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Scottish Premier League
A two-horse race where one horse is at the vet.

"Scottish football has the greatest fans in the world, but I've never seen a fan score a goal."
-Jock Stein

The Scottish Premiership is the senior level of professional football in Scotland, established in 2013 after the Scottish Premier League (SPL) merged with the Scottish Football League (SFL) to form a new league structure known as the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL). For the majority of Scottish football's long history, the SFL (the second oldest League in the world) had been the only professional League body in the country with just two divisions. In 1975 the SFL split into three divisions, a set up which lasted until 1995 when it became four.

The changes in 1995 would be short lived, however. Intending to follow the success of the English Premier League (EPL) - which had broken away from the English Football League in 1992 for massive commercial gains - ten members of the Scottish Football League broke away in 1997 to form the Scottish Premier League, a new ten-team top flight (which became twelve teams in 2000) that could keep the majority of its commercial gains (as opposed to spreading them across four divisions equally as was the case in the SFL). However, disappointing results by Scottish clubs and national teams in international competition, plus the increasing commercial dominance of the EPL, led the SPL and SFL to merge into a single body.

The League season runs from late July or early August until May (a winter break in late December and early January was scrapped in 2000). After all sides have played thirty-three matches (three matches against one another) the Premiership splits into two groups, splitting the top six and the bottom six. Points from the first 33 games carry over and teams play five further games only against teams in their own group. The split was conceived when the League expanded to twelve teams in order to avoid a forty-four game season for each club although this can, and has, led to odd situations where the team in seventh place has more points than the team in sixth place. The structure was retained for the Premiership.

The team with the most points at the end of the season are crowned Champions, and the team with the least amount of points are relegated to the Scottish Championship (which replaced the former Scottish Football League First Division in 2013) and replaced by the winners of the Championship. The 2013–14 season is the first for a promotion/relegation play-off involving the 11th-placed team from the Premiership and the teams placed 2nd through 4th in the Championship, with the winner either remaining in or promoted to the Premiership. In the event of a tie, goal difference and then goals scored are used as tiebreakers between teams.

During the SPL's history between 1998 and 2013, nineteen clubs had played in the Scottish Premier League, and only Aberdeen and Celtic had spent every league season in the top division (since the formation of League football). In that timespan, only Celtic and Rangers had won the League title, having held a position of financial dominance from 1988 to 2012 (Rangers) and 2000 onwards (Celtic).

Like its English counterpart, the SPL has brought a major influx of foreign players to British football. Some of the SPL's greatest ever players hail from far-off shores, such as Henrik Larsson, Gio Van Bronkhorst, Ronald de Boer, Lubo Moravcik and Stan Petrov. This, however, has been accused as being a major cause of the decline in the quality of the Scottish national side and is generally associated with more affluent times. As a result, there is an increasing focus on home-grown talent rather than expensive foreign purchases.

In the UK, matches are primarily broadcast on either ESPN or Sky Sports, although the SPL only receives a very small amount of revenue from broadcasters. As a result, Scottish clubs are primarily dependent upon income raised through ticket sales to supporters. Although the end result of this is a fairly high cost for match and season tickets, more people in Scotland per head watch their domestic league than any other country in Europe.

The SPL was nowhere near as big a financial success as the English Premier League that inspired it, and during the SPL's history, SIX clubs have entered into insolvency: Motherwell, Dundee (twice), Livingston, Gretna, Rangers and Hearts. Gretna went out of business altogether, whereas Rangers were thrown out of the league altogether and had to start again from the very bottom. Livingston suffered a similar fate to Rangers, although they were not actually thrown out of the league, but rather demoted to the bottom division.

