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Useful Notes / Scottish Premier League

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A one-horse race. The real two-horse race is for second.

"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 44-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. Since the 2013–14 season, the SPFL has held 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.

Greatly overshadowed by its larger and more southern neighbour being nowhere near as big a financial success as its inspiration, the English Premier League. During the SPL's history, SIX clubs have entered into insolvency note  Additionally, the SPL is frequently criticised for being a two-horse race between Celtic and Rangers (and now more of a one-horse race), with the quality of the rest of the league generally being considered absolutely laughable. Fans and managers of Celtic have claimed that they would be in the top four in England, a claim generally regarded with derision by fans of English clubs - however, in fairness, Celtic generally do reasonably well in Europe.

Current Holders: Celtic

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    Members of the Scottish Premiership (2020– 21 season): 

  • Aberdeen
    • Founded: 1905
    • Nicknames: The Dons, The Dandies, The Reds.
    • Stadium: Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen (capacity 20,866)
    • 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 had a more recent barren spell, not winning any trophies between 1995 and 2014. 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, Sellick
    • Stadium: Celtic Park, Glasgow (capacity: 60,411)
    • Manager: Neil Lennon
    • 51 times Champions of Scotland, Celtic won the final two Scottish Premier League trophies in 2012 and 2013, and the first seven Scottish Premiership crowns from 2014 through 2020. Celtic, who became the first British side to win the European Cup in 1967 with the legendary 'Lisbon Lions', 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 has made 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 '70s. 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. Won their ninth successful Scottish league title, and their 51st overall, in 2019-20 after the season was ended early due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • Dundee United
    • Founded: 1909
    • Nicknames: The Arabs, The Terrors
    • Stadium: Tannadice Park (capacity: 14,229)
    • Manager: Mickey Mellon
    • Last Season in the Premiership: 2015/16
    • Currently: In the Championship
    • United, playing in tangerine and black, 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—although this changed in 2015/16, with United finishing a distant last place in the Prem and were relegated to the Championship. After three failed promotion attempts, they were returned to the Prem in 2019-20 after topping the Championship table, albeit after the season was ended early due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 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: 5,510)
    • Manager: Brian Rice
    • 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. Play in red and white hoops.
  • Hibernian
    • Founded: 1875
    • Nicknames: Hibs, The Hibees
    • Stadium: Easter Road, Edinburgh (capacity: 20,421)
    • Manager: Jack Ross
    • 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 the 2016 Scottish Cup, which was their first victory in that competition in 114 years. 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. Their fanbase has an amusing ability to embarrass itself, a notable example being their cringeworthy "Relegation Party" at Tynecastle during the 2013-14 season, when it looked like they might be the team to relegate old rivals Hearts. Hearts beat them 2-0 and Hibs ended up relegated as well, having scored even fewer points once Hearts' deduction for going into administration was taken into account. They stayed in the Championship for three seasons, returning to the Prem by winning the 2016–17 Championship crown.
  • Kilmarnock
    • Founded: 1869
    • Nicknames: Killie
    • Stadium: Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (capacity: 17,889)
    • Manager: Alex Dyer
    • 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.
  • Livingston
    • Founded: 1943
    • Nicknames: Livi, the Lions
    • Stadium: Almondvale Stadium, Livingston (8,716)
    • Manager: Gary Holt
    • Originally known as Ferranti Amateurs and then 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 made it back to the Championship for a few seasons before dropping to League One for the 2016/17 season. They then earned two straight promotions, romping to that season's League One title and then winning the 2018 promotion/relegation playoff to punch their ticket back to the Prem. Their colours are amber and black, but they currently wear all-amber at home.
  • Motherwell
    • Founded: 1886
    • Nicknames: 'Well, The Steelmen
    • Stadium: Fir Park Stadium, Motherwell (capacity: 13,677)
    • Manager: Steve Robinson
    • 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.
  • Rangers
    • Founded: 1872
    • Nicknames: The 'Gers, The Teddy Bears
    • Stadium: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow (capacity: 50,817)
    • Manager: Steven Gerrard
    • 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, 2014 League One and 2016 Championship titles 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. Finally won back promotion in the 2015/16 season. Now managed by Liverpool F.C. icon Steven Gerrard, who became manager for the 2018/19 season after having been a coach in Liverpool's youth setup. His first and second seasons in charge saw Rangers finish second to Celtic, but a mile ahead of everyone else. The official club colours are royal blue, white and red, with a blue shirt and white shorts at home.
  • Ross County
    • Founded: 1929
    • Nicknames: The Staggies
    • Stadium: Victoria Park, Dingwall, Ross-shire (capacity: 6,541)
    • Manager: Stuart Kettlewell
    • 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, and stayed there until finishing last in the 2017–18 Premiership. They only stayed in the Championship for one season, punching their return ticket to the Prem by clinching the title with a round to spare. 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: Callum Davidson
    • 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: 8,023)
    • Manager: Jim Goodwin
    • The black and white striped club are Paisley's only senior football club, most recently promoted to the Prem in 2018 after winning the Championship crown. 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.

