Scottish football league system

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Scottish football league system is a series of generally connected leagues for Scottish football clubs.

In senior football in Scotland there is one national league, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), 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, a promotion/relegation play-off between the two regional leagues and the SPFL national league was introduced for the first time.[1]

The Scottish system is more complicated than many other national league systems, consisting of several completely separate systems or 'grades' of leagues and clubs. Outside of senior football is junior football, and also amateur football and welfare football.

Rangers are the current record holders with 54 titles. Two clubs based in England play in the senior Scottish system - Berwick Rangers in the Lowland League and Tweedmouth Rangers in the East of Scotland 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 Scottish leagues for geographical and travel reasons.

Men's system[edit]

Until recently Scottish football had no pyramid league system, and as a result it was impossible for clubs in regional leagues to progress into the national leagues, unless a vacancy opened in the Scottish Football League. The final example of this was ahead of the 2008–09 season, where Gretna's demise allowed Annan Athletic to take their place. Overall, the structure of men's football in Scotland was 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 was not uncommon for a given town or county to have clubs in as many as three or four separate systems.

Moves 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 the 42 clubs competing at a national level, 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). At the same time, the Lowland Football League (tier 5) was founded, and a year later the leagues below (tier 6) were incorporated into the system. For each division, its official name, sponsor name, number of clubs, number of games, and promotion/relegation spots are given:

Level

League(s)/Division(s)

Scottish Professional Football League

1

Scottish Premiership
(Ladbrokes Premiership)
12 clubs playing 38 games
↓ 1 relegation spot + 1 relegation playoff spot

2

Scottish Championship
(Ladbrokes Championship)
10 clubs playing 36 games
↑ 1 promotion spot + 3 promotion playoff spots
↓ 1 relegation spot + 1 relegation playoff spot

3

Scottish League One
(Ladbrokes League One)
10 clubs playing 36 games
↑ 1 promotion spot + 3 promotion playoff spots
↓ 1 relegation spot + 1 relegation playoff spot

4

Scottish League Two
(Ladbrokes League Two)
10 clubs playing 36 games
↑ 1 promotion spot + 3 promotion playoff spots
↓ 1 relegation playoff spot

Non-League / Regional Leagues

5

Highland Football League
(Breedon Highland League)
17 clubs playing 32 games
↑ 1 promotion playoff spot

Lowland Football League
16 clubs playing 30 games
↑ 1 promotion playoff spot
↓ 1 relegation spot

6

East of Scotland Football League
Premier Division

(Central Taxis EOS League)
18 clubs playing 34 games
↑ 1 promotion playoff spot
↓ 4 relegation spots

South of Scotland Football League
14 clubs playing 26 games
↑ 1 promotion playoff spot

West of Scotland Football League
20 clubs
↑ 1 promotion playoff spot
↓ TBA relegation spots

7

East of Scotland Football League
First Division

(Central Taxis EOS League)
32 clubs (two conferences) playing 30 games
↑ 2 promotion spots

West of Scotland Football League
47 clubs (three conferences)
↑ 3 promotion spots

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 created level five on the pyramid and since season 2014–15, the two league winners have played off against each other, with the winner then playing the team finishing 10th in League Two in a promotion/relegation play-off.

Below the Lowland League is the East of Scotland Football League (50 clubs, including one reserve team, split into a 18-team Premier Division and two First Division conferences each containing 15 or 16 teams); the South of Scotland Football League (14 clubs, including two reserve teams, in a single division); and the West of Scotland Football League (67 clubs, split into a 20-team Division at Tier 6 and three conferences at Tier 7 each containing 15 or 16 teams). An end of season promotion play-off takes place between the champions of each league (subject to meeting licensing criteria) for a place in the Lowland League.

