History of football in Scotland

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This article details the history of football in Scotland.

Early history (pre 1867)[edit]

The early history of games like football in Scotland is uncertain, but it is possible that variations reached Scotland from France or England.[1]

Games of "football" were played in Scotland in the Middle Ages, but medieval football bears little resemblance to Association Football (soccer). The ball could be carried by hand, and teams were sometimes of dozens of players or more, with scrummaging involved. Some of these games are still played, notably in Kirkwall and Jedburgh - see Ba game.

The earliest reference to "fute-ball" in Scotland was in 1424 when King James I outlawed it in the Football Act 1424. This was possibly because of the effect football was having on military training as well its often violent nature. Subsequent kings issued similar decrees, suggesting that the bans were unsuccessful. Certainly James VI of Scotland was well aware of the violent nature of football, writing in his 1599 Basilikon Doron, to debar from commendable exercise "all rough and violent exercises, as the foot-ball, meeter for laming than making able the users thereof".[2][3] There were also times when royalty played the games themselves, with the accounts of the Lord High Treasurer in 1497 mentioning the purchase of footballs for James IV. There is also a tradition that King James V visited Jedburgh to play in the ball game there, although there is no evidence of this happening.

Violence in early Scottish football games was certainly an important reason for these royal decrees and further evidence comes from sixteenth century Scottish literature, for example in the following poems.

Between 1501 and 1512 Gavin Douglas states:

"This broken shin that swells and will not be relieved, Take it to him; he broke it at ball, And tell him it will be his reward. Take the whole of this bruised arm to him"

Sir Richard Maitland expresses his pleasure in a late sixteenth century poem at being too old for the rough game:

Quhen zoung men cummis fra the gren,
Playand at the futball had bein,
with broken spauld,
I thank my god I want ein,
I am so auld".[3]

In modern English can be translated as:

When young men come from the green
Had been playing football
With broken shoulder,
I thank my God that I lack eyesight:
I am so old

The violence of early football in Scotland is also described vividly by another anonymous sixteenth century description, "The Beauties of Foot-ball":

Brissit, brawnis and broken banis,
Stryf, discorde and waistie wanis,
Cruikit in eild syn halt withall,
Thir are the bewties of the fute ball".[3]

This in modern English is translated as:

Bruised muscles and broken bones
Strife, Discord, and futile blows
Lamed in old age, then crippled withal
These are the beauties of football"

It was not just the Scottish monarchy and local municipalities that passed laws on the playing of football. In Perth, apprentices progressing to become master craftsmen in the sixteenth century traditionally had to pay for a banquet and hold a football match.[4] In 1546 the Company of Hammermen (i.e. smiths) of Perth issued a decree that "neither servants nor apprentices" should play football "under penalty of a pound of wax" to be given to their altar in the church.[5] Presumably this was a measure to prevent work absences and injuries. There are other accounts of employers trying to ban football in Scotland over the following centuries.

Early Scottish football sometimes erupted into violence, including the use of firearms. At Lochtoun in 1606 during a "fute-ball" match some players "fell in contentioun and controversie, ilk anie with otheris, and schot and dilaschit pistolettis and hacquebuttis"[3] It was clearly a passionate and dangerous pastime. Football in the sixteenth century is also documented as being a pretext for raids across the border against the English.

In an attempt to control such violent outbursts, and for religious reasons, football came under Puritan attack in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It became an offence to play on a Sunday, with the youth of Aberdeen, for example, accused in 1607 of conducting themselves profanely on the Sabbath: "drinking, playing football... and roving from parish to parish"[6] Further references to this offence come at the end of the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth. In 1656 the Scottish Parliament passed an act outlawing all boisterous games on the Lord's day. Nevertheless, the Puritan attack on football was not as severe in Scotland as it was in England and continued to be played enthusiastically.

There is evidence that schoolboys played a ball game in Aberdeen in 1633 (some references cite 1636) which is notable some consider that it mentions passing the ball. The word "pass" is derived from "huc percute" (strike it here) and later "repercute pilam" (strike the ball again) in the original Latin. 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. The original 1930 translation states "Throw yourself against him" (Age, objice te illi). It is clear that the game was rough and that tackles were allowed, included "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.

Violence continued to be a regular complaint about Scottish football games for many centuries. Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth wrote to his wife in March 1648 that their son "hurt himself so evill at football in Polwart upon Sunday that he was not able to sturre". In Jedburgh the ball game was outlawed by the town council in 1704 because "sometimes both old and young near lost their lives thereby".[3] As a result, it was decided to "discharge the game now and all time coming". However, even in 1706, local trades at Jedburgh were cooperating trying to suppress the game, as shown by the Fleshers' Corporation's fining of some members for "rastling at the football".[5] Similarly at Duns in 1724 a complaint reads: "football... did always end and determine in the effusion of blood among the inhabitants".[3] Toward the end of the eighteenth century the poet Skinner noted in his poems some of the injuries sustained playing foortball in Monymusk: "Has ne’er in Monymusk been seen Sae mony weel-beft skins; Of a' the ba'-men there was nane But had twa bleedy shins"

Sir Walter Scott described football as "his favourite border sport". He too, however, talks about the rough nature of nineteenth century Scottish football in "the Lay": "In riot, revelry, and rout, Pursued the football, play".[3] Scott also states that in the "foot-ball...The victory is contested with the utmost fury, and very serious accidents have sometimes taken place in the struggle".

Scottish football continued to be a very violent affair well into the nineteenth century. For, example the game in Hawick was described in 1825 as "a species of war or fighting".[3] In 1826 the game was banned in Kirkwall as it was disturbing the peace. From this time until the late 1860s there is a lull in references to football in Scotland, suggested that banning of the game had at last proved successful. As a result of the level of violence often seen in early Scottish football games, a lot of traditional ball games were modified or died out in the nineteenth century. Examples still exist today, however, of traditional Scottish football, in particular the Ba game (although many of these have been revived in the modern time).

