Scottish League Cup
|Number of teams||44|
|Current champions||St Johnstone|
|Most successful team(s)||Rangers|
|Television broadcasters||Premier Sports|
|2021–22 Scottish League Cup|
The Scottish League Cup, currently known as the Premier Sports Cup for sponsorship reasons, is a football competition open to all Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) clubs. First held in 1946–47, it is the oldest national League Cup in existence. The competition had a straight knockout format but became a group and knockout competition from 2016–17.
Historically, the Scottish League Cup has oscillated between being a straightforward single-elimination knockout tournament and having an initial group phase. Since the 2016–17 season, the League Cup has used a group phase format. The current format has eight groups of five teams playing each other once in a round-robin format. The forty teams playing in the group stage consist of the 38 league clubs who are not participating in UEFA competitions, along with two teams from outside the league.[note 1] In the group phase, three points are given for a win and one point for a draw. If matches are level after ninety minutes, a penalty shoot-out is held with the winning team gaining a bonus point. The groups are regionalised: there are four groups in the North section, and four in the South section, with three pots for each regional section – top seeds, second seeds, and unseeded clubs. Each group will consist of one top seed, one second seed, and three unseeded clubs.
The eight group winners and four best runners-up progress into the second round, where they are joined by the four clubs participating in UEFA competitions. The tournament then adopts a single-elimination knockout format. There are no replays, which means all drawn matches are decided by extra time and a penalty shootout, if necessary. The semi-final matches are played on a neutral ground, determined by the location and size of supports involved. The final game is traditionally played at Hampden Park in Glasgow, though due to renovations some finals have been played at other venues, such as Celtic Park or Ibrox Stadium. The new format also allowed the SPFL to reintroduce the two-weekend winter break in January. Along with the newly designed tournament, a new television deal for it was announced as BT Sport took over rights from BBC Scotland. In February 2016 the SPFL announced the League Cup final would be moved to November.
The cup has its origins in a regional cup competition called the Southern League Cup which was introduced in 1940 when wartime restrictions led to a suspension of the Scottish Cup. This tournament was largely regional and did not involve all of the teams who comprised the Scottish Football League prior to the outbreak of war. The first official Scottish Football League Cup was contested during the 1946–47 season, when Rangers defeated Aberdeen in the final.
The competition was very popular with supporters during the first few decades of its existence. The tournament consisted of 8 or 9 groups consisting of 4 or 5 teams. The groups were seeded into 2 sets with the top 16 teams in Division 1 making up the first four groups. This guaranteed that 4 'top' teams would play 4 'lesser' teams in the quarter-finals.
Extra games when the Premier League was formed and expanded European competitions meant that by the early 1980s, its long-winded format, which involved group rounds played early in the season leading to two-legged knock-out rounds, attracted much criticism. In the mid-1980s the tournament was revamped to a shorter, single elimination knock-out format with a final played prior to Christmas, which provided the excitement of a cup final early in the season.
During the 1999–2000 competition, the semi-finals and final were moved to the springtime to avoid the congestion of fixtures caused by the early rounds of the UEFA club competitions and Scotland's representatives in Europe were given automatic byes until the third round of competition.
From the 2016–17 edition the League Cup reverted to a group stage format, with single-elimination knock-out in the last 16 onwards.
The League Cup has been known by different names due to sponsorship:
|1946–78||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|1979–81||Bell's whisky||Bell's League Cup|
|1981–84||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|1984–92||Skol Lager||Skol Cup|
|1992–94||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|1998–99||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|1999–2008||CIS Insurance||CIS Insurance Cup|
|2008–11||The Co-operative Insurance||Co-operative Insurance Cup|
|2011–13||Scottish Government||Scottish Communities League Cup|
|2013–15||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|2015||QTS Group||The Scottish League Cup presented by QTS (semi-finals and final only)|
|2015–16||Utilita Energy||The Scottish League Cup presented by Utilita|
|2021–present||Premier Sports||Premier Sports Cup|
Since the competition's inception, the winning team has been awarded the three-handled trophy known as the Scottish Football League Cup. However, during the 1980s when Skol lager sponsored the competition, a second trophy known as the Skol Cup was awarded as well. After the 1987–88 competition when Rangers won their third Skol Cup, they were given the trophy permanently and a new Skol Cup with a slightly different design was introduced the following season.
Until 1995, the winners of the Scottish League Cup were granted a place in the UEFA Cup, although this privilege was rarely invoked as the winning teams usually qualified for Europe by some other means such as winning the League Championship or Scottish Cup. The most recent example was Raith Rovers who represented Scotland in the 1995–96 UEFA Cup after winning the League Cup the previous season as a First Division club. This privilege has since been discontinued due to the reduction in the number of European places granted to Scottish clubs.
Performance by club
Scottish League Cup matches are currently shown live by Premier Sports in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In Australia, the Scottish League Cup is broadcast by beIN Sports. The 2009 Scottish League Cup Final was shown live on SBS due to a fixture clash on previous hosts' Setanta channel. In sub-Saharan Africa, the Scottish League Cup matches are currently shown live by ESPN
List of broadcasters
|2004–16||BBC One Scotland|
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"HIBERNIAN AND THE LEAGUE CUP". Hibernian Historical Trust. 19 September 2017. Archived from the original on 28 July 2020. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 August 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2020.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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- "Hearts and Hibs to compete for Premier Sports Cup after SPFL strike sponsorship deal with broadcaster". Archived from the original on 27 April 2021. Retrieved 27 April 2021.