As of 2020–21 this totals 206 teams across 14 divisions. There remains one Senior league - the North Caledonian Football League - which has not yet been incorporated into the pyramid system. It is based in the north of Scotland, including a club from the island of Orkney, and currently contains 10 clubs playing 18 games. However, discussions have taken place about adding the league to tier 6 below the Highland League.[4]

Cup competitions[edit]

All clubs in tier 5 and above automatically enter the Scottish Cup, along with clubs in other divisions who are full members of the Scottish Football Association. Up to three non-SFA members can qualify for the Scottish Cup each season by winning the East or South leagues, or the East & South Cup-Winners Shield. All 42 SPFL clubs compete in the Scottish League Cup, along with the Highland and Lowland champions. The Scottish Challenge Cup features 30 SPFL clubs from outside the Premiership, Under 21s teams, and four from the Highland and Lowland leagues, along with guest teams from England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

The SFA South Region Challenge Cup is for all non-league clubs in the Lowland area. There are also a variety of smaller cup tournaments at regional level.

Junior football[edit]

Also outside of the national structure, overseen by the Scottish Junior Football Association, are the two junior regions: the SJFA East Region of 30 clubs - split into two separate districts; and the SJFA North Region of 32 clubs. As of 2020–21 this represents a total of 62 teams across 5 divisions. The term 'junior' refers not to the age of the players but the level of football played.[5][6][7]

These clubs operate separately from the Scottish Football Association, except Banks O' Dee who became a full SFA member in 2013. Junior clubs participate in a number of their own regional cup competitions, as well as the Scottish Junior Cup. Up to three non-SFA members can qualify for the Scottish Cup each season by winning one of the Superleagues or the Junior Cup. Banks O' Dee also enter Senior tournaments the Aberdeenshire Cup and Shield, and run an Under-20s team in the Senior development structure (the Aberdeenshire & District League).

In 2020, as part of a long process to form an integrated footballing pyramid structure, all 63 West Region Junior clubs decided to depart and join the newly-founded West of Scotland Football League, a feeder to the Lowland League. More than half of the East Region clubs have departed the Junior ranks since 2017, joining the senior East of Scotland Football League, also below the Lowland League.

SJFA Region Number of Divisions Number of teams (2020–21)
SJFA North Region 3 32
SJFA East Region 2 30
Level Divisions
North Region East Region
1 North Super League
14 clubs playing 26 games
↓ 2 relegation spots
East Super League North
17 clubs
East Super League South
13 clubs
2 North Division One
9 clubs playing 24 games
↑ 2 promotion spots + ↓ 2 relegation spots
3 North Division Two
9 clubs playing 24 games
↑ 2 promotion spots

Amateur football[edit]

Again separate from the above, and generally agreed to lie 'below' the senior and junior levels, are the hundreds of clubs in membership of the Scottish Amateur Football Association which oversees 50 different leagues[8][9][10] - although this includes a number of Sunday League football and Futsal competitions. Prestige centres around the historic Scottish Amateur Cup. A number of Senior and Junior clubs run reserve teams in Amateur football.

As of 2019–20 there are 424 teams – in 12 geographic leagues containing a total of 37 divisions – playing Saturday football under a regular August–May season. In addition there are 123 teams playing in four specialist Saturday Morning leagues (including one for Colleges) in Dundee and Glasgow, plus 31 clubs playing in Churches leagues. Student and Police football is also affiliated to the SAFA.