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    Members of the Scottish Premiership (2014- 15 season): 

  • Aberdeen
    • Founded: 1905
    • Nicknames: The Dons, The Dandies, The Reds.
    • Stadium: Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen (capacity 21,421)
    • Manager: Derek McInnes
    • The Dons are among Scotland's most successful football clubs. Aberdeen shot to glory in the 1980s under the management of a young Alex Ferguson. Under Ferguson, Aberdeen became the only Scottish club to win two European trophies when they won the European Cup Winners Cup and the European Supercup in 1983. They also won the title twice consecutively in 1984 and 1985, as well as three straight Scottish Cup triumphs in '82, '83 and '84. However, they have not won a major trophy since 1995. Aberdeen wear all red strips and have rivalries with Rangers and Dundee United dating back to the 1980s.
  • Celtic
    • Founded: 1887
    • Nicknames: The Bhoys, The Hoops, The Celts
    • Stadium: Celtic Park, Glasgow (capacity: 60,355)
    • Manager: Ronny Deila
    • 45 times Champions of Scotland, Celtic won the final two Scottish Premier League trophies in 2012 and 2013, and the first Scottish Premiership title in 2014. Celtic, who became the first British side to win the European Cup in 1967, are one of the two biggest clubs in Scotland and among the most famous and well-supported sides in world football. Ancient enemies of Rangers, the absence of their bitter rivals will make them the far-away favourites to retain the title for some time. Celtic play in distinctive green and white hooped shirts. Irish billionaire Dermot Desmond is the majority shareholder. Caught in a scandal in the 1990s when it was revealed that the manager of the Celtic Boys Club, Jim Torbett, had been sexually abusing the younger players during his tenure in The Seventies. Rangers and Hearts fans like to chant "Big Jock Knew", referring to Jock Stein, Celtic director at the time, who (literally) kicked Torbett out of the club but took no further action.
  • Dundee
    • Founded: 1893
    • Nicknames: The Dee
    • Stadium: Dens Park (capacity: 11,850)
    • Manager: Paul Hartley
    • Dundee's golden age was the 1960s, when they won their only title in 1962 and reached the semi-final of the European Cup in 1963. Since the 1973/74 League Cup victory, however, there has been no major silverware for the Dee, who have also twice escaped perilous financial positions since 2000. They were a late entry into the then-SPL in 2012–13 after Rangers' bankruptcy, but went down at the end of that season; Dundee bounced back to win the 2013–14 Championship title. Their stadium is on the same street as the home of their neighbours, Dundee United, and they play in dark blue.
  • Dundee United
    • Founded: 1909
    • Nicknames: The Arabs, The Terrors
    • Stadium: Tannadice Park (capacity: 14,229)
    • Manager: Jackie McNamara
    • Rose to their greatest achievements in the 1980s under the reign of manager Jim McLean. The one-time Champions (in 1983) reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1984 and were runners up in the 1987 UEFA Cup final. Playing in a vibrant orange first adopted in 1969, United are the dominant force in Dundee and have been far more successful than their close neighbours in recent years. Uniquely, Barcelona have failed to beat them in every competitive match they have played together. Stephen Thompson succeeded his late father as Chairman in 2008.
  • Hamilton Academical
    • Founded: 1874
    • Nicknames: The Accies
    • Stadium: New Douglas Park, Hamilton (capacity: 6,078)
    • Manager: Alex Neil
    • Accies stormed to promotion from the First Division in 2008 and remained for two seasons before being relegated back in 2011. They returned to the Prem by winning the 2014 Championship promotion/relegation play-off. Their biggest contribution to modern football is James McArthur, now of Wigan.
  • Inverness Caledonian Thistle
    • Founded: 1994
    • Nicknames: Caley Thistle