The earliest evidence of the use of codified rules of any type of football in Scotland came in 1851 when rugby football was adopted by the Edinburgh Academy, in order to be able to play with other schools. The Edinburgh Academical Football Club, is the oldest football club of any code in Scotland (rugby football).

A "Foot Ball Club" was founded in Edinburgh in 1824[7] After being recently reformed, it now plays association football in the Edinburgh & District Sunday Amateur Association.

Early modern history (1867–1900)[edit]

The first official football international, Scotland versus England. Once kept by the Rugby Football Union as an early example of rugby football.

Scotland was one of the earliest modern footballing nations. The game started to become popular in the country following the development in London in 1863 of the first ever rules of Association Football, established by The Football Association. Scottish football clubs started to be formed towards the end of the 1860s and 1870s, some in Glasgow introduced to a rudimentary version of the pursuit by men from Callander in Perthshire,[8] this having its roots in traditional Handsel Monday holiday mass-participation games (which also led to the formation of some rugby clubs as efforts were made to formalise the rules of these chaotic events).[9] Queen's Park was Scotland's first football club, founded in 1867.[10] It is the oldest existing football club outside England.

In the late 1860s football rules in Scotland still allowed the ball to be handled by all the outfield players, as well as the goalkeeper, whereas in England only the keeper was permitted to handle the ball and then only in his own area.[11] According to the Scotsman newspaper of 2 December 1872,at that time there were only about ten football clubs in Scotland.

Even as late as 1870, football was an unfamiliar sport in Scotland. In that year, C.W. Alcock's received no response to his challenges issued in Scottish newspapers, including the Glasgow Herald, for homegrown contenders to face an English eleven. One response to Alcock's challenges illustrates that football was eclipsed in Scotland by other codes: "Mr Alcock's challenge to meet a Scotch eleven on the borders sounds very well and is doubtless well meant. But it may not be generally well known that Mr Alcock is a very leading supporter of what is called the "association game"... devotees of the "association" rules will find no foemen worthy of their steel in Scotland".[12]

Between 1870 and 1872, a series of six matches between representatives of England and Scotland took place at The Oval, London. Robert Smith of Queen's Park played in the international matches against England of 19 November 1870,[13] 25 February 1871[14] and 18 November 1871.[15] The Queen's Park football club players R. Smith and J. Smith were named amongst 16 selected players in the publicity for the February 1872 match,[16] and the reason for their absence is not clear. These early matches were organised under the auspices of the Football Association, but are not currently recognised by FIFA (founded 1904) as official internationals, although the Scotsman newspaper certainly identified them as "international in character.[The Scotsman's italics]"[17]

Alcock was categorical that although most players were London based, this was due to lack of response from north of the border:

"I must join issue with your correspondent in some instances. First, I assert that of whatever the Scotch eleven may have been composed the right to play was open to every Scotchman [Alcock's italics] whether his lines were cast North or South of the Tweed and that if in the face of the invitations publicly given through the columns of leading journals of Scotland the representative eleven consisted chiefly of Anglo-Scotians ... the fault lies on the heads of the players of the north, not on the management who sought the services of all alike impartially. To call the team London Scotchmen contributes nothing. The match was, as announced, to all intents and purposes between England and Scotland".[18]

Alcock decided "in order to further the interests of the Association in Scotland, it was decided that during the current season, a team should be sent to Glasgow to play a match v Scotland[19] The first official (i.e. currently recognised by FIFA) international match would take place between Scotland and England on 30 November 1872, played under the Football Association rules. This match is, however, not the origin of the blue Scotland shirt, for contemporary reports of the earlier (5 February 1872) rugby international at the Oval clearly stated that "the scotch were easily distinguishable by their uniform of blue jerseys.... the jerseys having the thistle embroidered"[20] The thistle had been worn previously in the 1871 rugby international[21]

The match itself illustrated the advantage gained by the Queens Park players "through knowing each others' play[22]" as all came from the same club. Contemporary match reports clearly show dribbling play by both the English and the Scottish sides, for example: "The Scotch now came away with a great rush, Leckie and others dribbling the ball so smartly that the English lines were closely besieged and the ball was soon behind",[22] "Weir now had a splendid run for Scotland into the heart of his opponents' territory.[22]" and "Kerr.. closed the match by the most brilliant run of the day, dribbling the ball past the whole field"[23] Scotland nearly won but a Robert Leckie shot landed on the tape crossbar and the game finished 0-0.[24] Although the Scottish team are acknowledged to have worked better together during the first half, the contemporary account in the Scotsman newspaper acknowledges that in the second half England played similarly: "During the first half of the game the English team did not work so well together, but in the second half they left nothing to be desired in this respect.[22]" There is no specific description of a passing manoeuvre in the lengthy contemporary match reports, although two weeks' later The Graphic reported "[Scotland] seem to be adepts at passing the ball".[23] There is no evidence in the article that the author attended the match, as the reader is clearly pointed to match descriptions in "sporting journals". Similarly, the 5 March 1872 match between Wanderers and Queen's Park contains no evidence of ball passing[25] This contemporary evidence suggests that the origin of the short passing game lies in the mid-1870s.

In the next international in 1873 Scotland lost away to England in London, but in 1874 Scotland had their first international victory, beating England 4–2 in Glasgow. For his part, Alcock continued to pursue players from "north of the Tweed", inviting them in papers such as the Scotsman to contact(for example) A F Kinnaird".[17] At this time, however, it was difficult for players to travel far for matches and even in the 1873 game, only three Scottish players were not drawn from English clubs.[26] In 1875, the two nations drew again, but after this there followed a period of Scottish dominance for the following ten years, with only one defeat against the English.