Saturday Amateur Leagues Divisions Teams (2019–20)
Aberdeenshire Amateur Football Association 5 68
Ayrshire Amateur Football Association 4 43
Border Amateur Football League 3 33
Caledonian Amateur Football League 2 29
Central Scottish Amateur Football League 3 30
Greater Glasgow Premier Amateur Football League 3 38
Kingdom of Fife Amateur Football Association 3 33
Lothian & Edinburgh Amateur Football Association 5 50
Midlands Amateur Football Association 2 25
Perthshire Amateur Football Association 2 26
Scottish Amateur Football League 3 29
Stirling & District Amateur Football Association 2 21
Dundee Saturday Morning Amateur Football League 3 35
Glasgow & District Saturday Morning Amateur Football League 2 28
Glasgow Colleges Amateur Football Association 3 29
Strathclyde Saturday Morning Amateur Football League 3 40
Strathclyde Evangelical Churches Football League 3 31
Total 51 587
Sunday Amateur Leagues Divisions Teams (2018–19)
Aberdeen Sunday Football Association 1 15
Airdrie & Coatbridge Sunday Amateur Football League 3 33
Ayrshire Sunday Amateur Football Association 1 14
Dumfries Sunday Amateur Football League 1 15
Fife Sunday Amateur Football League 2 22
Forth Valley Amateur Football Association 1 10
Glasgow & District Sunday Championship Amateur Football League 2 21
Lothians & Edinburgh Amateur Football Association 4 40
Sunday Central Amateur Football League 4 45
West Lothian Sunday Amateur Football League 2 22
Total 21 237
Summer Amateur Leagues Divisions Teams (2018)
Caithness Amateur Football Association 2 17
Inverness & District Amateur Football Association 3 29
Lewis & Harris Amateur Football Association 1 8
North West Sutherland Amateur Football Association 1 11
Orkney Amateur Football Association 2 15
Shetland Amateur Football Association 2 15
Shetland Works Amateur Football Association 1 8
Skye & Lochalsh Amateur Football Association 1 9
Stewartry Sunday Amateur Football League 1 7
Uist & Barra Amateur Football Association 1 6
Total 15 125

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 leagues mainly operating Sunday and summer or midweek football, predominantly in the north of Scotland.

As of 2019–20 there are 81 teams in 8 geographic leagues and divisions. From a peak of over 500 clubs, there were 158 teams in membership in November 2012,[11] down from 238 teams in 2007.[12]

Leagues Divisions Teams
Forres and Nairn District Welfare Association League 1 10
Forth & Endrick Football League 1 9
Greenock & District Welfare League 1 13
Mid-Deeside Summer Football League 1 7
Montrose and District Welfare League 1 11
Moray & District Welfare Football League 1 9
North East Scotland Welfare Football League 2 18
Strathspey & Badenoch Welfare Football League 1 4
Total 8 81

Reserve & Youth football[edit]

The reserve & youth leagues are mostly governed by the relevant adult leagues.

Leagues Divisions Teams
SPFL Reserve League 2 19
Club Academy Scotland U18 Elite 1 19
Aberdeenshire and District League (U21) 1 10
North of Scotland FA U20 League 1 6
Highland League U17 League (East & North) 1 21
Lowlands U20 Development League (Conference A & B) 1 31

Women's system[edit]

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

Level

League(s)/Division(s)

1

Scottish Women's Premier League
(Scottish Building Society)
8 clubs playing 21 games - 1 relegation

2

Scottish Women's Premier League 2
(Scottish Building Society)
8 clubs playing 21 games - 1 promotion, 2 relegations

3

SWFL Division 1 – North
10 clubs playing 18 games - 1 promotion

SWFL Division 1 – South
11 clubs playing 20 games - 1 promotion

4

SWFL Division 2 – North
7 clubs playing 18 games

SWFL Division 2 – West
11 clubs playing 20 games

SWFL Division 2 – Central
12 clubs playing 22 games

SWFL Division 2 – East
10 clubs playing 18 games

The last change was made in 2017 when SWFL 2 split into four regions.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Rules of the SPFL" (PDF). Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Smith wants pyramid system". sportinglife.com. 2008-06-04. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  3. ^ "SPL clubs agree league reform package for next season". BBC Sport. 2013-05-07. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  4. ^ Durent, Jamie (2020-05-10). "Inverurie Locos boss Andy Low would welcome system which saw tier six below Highland League". Evening Express. Retrieved 2020-05-21.
  5. ^ The dutiful game: Welcome to the world of junior football in Scotland, The Scotsman, 23 May 2010
  6. ^ The Rise of the Juniors, Craig Anderson, In Bed With Maradona, 2 November 2010
  7. ^ Why Junior football should never grow up, Scott Fleming, Nutmeg Magazine, 1 December 2016
  8. ^ "SAFA Winter Saturday".
  9. ^ "SAFA Winter Sunday".
  10. ^ "SAFA Summer/Highlands".
  11. ^ "Scottish Welfare FA Club Directory". 2012-11-12.
  12. ^ "Scottish Amateur League - An Ongoing Resume".