    • Stadium: Caledonian Stadium, Inverness (capacity: 7,918)
    • Manager: John Hughes (no, not that one)
    • Highland League sides Caledonian FC and Inverness Thistle merged in 1994 to form the new club with the intention of joining the restructured Football League. Their subsequent rise through the ranks was significant and they first really began to catch attention in 2000 when they knocked Celtic out of the Scottish Cup, prompting the following iconic headline in The Sun: SUPER CALEY GO BALLISTIC CELTIC ARE ATROCIOUS. They first reached the SPL in 2004 and returned in 2010, qualifying for Europe for the first time in 2013.
  • Kilmarnock
    • Founded: 1869
    • Nicknames: Killie
    • Stadium: Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (capacity: 18,128)
    • Manager: Allan Johnston
    • One of the oldest clubs in the world, Kilmarnock are entwined with the history of Scottish football having played in the first ever Scottish Cup match. Despite their age Killie, playing in blue and white stripes, have only found limited success in terms of trophies. They won the League in 1965 and have won the Scottish Cup three times. Their only League Cup victory came in 2012, when they beat Celtic in the final.
  • Motherwell
    • Founded: 1886
    • Nicknames: 'Well, The Steelmen
    • Stadium: Fir Park Stadium, Motherwell (13,677)
    • Manager: Stuart McCall
    • Clad in their traditional claret and amber shirts, Motherwell have not been Champions since their only reign in 1932. Their most famous moment in recent history was the 1991 Scottish Cup win, which featured a young Phil O'Donnell who would tragically lose his life on the pitch captaining his team in December 2007. Finished runners-up in 2013 and 2014.
  • Partick Thistle
    • Founded: 1876
    • Nicknames: The Jags
    • Stadium: Firhill Stadium, Glasgow (10,102)
    • Manager: Alan Archibald
    • Thistle, playing in yellow and red stripes, retain the Partick name despite being based in the Maryhill area since 1909. The Jags, one of the non-Old Firm Glasgow clubs, had a short spell in the SPL from 2004 to 2006 which took place in the middle of a chaotic series of relegations and promotions. They were promoted to the Premiership in 2013.
  • Ross County
    • Founded: 1929
    • Nicknames: The Staggies
    • Stadium: Victoria Park, Dingwall, Ross-shire (capacity: 6,541)
    • Manager: Derek Adams
    • Members of the Highland League for the majority of their history, County joined the League along with their local rivals ICT in 1994. Slowly working their way up the ranks ever since, County reached the final of the 2010 Scottish Cup after beating Celtic 2-0 in the semi-final. They reached the Premier League for the first time in their history in 2012, replacing ICT as its northernmost member. County play in dark blue, and their nickname (The Staggies) comes from their badge, which features a Caberfeidh, or Stag’s Head.
  • St Johnstone
    • Founded: 1884
    • Nicknames: The Saints
    • Stadium: McDiarmid Park, Perth (capacity: 10,696)
    • Manager: Tommy Wright
    • Playing in light blue, St Johnstone are the archetypal "yo-yo club", having floated between the top two divisions for most of their history. They have a minor rivalry with Dundee, and before 2014 had won no major senior trophies in their history despite reaching a number of semi-finals, and finishing third in the early 1970s. Recently, they have qualified for Europe repeatedly, and finally claimed their first major trophy, the 2014 Scottish Cup.
  • St Mirren
    • Founded: 1877
    • Nicknames: The Buddies, The Saints
    • Stadium: St Mirren Park, Paisley (capacity: 8,029)
    • Manager: Tommy Craig
    • The black and white striped club are Paisley's only senior football club. They are named after Saint Mirin, the Patron Saint of Paisley. They have won the Scottish Cup three times, most recently in 1987, and have a famous annual competition with nearby lower division rivals Greenock Morton called the Renfrewshire Cup.