Association football quickly became the most popular sport in Scotland, particularly in Glasgow and the west. The Scottish Cup was established in 1873, making it the second oldest football cup competition in the world. The early editions of the tournament were dominated by Queen's Park and Vale of Leven, with the two teams winning the first nine editions. The Scottish Football Association was formed in 1873 and is the second oldest in the world.

League football and professionalism[edit]

In the late 1880s, significant number of Scottish players participated in English football teams. Payments to players had been made legal in England in 1885 and professional footballers were paid decent salaries, which attracted many Scottish players southwards to ply their trade in England.[11] Some earned the epithet "Scotch Professors"[27] In Scotland the game remained, in theory anyway, an amateur game, with Queen's Park at the forefront, reaching the final of the English FA Cup in 1884 and 1885. Scottish clubs stopped participating in the competition in 1887 due to their hostility towards professionalism, which also meant the many talented players that moved to England were ignored for national team selection purposes.

Preston North End, the first English team to win the Championship and Cup "double" in 1889, did so with a majority of their team being made up of Scottish players.[28][29] Liverpool A.F.C. was founded in 1892 with a team full of Scots.

One of the other teams to benefit from the move of Scottish players to England, was Sunderland A.F.C. The club turned professional in 1885, and recruited a number of internationally capped Scotsmen the same year.[30] Founder James Allan left Sunderland in 1888 because of his dislike for the "professionalism" that had been creeping into the club, and subsequently formed Sunderland Albion.[31] The wealthy miner Samuel Tyzack, who alongside and shipbuilder Robert Turnbull funded the now professional "team of all talents," often pretended to be a priest while scouting for players in Scotland, as Sunderland's recruitment policy in Scotland enraged many Scottish fans. On 5 April 1890, the Football League's founder, William McGregor, labelled Sunderland as "the team of all talents" stating that they had "a talented man in every position".[32][33] The Sunderland lineup in the 1895 World Championship was made from entirely Scottish players.[33]

William McGregor, who grew up in Perthshire and lived most of his life in Birmingham, is credited with the establishment in 1888 of The Football League in England. This in turn influenced Scottish football and the Scottish Football League was founded in 1890; Dumbarton and Rangers were declared joint champions of the first league season after they could not be separated on points and a play-off match was drawn. The league became officially professional in 1893 (whereupon 560 players were registered as professionals)[34] and added a second tier because of the rapidly growing number of clubs.

Between 1872 and 1929, Scotland played matches exclusively against the other three Home nations—England, Wales and Ireland. The British Home Championship began in 1884, making these games competitive. The encounters against England were particularly fierce and a rivalry quickly developed.[35] Scotland dominated the early British Championships, winning or sharing with England every edition but one between 1884 and 1890. From then on results were poorer, with England winning four out of five between 1895 and 1900. This downturn in results and the adoption of professionalism at club level in Scotland in line with England led to the SFA relaxing their home-based player only rule in 1896, with the addition of 'Anglos' having a generally positive impact: Scotland claimed four of the next seven titles between 1896 and 1902.

In 1894 football was taken to Brazil by Charles William Miller, who was of combined Scottish-English descent. He had not lived in Scotland and learned to play football while at Banister Court School in Southampton, England.[36]


James I's ban on football was finally repealed in 1906 (although ignored long before then).

Competitive football was suspended in Scotland after the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939. Wartime competitions and internationals were played during the Second World War, but official competition did not resume until the 1946–47 season.


Scottish football enjoyed something of a golden age after the Second World War. Attendance numbers boomed during the 1950s and club sides enjoyed success in the newly instigated European competitions. The most obvious example of this came in 1967, when Celtic became the first club non-Latin club to win the European Cup. This success came during a period of domestic dominance for Celtic, who won nine consecutive Scottish league championships between 1966 and 1974. Other sides also enjoyed success, however, as Rangers won the 1972 European Cup Winners' Cup and both Hearts and Hibernian had great domestic success during the 1950s.


The period of dominance by Celtic and declining attendances during the early 1970s resulted in officials considering changes to the Scottish game. Radical reforms were introduced to the league system in 1975, as a 10 team Premier Division was created. This marked a shift from clubs playing each other twice a season to four games a season in the Premier Division, and from two games to three games in the First Division and Second Division. This reform appeared to work initially, as Scottish clubs enjoyed European success during the 1980s. Unusually, the Old Firm dominance of Celtic and Rangers was broken by a New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United. Aberdeen won the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup, defeating Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, and Dundee United reached the 1987 UEFA Cup Final, defeating FC Barcelona en route.

Rangers had endured a barren run during the early 1980s, but reasserted themselves after Graeme Souness was appointed manager in 1986 and was allowed to buy many senior England internationals. Players such as Chris Woods and Terry Butcher were attracted not just by the finances on offer, but also by the fact that Rangers still had access to European competition during a period when English clubs had been banned after the Heysel Stadium disaster. Rangers then entered a period of domestic dominance, winning nine consecutive Scottish League Championships from 1989 to 1997.


As of the beginning of 2000, it could be said that Scottish football was enjoying a resurgent period, with both halves of the Old Firm being involved in European competition after Christmas for the first time in decades - Celtic F.C. reached the 2003 final of the UEFA Cup and progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League, and Rangers to the 2008 final of the UEFA Cup. 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 of Scottish Football. The two clubs then met twice in the Domestic Cup competitions, once in 2015 and once in 2016, during Rangers spell out the top league. The rivalry then resumed again in September 2016 when Rangers were promoted back into the Scottish Premiership.

