure of large teams in the area, such as Aberdeen and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, as well as the Old Firm to the South, and to an extent English football. However, the lack of Premier League, and to a lesser extent First Division, teams in the area, has worked in its favour, with some football fans being less willing to travel long distances to games in southern Scotland.

The league has been somewhat weakened in recent years by the departure of many former members who have subsequently joined the SFL. This happened in 1994 when Caledonian, Inverness Thistle and Ross County left. Until then the HFL had operated with 18 clubs; this was reduced by the departure of the three mentioned clubs, but Wick Academy from the North Caledonian Football League were elected, to create a league of 16 clubs. This was the state of affairs till 2000 when Elgin City and Peterhead were elected into the SFL. In 2002 Inverurie Loco Works were elected into the HFL to give it a membership of 15 clubs.

In 2008, North Region Junior League sides Formartine United and Turriff United both submitted bids to join the Highland League, following in the footsteps of past Junior League side Inverurie Locos. Banks O' Dee and Strathspey Thistle also applied. On 25 February 2009, Formartine United, Strathspey Thistle and Turriff United were accepted into the league for the following season, with Banks O' Dee being the unsuccessful club.

Beginning with the 2014–15 season, the league champions will have the chance to qualify for promotion to the Scottish League Two via a play-off with the winners of the Lowland Football League, the winners then playing off against the bottom team in League Two. Although the introduction of a route into the Scottish Professional Football League has been broadly welcomed, it has also provoked some concern about the potential financial burden on smaller clubs who may need to significantly upgrade their grounds to meet the required standards. The logistics of travel to away games in a league dominated by central belt teams is also a concern, particularly for geographically remote clubs such as Wick Academy and Brora Rangers.

Results from the HFL and the Highland League Cup have featured on the Press Association vidiprinter since the start of the 1997–98 season.

The Highland League is the subject of a song of the same name by the band I, Ludicrous.[2]

HFL Members[edit]

Current members[edit]

Locations of the current Highland League teams [ ]
Club Joined Ground Capacity Titles
Brora Rangers 1963 2,000 2
Buckie Thistle 1909 5,000 10
Clachnacuddin 1893 1,500 18
Cove Rangers 1986 2,500 5
Deveronvale 1938 3,800 2
Formartine United 2009 1,800 -
Forres Mechanics 1893[3] 1,400 2
Fort William 1985 1,800 -
Fraserburgh 1922[4] 2,500 3
Huntly 1928 4,500 7
Inverurie Loco Works 2001 2,400 -
Keith 1924 4,450 7
Lossiemouth 1946 3,250 -
Nairn County 1914 3,800 1
Rothes 1938 2,700 1
Strathspey Thistle 2009 1,600 -
Turriff United 2009 1,000 -
Wick Academy 1994 2,412 -

Former members now playing in the Scottish Professional Football League[edit]

Other competitions[edit]

The main Cup competition is -

The North of Scotland FA Clubs compete in the -

The Aberdeenshire FA clubs compete in the -

There are also the SHFL U19 League and Cup. The SHFL Youth Development League has both U15 and U17 competitions which are uncompetitive.

List of HFL championship winners[edit]

