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Scottish football league system

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Title: Scottish football league system  
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Subject: Hibernian F.C., Scottish Football League, Scottish Football League Third Division, Football records in Scotland, East of Scotland Football League
Collection: Football League Systems, Football Leagues in Scotland
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Scottish football league system

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 several completely separate systems or 'grades' of leagues and clubs, with Senior football, Junior football, and beneath these Amateur and Welfare football.

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.

As of 2014-15 there were a total of 925 teams playing in the Saturday regular season structure.


  • Men's system 1
    • Senior football 1.1
    • Junior football 1.2
    • Amateur football 1.3
    • Welfare football 1.4
  • Women's system 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Men's system

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

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 was founded. For each division, its official name, sponsor name, number of clubs and number of games is given:




Scottish Premiership
(Ladbrokes Premiership)
12 clubs playing 38 games


Scottish Championship
(Ladbrokes Championship)
10 clubs playing 36 games


Scottish League One

(Ladbrokes League One)
10 clubs playing 36 games


Scottish League Two
(Ladbrokes League Two)
10 clubs playing 36 games


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

Lowland Football League
(Scottish Sun Lowland League)
15 clubs playing 28 games


East of Scotland Football League
(Central Taxis EOS League)
15 clubs playing 28 games

South of Scotland Football League
14 clubs playing 26 games

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 extreme north of Scotland, including a club from the island of Orkney, and currently contains 6 clubs playing 10 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 (15 clubs, which includes 2 reserve teams, in a now-merged single league structure) and the South of Scotland Football League (14 clubs in a single division) with promotion and relegation into the Lowland League.

As of 2014-15 this totals 111 teams across 9 divisions. Most senior league clubs are members of the Scottish Football Association and enter the Scottish Cup, although some in the lower levels are not eligible because their grounds are not adequately appointed. Up to 2 non-SFA members can qualify for the Scottish Cup each season by winning the East or South leagues. There are a variety of cup tournaments, sometimes involving reserve teams fielded by the SPFL clubs, and some cups are played for by clubs from multiple leagues.

Junior football

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 of 61 clubs; and the Scottish Junior Football Association, North Region of 37 clubs. As of 2014-15 this represented a total of 161 teams across 12 divisions.

These clubs operate separately from the Scottish Football Association, except Girvan (who for historical reasons are a member of both the SFA and the SJFA), and Linlithgow Rose and Banks O' Dee (who both joined the SFA in 2013). They 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. Up to 4 non-SFA members can qualify for the Scottish Cup each season by winning 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.

Amateur football

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 oversees 50 different leagues[4][5][6] - although this includes a number of Sunday League football and Futsal competitions. Prestige centres around the historic Scottish Amateur Cup. For historical reasons Glasgow University are a member of both the SFA and the SAFA and enter the Scottish Cup and South Challenge Cup. A number of Senior and Junior clubs run reserve teams in Amateur football.

As of 2014-15 there were 649 teams - in 16 geographic leagues containing a total of 58 divisions - playing Saturday football under a regular August–May season. This is exclusive of approaching 150 teams playing in 4 specialist Saturday Morning leagues (including 1 for Colleges) in Dundee and Glasgow, and about 50 clubs playing in 2 Churches leagues. Student and Police football is also affiliated to the SAFA.

Welfare football

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. From a peak of over 500 clubs, there were 158 teams in membership in November 2012,[7] down from 238 teams in 2007.[8]

As of 2014-15 there were only 4 teams - the tiny Central Scottish Welfare League[9] - playing Saturday football under a regular season.

Women's system

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


  1. ^ "The Rules of the SPFL" (PDF).  
  2. ^ "Smith wants pyramid system".  
  3. ^ "SPL clubs agree league reform package for next season". BBC Sport. 2013-05-07. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  4. ^ "SAFA Winter Saturday". 
  5. ^ "SAFA Winter Sunday". 
  6. ^ "SAFA Summer/Highlands". 
  7. ^ "Scottish Welfare FA Club Directory". 2012-11-12. 
  8. ^ "Scottish Amateur League - An Ongoing Resume". 
  9. ^ "Central Scottish Welfare FA table". CSWFA. 

External links

  • Scottish Football Association
  • Scottish Professional Football League
  • Highland Football League
  • Scottish Lowland Football League
  • East of Scotland Football League
  • South of Scotland Football League
  • Scottish Junior Football Association
  • Scottish Amateur Football Association
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