Stadium moves and refurbishments[edit]

The 1971 Ibrox disaster, in which 66 supporters were killed on an exit stairway with an old, unsafe design led to Rangers redeveloping their Ibrox Park over the next decade, replacing most of the terracing areas with seated grandstands, based on the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund.[37] It was the first major modernisation of a football stadium in Scotland for decades.

Partick Thistle rebuilt two stands at Firhill Stadium and hosted two other clubs who had been made homeless.

In 1986, Clyde became the first of several senior clubs to leave the stadium where they had played since the early years of the sport (1898 in their case); unusually in Scotland they did not own Shawfield Stadium, and the greyhound racing company which were the owners aimed to sell it for redevelopment (which never came to pass) and the football team was evicted.[38] It was the first in what would be a complicated and protracted series of relocations during the final years of the 20th and the outset of the 21st century. For Clyde, eight years of ground-sharing followed before their new home in Cumbernauld – ten miles from their old base in Rutherglen – was ready in 1994 (even then, it was still owned by the local authority rather than the club).[39]

By that time, the 1989 Hillsborough disaster had taken place, and its subsequent inquiry recommended all-seater stadia at the elite professional level,[40] something the Scottish Football League adopted as a rule, requiring almost all Scottish clubs to either upgrade their ageing stadia or construct new ones to comply with the new legislation (for example, both Easter Road and Tynecastle were entirely rebuilt in stages over the next 20 or so years,[41] with Hearts playing a small number of home matches at the neighbouring Murrayfield rugby stadium in the final phase of work).[42] Celtic spent one season – 1994–95 – away from home at Hampden Park[43] (between the national stadium's own periods of extensive renovation that required several national cup finals and Scotland fixtures to be played at the other large Glasgow venues)[44] which was familiar to many of the players from internationals and cup fixtures; indeed, the last match of their spell at Hampden before returning to a half-completed Celtic Park was the 1995 Scottish Cup Final, which they won. The sums spent by Celtic and others to modernise their stadia in that era was in contrast to Rangers who had carried out their major upgrades some years earlier, and this extra revenue was reflected in the Gers' dominance on the field in those years.[37]

Several middle-order teams such as Partick Thistle endured financial hardship modernising their ground,[45] exacerbated by a requirement of the new Scottish Premier League in 1998 (although it was actually set in place in 1994 with clubs given the intervening years to comply)[46] stipulating that a ground had to have 10,000 seats, far more than the average attendance of all but a handful of its members.[47]

A worse fate befell Airdrieonians who vacated their traditional Broomfield Park in 1994, had to wait four years for their new SPL-compliant Excelsior Stadium to be finished, then were out of business by 2002, unable to repay the cost of its construction. In their final match away to Ayr United, some Airdrie supporters staged a destructive pitch invasion at Somerset Park – the Ayr chairman happened to own the construction company which built Excelsior Stadium and was thus a major creditor of Airdrieonians;[48] however his club had not been burdened with the costly disruption of stadium rebuilding,[49] and nor would any major changes be seen at Somerset Park in the subsequent fifteen years.[50][51] A team continues to play in Airdrie, but at the time of its formation, Airdrie United was technically a rebranding of Clydebank,[52] another club which had vacated its old home and spent six seasons playing in Dumbarton and Greenock, with its attendance numbers dwindling all the while.[53] The Bankies fans formed a phoenix club of the same name to compete in the Junior leagues.[54]

Almondvale Stadium was built to provide 10,000 seats as required at the time, however attendances rarely exceed half of that total.

Having been landlords to Clyde in the 1980s, Hamilton Academical almost went the way of Airdrieonians when their new stadium took seven years to materialise; it took the intervention of some Glasgow investors (who had previously been at the helm of Clyde)[55] to stabilise the Accies financially, and their youth-focused business model saw the club reach the top tier within a decade.[56]

Falkirk were denied promotion in 2000 (Aberdeen being spared possible relegation in a play-off)[57] and 2003 (Motherwell reprieved)[58] due to the condition of Brockville Park before they sold the town centre site for the construction of a supermarket (as Airdrie and Hamilton had done), sharing with Stenhousemuir for one year while their new stadium on the edge of town was being built. The Bairns were angered when Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who already had a new stadium but not of sufficient size, were allowed to join the SPL for the 2004–05 campaign on a ground-sharing agreement with Aberdeen[59] (100 miles away from their home city), albeit only for six months during expansion work, when Falkirk had been denied such an arrangement with Clyde or Airdrie United the year before.[60] This developments caused further annoyance for Partick Thistle as they were the club relegated from the top division when Inverness made their Aberdeen plan.[47] That summer, a reduction in the required seating capacity from 10,000 to 6,000 came into effect,[61] which benefitted clubs such Inverness,[62] Falkirk (who gained promotion in the first season in their new stadium) and later Hamilton, as smaller new venues were now acceptable without even having all four sides built up (to reach the lower threshold in 2008, Hamilton erected a 'temporary' stand for 700 which was still in place a decade later).

St Mirren Park is the most recent new stadium for a professional club in Scotland, completed in 2009.