    Former Members: 

  • Rangers
    • Founded: 1872
    • Nicknames: The 'Gers, The Teddy Bears
    • Stadium: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow (capacity: 51,082)
    • Last Season in the SPL: 2011/12
    • Currently: Playing in the Scottish Championship (formerly known as the First Division)
    • The joint biggest and most successful club in Scotland (and officially in all of world football), Rangers have claimed 54 League Championships, 33 Scottish Cups, 27 League Cups, the 1972 Cup Winners Cup, the 2013 Third Division title and 2014 League One title to their name. The club fell into major financial difficulties in 2011, following the mismanagement of owners David Murray and Craig Whyte, went through administration and liquidation events in summer 2012, resulting in them being thrown out of the league and re-entering the Third (bottom) Division (now known as Scottish League Two). Ibrox Stadium, along with all the clubs assets and history were acquired by a new company - this has caused some contention as Rangers supporters maintain the club's history remains intact whereas just about everyone else sees them as a new club which started in 2012. The football authorities both in Scotland and UEFA consider the club's history to remain unbroken.
  • Dunfermline Athletic
    • Founded: 1885
    • Nicknames: The Pars
    • Stadium: East End Park, Dunfermine (capacity: 12,509)
    • Last Season in the SPL: 2011/12
    • Currently: In League One (former Second Division)
    • Founder members of the SPL. Relegated for the first time in 2007 before returning in 2011. Financial problems have plagued them since their 2012 relegation.
  • Heart of Midlothian
    • Founded: 1874
    • Nicknames: Hearts, The Jambos
    • Stadium: Tynecastle Stadium, Edinburgh (capacity: 17,529)
    • Last Season in the Premiership: 2013/14
    • Currently: In the Championship
    • The maroon-coloured half of the feuding Edinburgh sides, Hearts take their proper name from the Heart of Midlothian jail which, although demolished in 1817, was kept in the memory by Sir Walter Scott's novel of the same name. Hearts, who are commonly thought of as Scotland's third biggest side in the modern era, have been Champions of Scotland four times, most recently in 1960. Lithuanian banker Vladimir Romanov was the majority shareholder in the club from 2005 to 2013 and made a reputation for himself with his bizarre outbursts and meddling in first-team affairs (including a high manager turnover rate). After saddling Hearts with massive debts, he saw his business empire go under, which in turn led Hearts into administration after the 2012–13 season. The club remained in the Premiership, but were docked 15 points, which was enough to send them down to the Championship. Hearts are now transitioning to fan ownership.
  • Hibernian
    • Founded: 1875
    • Nicknames: Hibs, The Hibees
    • Stadium: Easter Road, Edinburgh (capacity: 20,421)
    • Last Season in the Premiership: 2013/14
    • Currently: In the Championship
    • The green and white half of the two Edinburgh sides. Hibs were the first British club to play in European football, and their most celebrated sides include the "Famous Five" of the 1950s and "Turnbull's Tornadoes" of the 1970s. They have been Champions four times (the last time in 1952) and their last trophy was in 2007. Infamously, they have not won the Scottish Cup since 1902 and lost the 2012 final to fierce rivals Hearts. Survived a hostile takeover attempt from then-Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer in the 1980s and have since been owned by Sir Tom Farmer. In the 2013–14 season, were in mid-table until going their final 13 games without a win, which sent them into the promotion/relegation play-off. Hibs lost the play-off final to Hamilton Academical on penalties.
  • Falkirk
    • Founded: 1876
    • Nicknames: The Bairns
    • Stadium: Falkirk Stadium, Falkirk (capacity: 9,200)
    • Last Season in the SPL: 2009/10
    • Currently: In the Championship
    • Due to stadium regulations, Falkirk were denied promotion to the SPL three times before eventually joining in 2005. After three seasons they were playing European football and in the final of the Scottish Cup, but were relegated back to the first division in 2010.
  • Gretna
    • Founded: 1946
    • Nicknames: The Anvils, the Weddingmakers
    • Stadium: Raydale Park, Gretna (capacity: 3,000)
    • Last Season in the SPL: 2007/08
    • Currently: Defunct (2008)
    • Gretna spent most of their history playing in the English non-league, despite being based in Scotland. They made several attempts to return to the Scottish system before joining the Scottish Football League in 2002. With the financial backing of English businessman Brooks Mileson, the club shot through the leagues and became the first second division team to take part in the UEFA Cup in 2006. They reached the SPL in 2007, but spent most of it in last place. The club hit financial difficulties when Mileson fell fatally ill and removed his backing. Following relegation, they withdrew their League membership were formally dissolved in August 2008. A different club - Gretna 2008 FC - now plays at Raydale Park in the Junior Leagues.
  • Livingston
    • Founded: 1943
    • Nicknames: Livi
    • Stadium: Almondvale Stadium, Livingston (10,122)
    • Last Season in the SPL: 2005/06
    • Currently: In the Championship
    • Originally known as Ferranti Thistle, they became Meadowbank Thistle upon joining the SFL in 1974. In 1995 they left their first home, Edinburgh, for the new town of Livingston, and adopted that name. In 2001 they reached the SPL and in 2002 finished third in the league, qualifying for European football. They first hit financial troubles in 2004 and were relegated in 2006. Further money troubles saw them demoted to the Third Division, but they are currently secure and back in the Championship.