Season Winner Runner-up
1893–94 Inverness Thistle Caledonian
1894–95 Clachnacuddin Inverness Thistle
1895–96 Caledonian[5] Inverness Thistle
1896–97 Clachnacuddin Caledonian
1897–98 Clachnacuddin Caledonian
1898–99 Caledonian Clachnacuddin
1899–00 Caledonian Clachnacuddin
1900–01 Clachnacuddin Caledonian
1901–02 Caledonian Inverness Thistle
1902–03 Clachnacuddin Inverness Thistle
1903–04 Clachnacuddin Inverness Citadel
1904–05 Clachnacuddin[6] Black Watch
1905–06 Clachnacuddin[5] Inverness Thistle
1906–07 Inverness Thistle Caledonian
1907–08 Clachnacuddin Highland Light Infantry
1908–09 Inverness Citadel Clachnacuddin
1909–10 Inverness Thistle[5] Elgin City
1910–11 Caledonian Buckie Thistle
1911–12 Clachnacuddin[5] Caledonian
1912–13 Aberdeen 'A' Buckie Thistle
1913–14 Caledonian Aberdeen 'A'
1914–15 unfinished[7]
1919–20 Buckie Thistle Clachnacuddin
1920–21 Clachnacuddin Inverness Thistle
1921–22 Clachnacuddin Buckie Thistle
1922–23 Clachnacuddin Elgin City
1923–24 Clachnacuddin Buckie Thistle
1924–25 Aberdeen 'A' Caledonian
1925–26 Caledonian Inverness Thistle
1926–27 Buckie Thistle Clachnacuddin
1927–28 Buckie Thistle Clachnacuddin
1928–29 Inverness Thistle Elgin City
1929–30 Huntly Elgin City
1930–31 Caledonian Buckie Thistle
1931–32 Elgin City Keith
1932–33 Fraserburgh Elgin City
1933–34 Buckie Thistle Forres Mechanics
1934–35 Elgin City Huntly
1935–36 Inverness Thistle Peterhead
1936–37 Buckie Thistle Peterhead
1937–38 Fraserburgh Clachnacuddin
1938–39 Clachnacuddin Buckie Thistle
1939–40 unfinished[8]
1946–47 Peterhead Huntly
1947–48 Clachnacuddin Peterhead
1948–49 Peterhead Clachnacuddin
1949–50 Peterhead Caledonian
1950–51 Caledonian Buckie Thistle
1951–52 Caledonian Huntly
1952–53 Elgin City Buckie Thistle
1953–54 Buckie Thistle Elgin City
1954–55 unfinished[9]
1955–56 Elgin City[5] Buckie Thistle
1956–57 Buckie Thistle Caledonian
1957–58 Buckie Thistle Elgin City
1958–59 Rothes[5] Fraserburgh
1959–60 Elgin City Caledonian
1960–61 Elgin City[5] Keith
1961–62 Keith Elgin City
1962–63 Elgin City Caledonian
1963–64 Caledonian Nairn County
1964–65 Elgin City Nairn County
1965–66 Elgin City Caledonian
1966–67 Ross County Elgin City
1967–68 Elgin City Ross County
1968–69 Elgin City Inverness Thistle
1969–70 Elgin City Caledonian
1970–71 Caledonian Inverness Thistle
1971–72 Inverness Thistle Elgin City
1972–73 Inverness Thistle[5] Ross County
1973–74 Elgin City Inverness Thistle
1974–75 Clachnacuddin Keith
1975–76 Nairn County[5] Fraserburgh
1976–77 Caledonian Peterhead
1977–78 Caledonian Peterhead
1978–79 Keith Caledonian
1979–80 Keith Brora Rangers
1980–81 Keith Fraserburgh
1981–82 Caledonian Peterhead
1982–83 Caledonian Elgin City
1983–84 Caledonian Keith
1984–85 Keith Caledonian
1985–86 Forres Mechanics Elgin City
1986–87 Inverness Thistle Caledonian
1987–88 Caledonian Buckie Thistle
1988–89 Peterhead Cove Rangers
1989–90 Elgin City Caledonian
1990–91 Ross County Caledonian
1991–92 Ross County Caledonian
1992–93 withheld[10]
1993–94 Huntly Caledonian
1994–95 Huntly Cove Rangers
1995–96 Huntly Cove Rangers
1996–97 Huntly Keith
1997–98 Huntly Fraserburgh
1998–99 Peterhead Huntly
1999–00 Keith Fraserburgh
2000–01 Cove Rangers Huntly
2001–02 Fraserburgh Deveronvale
2002–03 Deveronvale Keith
2003–04 Clachnacuddin Buckie Thistle
2004–05 Huntly Inverurie Loco Works
2005–06 Deveronvale Inverurie Loco Works
2006–07 Keith Inverurie Loco Works
2007–08 Cove Rangers Keith
2008–09 Cove Rangers Deveronvale
2009–10 Buckie Thistle Cove Rangers
2010–11 Buckie Thistle Deveronvale
2011–12 Forres Mechanics Cove Rangers
2012–13 Cove Rangers Formartine United
2013–14 Brora Rangers Inverurie Loco Works
2014–15 Brora Rangers Turriff United
2015–16 Cove Rangers Formartine United

Source:Scottish Football History – Highland League Final Tables

Performance by club[edit]

Club Winners Runner Up Winning Years
1895–96, 1898–99, 1899–00, 1901–02, 1910–11, 1913–14, 1925–26, 1930–31, 1950–51, 1951–52, 1963–64, 1970–71, 1976–77, 1977–78, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1987–88
1894–95, 1896–97, 1897–98, 1900–01, 1902–03, 1903–04, 1904–05, 1905–06, 1907–08, 1911–12, 1920–21, 1921–22, 1922–23, 1923–24, 1938–39, 1947–48, 1974–75, 2003–04
Elgin City
1931–32, 1934–35, 1952–53, 1955–56, 1959–60, 1960–61, 1962–63, 1964–65, 1965–66, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1969–70, 1973–74, 1989–90
Buckie Thistle
1919–20, 1926–27, 1927–28, 1933–34, 1936–37, 1953–54, 1956–57, 1957–58, 2009–10, 2010–11
Inverness Thistle
1893–94, 1906–07, 1909–10, 1928–29, 1935–36, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1986–87
1961–62, 1978–79, 1979–80, 1980–81, 1984–85, 1999–00, 2006–07
1929–30, 1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2004–05
1946–47, 1948–49, 1949–50, 1988–89, 1998–99
Cove Rangers
2000–01, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2012–13, 2015–16
1932–33, 1937–38, 2001–02
Ross County
1966–67, 1990–91, 1991–92
2002–03, 2005–06
Aberdeen 'A'
1912–13, 1924–25
Brora Rangers
2013–14, 2014–15
Forres Mechanics
1985–86, 2011–12
Nairn County
Inverness Citadel
Inverurie Loco Works
Formartine United
Black Watch
Highland Light Infantry
Turriff United


  1. ^ "Scottish FA approves Lowland League for next season". BBC Sport. 11 June 2013. 
  2. ^ http://scottish-football-historical-archive.com/iludicrous/discography/discog.html
  3. ^ Forres Mechanics did not compete 1895-1896 and 1901-1902.
  4. ^ Fraserburgh did not compete 1926-1928.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i won after a play-off
  6. ^ Clachnacuddin were awarded the Championship after Black Watch refused to play-off due to the referee that the League appointed
  7. ^ Clachnacuddin had most points
  8. ^ Keith had most points
  9. ^ Fraserburgh and Clachnacuddin were equal on points
  10. ^ Elgin City won the league, but were found to have dishonestly requested the bringing forward of their final match in order to avoid two players being unavailable through suspension

External links[edit]