Gretna also shared with Motherwell, a distance of 100 miles again, during their single campaign in the SPL in 2007–08; the league indicated that such plans would not be considered again due to the very poor condition of the Fir Park pitch as a result of so many matches being played on it.[63]

At either end of this unsettled period, St Johnstone (in 1989) and St Mirren (2009) both relocated to new grounds with much less upheaval than others mentioned above, due to the fact that the replacements were being constructed before the originals were vacated. This was also true further down the leagues for East Fife (1998) and Dumbarton (2000); however when East Stirlingshire vacated Firs Park in 2008, an intended tenancy of five years at nearby Stenhousemuir became ten years, during which time the club lost their league place, being relegated to the recently introduced Lowland Football League in 2016. In 2018, Shire moved in with Falkirk.[64]

Somerset Park in Ayr is an old stadium with a majority of terracing and less than 2000 seats but would now meet SPFL Premiership entry requirements

Ayr United's impressive form at the outset of the 2018–19 Scottish Championship season led observers to examine the latest SPFL entry requirements due to the possibility of the club achieving promotion while still based at the unmodernised Somerset Park (all other promoted teams' stadia since the advent of the new league body in 2013 had met the previous SPL seating threshold of 6000, therefore little attention was paid to the matter). It was confirmed that the SPFL statutes only required grounds to have 'bronze standard' facilities (500 covered places), meaning Somerset Park would be accepted as a Premiership venue with minimal improvements.[51][65]

Temporary relocations[edit]

Club Previous stadium Left Reason Moved to Landlord Years Back
Cup finals[66][44]
Hampden Park 1992[a] Extensive reconstruction[b] Celtic Park;[c]
Ibrox Stadium;[d]
Pittodrie Stadium[e]
1.5 1994[f]
Celtic[43] Celtic Park 1994 Extensive reconstruction Hampden Park Queen's Park 1 1995
Cup finals[66][44]
Hampden Park 1996[g] Extensive reconstruction[b] Celtic Park;[h]
Ibrox Stadium;[i]
3 1999[k]
Inverness CT Caledonian Stadium 2004[l] Stadium expansion to meet capacity requirements Pittodrie Stadium Aberdeen 0.5 2005[m]
Gretna Raydale Park 2007 Did not meet capacity/safety requirements[63] Fir Park Motherwell 1 N/A
Club dissolved in summer 2008
Queen's Park;
Cup finals[66]
Hampden Park 2013 Conversion of use:
Athletics at the 2014 Commonwealth Games
Excelsior Stadium;[n]
Celtic Park;[o]
Ibrox Stadium[p]
1.5 2015[q]
Edinburgh City Meadowbank Stadium 2017 Redevelopment work[67] Ainslie Park Spartans TBC[r] TBC[r]
  1. ^ October 1992
  2. ^ a b Queen's Park were able to continue playing at Hampden during this work as the pitch was not damaged, some of the facilities were accessible and their small attendances did not cause capacity or safety issues.
  3. ^ Celtic Park hosted one 1992–93 Scottish Cup semi-final, the 1993 Scottish Cup Final and the 1993 Scottish League Cup Final.
  4. ^ Ibrox hosted one 1993–94 Scottish League Cup semi-final, the 1994 Scottish League Cup Final (as a result of finalists Celtic using Hampden during their own redevelopment) and four Scotland home matches.
  5. ^ Pittodrie hosted two Scotland home matches.
  6. ^ March 1994
  7. ^ May 1996
  8. ^ Celtic Park hosted one 1996–97 Scottish League Cup semi-final, the 1996 Scottish League Cup Final, one 1997–98 Scottish Cup semi-final, the 1998 Scottish Cup Final, one 1998–99 Scottish League Cup semi-final, the 1998 Scottish League Cup Final, one 1998–99 Scottish Cup semi-final and three Scotland home matches.
  9. ^ Ibrox hosted a 1996–97 Scottish Cup semi-final and replay, the 1997 Scottish Cup Final, a 1997–98 Scottish League Cup semi-final, the 1997 Scottish League Cup Final, one 1997–98 Scottish Cup semi-final, one 1998–99 Scottish Cup semi-final and three Scotland home matches.
  10. ^ Several stadia were used for Scotland home matches: Pittodrie hosted two, Rugby Park hosted two, Easter Road hosted one, Tynecastle hosted one.
  11. ^ May 1999
  12. ^ August 2004
  13. ^ January 2005
  14. ^ Excelsior Stadium hosted Queen's Park home matches.[66]
  15. ^ Celtic Park hosted the 2014 Scottish League Cup Final, the 2014 Scottish Cup Final and two Scotland home matches.
  16. ^ Ibrox hosted two 2013–14 Scottish Cup semi-finals and one Scotland home match.
  17. ^ Conversion reversed by January 2015
  18. ^ a b Duration and status of tenancy uncertain.[68]

Indirect relocations[edit]

Moves to new permanent homes via one or more groundshares.[a]

Club Previous stadium Left Reason Moved to Landlord Years New stadium Back
Clyde Shawfield Stadium 1986 Evicted by controlling company Firhill Stadium Partick Thistle 5 N/A;
New groundshare (Douglas Park)
Clyde N/A;
Previous groundshare (Firhill)
1991 New stadium construction Douglas Park Hamilton Academical 3 Broadwood Stadium 1994
Stirling Albion Annfield Stadium[69] 1992 Sold to developer;
New stadium construction
Ochilview Park Stenhousemuir 1 Forthbank Stadium 1993[70]
Airdrieonians (1878) Broomfield Park[69] 1994 Sold to developer;
New stadium construction
Broadwood Stadium Clyde 4 Excelsior Stadium 1998
Hamilton Academical Douglas Park[69] 1994 Sold to developer;
New stadium planned
Firhill Stadium Partick Thistle 3 N/A;
New groundshare (Cliftonhill)
Clydebank Kilbowie Park[69] 1996 Sold to developer;
New stadium planned
Boghead Park Dumbarton 3 N/A;
New groundshare (Cappielow)
Hamilton Academical N/A;
Previous groundshare (Firhill)
1997 New stadium planned Cliftonhill Albion Rovers 2 N/A;
New groundshare (Firhill)
Clydebank N/A;
Previous groundshare (Boghead)
1999 New stadium planned Cappielow Greenock Morton 3 Excelsior Stadium[b] 2002
Hamilton Academical N/A;
Previous groundshare (Cliftonhill)
1999 New stadium construction Firhill Stadium Partick Thistle 2 New Douglas Park 2001
Falkirk Brockville Park[69] 2003 Sold to developer;
New stadium construction[71]
Ochilview Park Stenhousemuir 1 Falkirk Stadium 2004
East Stirlingshire Firs Park[69] 2008 New stadium planned Ochilview Park Stenhousemuir 10 N/A;
New groundshare (Falkirk Stadium)[64][c]
  1. ^ Cove Rangers's move to Balmoral Stadium in 2018 via Harlaw Park, Inverurie is not included as the club was not in the SPFL at the time.
  2. ^ Team relocated and rebranded as Airdrie United to retain existing league place. Stadium previously used by the defunct Airdrieonians .
  3. ^ The groundshare at Falkirk has not been listed separately as East Stirlingshire were not in the SPFL at the time.