The League provides examples of:

  • Arch-Enemy: Celtic and Rangers. One of the oldest and most vicious rivalries in the world.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Someone is always the bad guy to someone else, and someone has to win.
  • Big Game: Aberdeen v Dundee United, Hearts v Hibs and Aberdeen v Rangers for various reasons. Celtic v Rangers, however, was considered to be the big game, with the destination of trophies and over a century of bitter feuding behind it all.
  • Big Bad: Usually the manager of an opposing team, or part of the "the establishment", or the owner of one's own club, or the referee, or the English, or the Celtic/Rangers/Glasgow/Edinburgh/Central Belt media mafia or fans of another team - everyone can trace all their own sides problems back to one central figure.
  • Butt Monkey: Most relegated sides, especially Gretna, who finished last in their final season as a football team with the lowest ever points tally of just 13. After they were stripped of ten for becoming insolvent.
    • Partick Thistle are the common target for jokes about very poor teams. Though it may be a case of Who's Laughing Now? considering Partick Thistle finished 2012-13 at the top of the First Division, and are now in the Premiership.
    • Rangers, time in the lower leagues is proving to make them the bud of many jokes. Despite winning the Scottish 3rd Division, very comfortably, every draw or loss was met with ridicule. After all their team of rich professionals are now up against part-timers working jobs on the side. The three losses in particular, against Stirling Albion, Annan Athletic and Peterhead respectively, were a source of much derision.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Former Hearts majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov, known for his erratic decision-making and bizarre public outbursts.
  • Crippling the Competition: A frequent allegation made by all sides against the opposition.
  • Crowd Chant: Sometimes funny, sometimes not, sometimes downright nasty.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Celtic 9-0 Aberdeen and Dunfermline 1-8 Celtic, the biggest home and away wins in the history of the SPL respectively.
    • Rangers winning the 98/99 title by 21 clear points.
  • David Versus Goliath: The smaller community clubs can face this upon promotion to the Premiership, whose regular sides have considerably more resources at hand.
  • Decided By One Goal: Plenty of matches, and the entire 2002/03 League season. Season 04/05 was also decided by a single match point.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Scott McDonald's goal in the last minute of the 2003/04 season against Celtic to lost them the title.
    • Whilst it was hardly "ex machina", being the result of years of elitism and malpractice, the collapse of Rangers can seem like this to fans since the team did so well in prior seasons. It wasn't so much "the cracks began to show" as "the cracks split wide open in a few seconds."
  • Down to the Last Play: Late, late goals.
  • Epic Fail: John Barnes and Tony Mowbray as Celtic managers. Paul Le Guen in the same position at Rangers.
    • Mark McGhee at Aberdeen. It's telling that he has the second-lowest win rate of any Dons manager. Against his, Craig Brown's three-year staller of a reign which followed him seems like an Invincibles run.
  • Every Year They Fizzle Out: Commonly said of anyone who traditionally causes Celtic and Rangers problems but fails to really challenge for the title.
    • Aberdeen seem to be suffering this following the events of 2012-13. In November, they were able to go top following their win over Inverness. They lost that game 3-2, and dropped out of any sort of contention afterwards. Inverness, however, finished third and qualified for European competition for the first time in their history.
  • Follow the Leader: Was modeled in part after the financial success of the English Premier League.
  • Four-Leaf Clover: Celtic's badge.