Permanent moves[edit]

Moves which did not involve any substantial period of temporary groundsharing.[a]

Club Previous stadium Left New stadium Notes
St Johnstone Muirton Park[69] 1989 McDiarmid Park [b]
Livingston Meadowbank Stadium 1995 Almondvale Stadium [c]
Inverness CT Telford Street Park 1996 Caledonian Stadium [d]
East Fife Bayview Park[69] 1998 Bayview Stadium
Dumbarton Boghead Park[69] 2000 Dumbarton Football Stadium [e]
St Mirren St Mirren Park (Love Street) 2009 St Mirren Park
Queen's Park Hampden Park 2021 Lesser Hampden [f]
  1. ^ Peterhead's move to Balmoor Stadium in 1997 is not included as the club was not in the SFL at the time.
  2. ^ McDiarmid Park was the first purpose-built all-seater stadium in the United Kingdom.
  3. ^ Rebranded from Meadowbank Thistle and relocated from Edinburgh to Livingston, West Lothian.
  4. ^ Followed a merger between Caledonian (who played at Telford Street) and Inverness Thistle in 1994 to gain SFL entry.
  5. ^ Stadium opened 2 December 2000. 9 games from August–November played at Cliftonhill.
  6. ^ Games from April 2021 played at Falkirk Stadium due to construction delays.[72]

Old Firm Domination[edit]

The intensity of the Old Firm rivalry is fuelled by the clubs' historical duopoly in Scottish football, with most meetings between them being pivotal in deciding the destiny of a championship or cup, and anything but a title-winning season seen as a major disappointment particularly as it usually means the 'enemy' has won the trophy.


Titles won by club (%)

  Rangers – 54[note 1] (43.5%)
  Celtic – 51 (41.5%)
  Aberdeen – 4 (3.3%)
  Hearts – 4 (3.3%)
  Hibernian – 4 (3.3%)
  Other clubs – 7[note 1] (5.3%)

Since the formation of the Scottish Football League in 1890, statistics show that Rangers and Celtic have been by far the most successful clubs involved. Of the 123 championships played, 105 (85%) have been won by one of the Old Firm with Rangers ahead on 54 titles to Celtic's 51, and 19 between ten other clubs (including a shared title between Rangers and Dumbarton).

Although there have been brief periods when silverware went elsewhere - such as Hibernian then Hearts in the 1950s and Aberdeen in the 1980s - there have also been long spells of domination by each Old Firm club, the longest run of 9-in-a-row being first set by Celtic between 1966 and 1974, then by Rangers between 1989 and 1997 and then again by Celtic between 2012 and 2020.

On just five occasions since 1891 have neither of the Glasgow giants been the league winner nor the runner-up. This includes 1964–65, the only season in which both Rangers and Celtic failed to finish in the top three places. The Old Firm have finished 1st and 2nd 49 times overall. After the resurgence of Celtic in the mid-1990s and before the old company liquidation of Rangers, '1–2' finishes were recorded in all but one of 17 SPL-era seasons, the exception being Hearts in 2006

The longest sequence without an Old Firm title is 3 years between 1983 and 1985, while the longest unbroken run of championships between the two clubs began immediately afterwards and is ongoing: 35 seasons and counting since 1986 (overtaking a previous sequence of 27 years between 1905 and 1931).

As of end of season 2019–20. Runners-up in (parentheses)

Outcome[73] Celtic Rangers Combined %
One club 1st, other 2nd 26 (24) 24 (26) 50 40%
One club 1st, other not top 2 25 30 55 45%
Title wins by Old Firm club 51 54 105 85%
One club 2nd, other not top 2 N/A (7) N/A (6) 13 11%
Neither club in top 2 N/A N/A 5 4%
Title wins by another club N/A N/A 18* 15%
Totals 51 (31) 54 (32) 123 100%
  • For the purpose of the calculation, the shared 1891 title is attributed to Rangers only here to prevent it being counted twice.

Scottish Cup[edit]

Scottish Cups by club (%)

  Celtic – 40 (29.9%)
  Rangers – 33 (24.6%)
  Queen's Park – 10 (7.5%)
  Hearts – 8 (6.0%)
  Aberdeen – 7 (5.2%)
  Hibernian – 3 (2.2%)
  Other clubs – 33 (24.6%)

Although the initial Scottish Cup was played in 1874, 15 years before Celtic were formed, they have still won the competition more than any other club - 40 times, plus 18 runners-up - with Rangers not far behind on 33 (also 18 runners-up). Next in the winners list (other than Queen's Park whose wins were confined to the 19th century) are Hearts with 8 wins spread across 120 years. There have been 14 Old Firm finals, although never two in consecutive years, while there have been just 39 finals involving neither Rangers or Celtic, 17 of which were in the 1800s. After the 1928 final, there was no Old Firm meeting again for 28 editions until 1963, although an additional seven years had elapsed due to World War II when the cup was not contested.

The longest run of Old Firm wins is 11 between 1971 and 1981, while the longest run of other winners since Celtic's formation is 5 between 1955 and 1959.

Rangers' sudden if temporary removal from the upper echelons of the Scottish game in 2012 led to a more diverse list of finalists in both cups; the expected Celtic monopoly of all competitions did not occur in the knockout formats and there were several maiden trophy wins for clubs such as St Johnstone, Inverness CT and Ross County. However, after Hibernian broke a 114-year 'curse' in 2016, Celtic won the next four editions in succession, the longest winning sequence in the competition's long history.

On six occasions (Hibernian in 1901–02, St Mirren in 1925–26, Kilmarnock in 1928–29, Hearts in 1955–56, Aberdeen in 1982–83 and again in 1983–84) the winners of the Scottish Cup defeated both Rangers and Celtic en route to lifting the trophy.

As of end of season 2019–20. Runners-up in (parentheses)

Outcome[74] Celtic Rangers Combined %
Old Firm final 7 (7) 7 (7) 14 10%
One winner, other not involved 33 26 59 45%
Cup wins by an Old Firm club 40 33 73 55%
One runner-up, other not involved N/A (11) N/A (11) 22 16%
neither club involved N/A N/A 39 29%
Cup wins by another club N/A N/A 61 45%
Totals 40 (18) 33 (18) 134 100%

League Cup[edit]

Scottish League Cups by club (%)

  Rangers – 27 (36.5%)
  Celtic – 19 (25.7%)
  Aberdeen – 6 (8.1%)
  Hearts – 4 (5.4%)
  Hibernian – 3 (4.1%)
  Other clubs – 15 (20.3%)

The Scottish League Cup has been contested 74 times since 1946–47. Rangers are dominant in terms of wins with 27 from 34 finals, with Celtic some way behind on 19 wins from 34 finals. 13 other clubs share 28 wins between them. 14 of its finals have been Old Firm occasions, while 20 featured neither of them.

The longest run of Old Firm wins is 8 between 1964 and 1971, while the longest run of other winners is 7 between 1950 and 1956.

On three occasions (Hibernian in 1972–73, Aberdeen in 1976–77 and 1989–90) the winners of the Scottish Cup defeated both Rangers and Celtic en route to lifting the trophy.

As of end of the 2018–19 competition which concluded in December 2018. Runners-up in (parentheses)

Outcome[75] Celtic Rangers Combined %
Old Firm final 5 (9) 9 (5) 14 19%
One winner, other not involved 13 18 31 42%
Cup wins by an Old Firm club 18 27 45 61%
One runner-up, other not involved N/A (6) N/A (2) 8 11%
neither club involved N/A N/A 20 28%
Cup wins by another club N/A N/A 28 39%
Totals 18 (15) 27 (7) 73 100%

Annual competition history chart[edit]

The Old Firm dominance as well as Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibernian's lesser success is particularly stark when expressed in colour as shown below, with other clubs' entries in red appearing sporadically and briefly other than a sustained period in the 15 years following World War II, the New Firm years of the 1980s, and the 2010s amid Rangers' financial collapse.

Since the Scottish Football League was formed, there have not been any seasons where neither Rangers or Celtic has been at least a cup finalist or league runner-up. In the circumstances it is perhaps more surprising that only once prior to World War II - 1927–28 - did the Old Firm clubs finish 1st and 2nd in the League and meet in the Scottish Cup final, and only once since the war and the establishment of the League Cup have they finished 1st and 2nd and met in both cup finals - this occurred in 1965–66.


Since 1887[73][74][75]