  • Friendly Enemy: Hearts and Hibs, especially when compared to their Glasgow counterparts. The sectarian tensions are practically non-existent compared to the horrific tensions between Celtic and Rangers.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Hearts managers are rather short lived under the reign of Vladimir Romanov.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Before the SPL/SFL merger, Rangers said that if the merger went through, they would leave Scotland entirely and compete in the English leagues. However, they remained in Scotland for 2013–14.
    • The use of a petrol-bomb on Princes Street by Hibernian's CCF hooligan firm in 1985 was the catalyst for serious reform in the way hooligans were dealt with.
  • Grumpy Old Men: Many managers.
  • He's Back: Walter Smith's return to manage Rangers and Neil Lennon's return to manage Celtic.
  • The Hopeless Replacement: Dundee as Club 12 for the 2012-13 season, though to be fair, they did try their best.
    • And the next season, Dundee won the Championship, punching their ticket back to the Prem.
  • Huddle Power: Celtic's traditional pre-match huddle.
  • International Showdown By Proxy: Sadly the way in which the Old Firm rivalry has commonly operated, with regards to Northern Ireland.
  • Karma Houdini: Aberdeen avoided relegation in 2000 despite finishing last, purely because the First Division winners (Falkirk) didn't have a big enough stadium to meet League standards. They're still the only Premiership club outside Celtic who have never been relegated.
  • Licensed Game: Teams have appeared in the Football Manager, FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer franchises.
  • Opposing Sports Teams
  • Second Place Is for Losers: For Celtic and Rangers, second place might as well be last as finishing second meant that the other side finished ahead of you.
    • Averted now that Rangers have been relegated, with second place being the main target for most Premiership clubs.
  • Shoot The Shaggy Dog Story: The collapse and demise of both Gretna and Rangers over chronic financial problems and mismanagement.
    • Hibernian clawing their way to the Scottish final in 2012, with everything looking just right for Hibs' first win since 1902...and losing 5-1 to old rivals Hearts.
  • Sore Loser: Frequent, but the trouble when Rangers won the first SPL championship at Celtic Park is particularly infamous.
  • Spin-Off: From the old Division One in 1998; reversed in 2013 when the SPFL was formed.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Bottom club and Butt Monkey Dundee looked to be saved by Hearts' insolvency. It was not to be... at least for one season.
  • Turn Coat: How players such as Kenny Miller (2 spells at Rangers with 1 at Celtic somewhere between them) and Michael Stewart (Hearts, Hibs, Hearts) are viewed by some fans.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Averted, because Reality Ensues.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: Usually given by the referee.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: The supporters revel in it.
  • We Will Meet Again: The SPL/Premiership sides play each other three or four times a season. Taken to fairly ridiculous levels in the 2010-11 season when Celtic and Rangers played each other seven times in three competition.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: There was a genuine possibility before the final day of the 2012-13 season that Hearts could be declared insolvent and handed a points deduction, placing them below bottom club Dundee and relegating them. This did happen, but the SPL ruled that it wasn't within the season's limits, and Hearts survived. However, there was a 15-point deduction in the 2013-14 season, and Hearts suffered the drop at season's end.
    • Oh, the yanking happened before then. It happened during the game against Aberdeen, which Dundee were leading 1-0 and so were still able to stay up. It seemed like the dream was still alive... until Niall McGinn scored a late penalty and tied the game at 1-1, consigning Dundee to relegation.
British Footy TeamsSporting EventEuro Footy
English Premier LeagueUsefulNotes/BritainBritish Footy Teams
Scottish EnglishAdministrivia/Useful Notes Pages in MainScript Life Cycle
English Premier LeagueThe Beautiful GameEuro Footy

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