Year Champions 2nd Scottish Cup R-up
1886–87 Began in 1890–91 Hibernian O
1887–88 Renton O
1888–89 Third Lanark C
1889–90 Queen's Park O
1890–91 Dumbarton[a] R Heart of Midlothian O
1891–92 Dumbarton C Celtic O
1892–93 Celtic R Queen's Park C
1893–94 Celtic HM Rangers C
1894–95 Heart of Midlothian C St Bernard's O
1895–96 Celtic R Heart of Midlothian H
1896–97 Heart of Midlothian H Rangers O
1897–98 Celtic R Rangers O
1898–99 Rangers HM Celtic R
1899–1900 Rangers C Celtic O
1900–01 Rangers C Heart of Midlothian C
1901–02 Rangers C Hibernian C
1902–03 Hibernian O Rangers HM
1903–04 Third Lanark HM Celtic R
1904–05 Celtic R Third Lanark R
1905–06 Celtic HM Heart of Midlothian O
1906–07 Celtic O Celtic HM
1907–08 Celtic O Celtic O
1908–09 Celtic O Withheld[b] .
1909–10 Celtic O Dundee O
1910–11 Rangers A Celtic O
1911–12 Rangers C Celtic O
1912–13 Rangers C Falkirk O
1913–14 Celtic R Celtic H
1914–15 Celtic HM World War I[76]
1915–16 Celtic R
1916–17 Celtic O
1917–18 Rangers C
1918–19 Celtic R St Mirren[c] HM
1919–20 Rangers C Kilmarnock O
1920–21 Rangers C Partick Thistle R
1921–22 Celtic R Morton R
1922–23 Rangers O Celtic H
1923–24 Rangers O Airdrieonians H
1924–25 Rangers O Celtic O
1925–26 Celtic O St Mirren C
1926–27 Rangers O Celtic O
1927–28[d] Rangers C Rangers C
1928–29 Rangers C Kilmarnock R
1929–30 Rangers O Rangers O
1930–31 Rangers C Celtic O
1931–32 Motherwell R Rangers O
1932–33 Rangers O Celtic O
1933–34 Rangers O Rangers O
1934–35 Rangers C Rangers O
1935–36 Celtic R Rangers O
1936–37 Rangers A Celtic A
1937–38 Celtic HM East Fife O
1938–39 Rangers C Clyde O
1939–45 Suspended due to World War II[77]
Year Champions 2nd Scottish Cup R-up League Cup R-up
1945–46 Rangers[e] H Rangers[f] H Aberdeen[g] R
1946–47 Rangers H Aberdeen H Rangers A
1947–48 Hibernian R Rangers O East Fife O
1948–49 Rangers O Rangers O Rangers O
1949–50 Rangers H Rangers O East Fife O
1950–51 Hibernian R Celtic O Motherwell H
1951–52 Hibernian R Motherwell O Dundee R
1952–53 Rangers H Rangers A Dundee O
1953–54 Celtic HM Celtic A East Fife O
1954–55 Aberdeen C Clyde C Heart of Midlothian O
1955–56 Rangers A Heart of Midlothian C Aberdeen O
1956–57 Rangers HM Falkirk O Celtic O
1957–58 Heart of Midlothian R Clyde H Celtic R
1958–59 Rangers HM St Mirren A Heart of Midlothian O
1959–60 Heart of Midlothian O Rangers O Heart of Midlothian O
1960–61 Rangers O Dunfermline Athletic C Rangers O
1961–62 Dundee R Rangers O Rangers HM
1962–63 Rangers O Rangers C Heart of Midlothian O
1963–64 Rangers O Rangers O Rangers O
1964–65 Kilmarnock HM Celtic O Rangers C
1965–66[h] Celtic R Rangers C Celtic R
1966–67 Celtic R Celtic A Celtic R
1967–68 Celtic R Dunfermline Athletic HM Celtic O
1968–69 Celtic R Celtic R Celtic H
1969–70 Celtic R Aberdeen C Celtic O
1970–71 Celtic A Celtic R Rangers C
1971–72 Celtic A Celtic H Partick Thistle C
1972–73 Celtic R Rangers C Hibernian C
1973–74 Celtic H Celtic O Dundee C
1974–75 Rangers H Celtic O Celtic H
1975–76 Rangers C Rangers HM Rangers C
1976–77 Celtic R Celtic R Aberdeen C
1977–78 Rangers A Rangers A Rangers C
1978–79 Celtic R Rangers H Rangers A
1979–80 Aberdeen C Celtic R Dundee United A
1980–81 Celtic A Rangers O Dundee United O
1981–82 Celtic A Aberdeen R Rangers O
1982–83 Dundee United C Aberdeen R Celtic R
1983–84 Aberdeen C Aberdeen C Rangers C
1984–85 Aberdeen C Celtic O Rangers O
1985–86 Celtic HM Aberdeen HM Aberdeen H
1986–87 Rangers C St Mirren O Rangers C
1987–88 Celtic HM Celtic O Rangers A
1988–89 Rangers A Celtic R Rangers A
1989–90 Rangers A Aberdeen C Aberdeen R
1990–91 Rangers A Motherwell O Rangers C
1991–92 Rangers HM Rangers O Hibernian O
1992–93[i] Rangers A Rangers A Rangers A
1993–94 Rangers A Dundee United R Rangers H
1994–95 Rangers O Celtic O Raith Rovers C
1995–96 Rangers C Rangers HM Aberdeen O
1996–97 Rangers C Kilmarnock O Rangers HM
1997–98 Celtic R Heart of Midlothian R Celtic O
1998–99 Rangers C Rangers C Rangers O
1999–2000 Rangers C Rangers A Celtic A
2000–01 Celtic R Celtic H Celtic O
2001–02 Celtic R Rangers C Rangers O
2002–03 Rangers C Rangers O Rangers C
2003–04 Celtic R Celtic O Livingston H
2004–05 Rangers C Celtic O Rangers O
2005–06 Celtic HM Heart of Midlothian O Celtic O
2006–07 Celtic R Celtic O Hibernian O
2007–08 Celtic R Rangers O Rangers O
2008–09 Rangers C Rangers O Celtic R
2009–10 Rangers C Dundee United O Rangers O
2010–11 Rangers C Celtic O Rangers C
2011–12 Celtic R Heart of Midlothian H Kilmarnock C
2012–13 Celtic O Celtic H St Mirren HM
2013–14 Celtic O St Johnstone O Aberdeen O
2014–15 Celtic A Inverness CT O Celtic O
2015–16 Celtic A Hibernian R Ross County H
2016–17[j] Celtic A Celtic A Celtic A
2017–18 Celtic A Celtic O Celtic O
2018–19 Celtic R Celtic HM Celtic A
2019–20 Celtic R Celtic HM Celtic R
2020–21 Rangers C St Johnstone H St Johnstone O
2021–22 Celtic H
  1. ^ Shared between Dumbarton and Rangers, Dumbarton goal difference superior so given 1st place for the purpose of this chart
  2. ^ Withheld after riot in 1909 Scottish Cup Final
  3. ^ unofficial Victory Cup
  4. ^ 1927–28 was the only pre-WWII season in which the Old Firm clubs finished 1st and 2nd in the League and were winners and runners-up in the Scottish Cup
  5. ^ unofficial Southern Football League
  6. ^ unofficial Victory Cup
  7. ^ unofficial Southern League Cup
  8. ^ 1965–66 was the only post-WWII season (to date) in which the Old Firm clubs finished 1st and 2nd in the League and were winners and runners-up in both cups
  9. ^ In 1992–93 Aberdeen finished runners-up to Rangers in all three competitions[78]
  10. ^ In 2016–17 Aberdeen finished runners-up to Celtic in all three competitions[78]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The totals for Rangers and "Other clubs" each include one shared championship, in 1890–91.


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