    Promoted Teams (will play in the Premiership next season): 
The top placed Championship team, and the winner of the playoff between the 11th placed Premiership team and the winner of the 2nd-3rd Championship teams' playoff.

    Relegated Teams (will play in Scottish Championship next season): 
The 12th-placed Premiership team, and the loser of the playoff between the 11th placed Premiership team and the winner of the 2nd-3rd Championship teams' playoff.

    Former Members: 

  • Dundee
    • Founded: 1893
    • Nicknames: The Dee
    • Stadium: Dens Park (capacity: 11,506)
    • Last Season in the Premiership: 2018/19
    • Currently: In the Championship (former First Division)
    • Manager: James McPake
    • 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. They remained in the Prem until a disastrous 2018–19 season saw them go through three managers on their way to a dead-bottom finish. Their stadium is on the same street as the home of their neighbours, Dundee United, and they play in dark blue.
  • Dunfermline Athletic
    • Founded: 1885
    • Nicknames: The Pars
    • Stadium: East End Park, Dunfermine (capacity: 12,509)
    • Last Season in the SPL: 2011/12
    • Currently: In the Championship
    • Manager: Stephen Crawford
    • Founder members of the SPL, wearing black with white stripes. Relegated for the first time in 2007 before returning in 2011. Financial problems have plagued them since their 2012 relegation; they went into administration in 2013 and were dropped to League One at the end of the 2012/13 season. Now fan-owned, they returned to the Championship in 2016.
  • Falkirk
    • Founded: 1876
    • Nicknames: The Bairns
    • Stadium: Falkirk Stadium, Falkirk (capacity: 7,937)
    • Last Season in the SPL: 2009/10
    • Currently: In League One (former Second Division)
    • Co-managers: David McCracken and Lee Miller
    • Playing in navy blue and white, Falkirk is perhaps most notable for having been denied promotion to the SPL three times due to stadium regulations 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. It's since gotten worse for the Bairns, as they finished dead-bottom in the 2018/19 Championship, sending them down to League One.
  • 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); follow up club Gretna 2008 now playing in the Lowland League
    • 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 and were formally dissolved in August 2008. The traditional colours were black and white hoops, though they wore white shirts during Mileson's tenure; the follow-up club uses black and gray with white dashes.
  • Heart of Midlothian
    • Founded: 1874
    • Nicknames: Hearts, The Jambos, the Jam Tarts
    • Stadium: Tynecastle Stadium, Edinburgh (capacity: 20,099)
    • Last Season in the Premiership: 2019/20
    • Currently: In the Championship
    • Manager: Robbie Neilson
    • 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. Russo-Lithuanian banker and totally-not-shady individual Vladimir Romanov was the majority shareholder in the club from 2005 to 2013 and made a reputation for himself with his bizarre outbursts/fearless truth-telling (delete according to taste) 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. On the other hand, the club was literally days away from selling their stadium when he took them over in 2005, so Hearts fans look back on his tenure with mixed feelings. The club remained in the Premiership, but were docked 15 points, which was enough to send them down to the Championship for the 2014-15 season. Hearts are now transitioning to fan ownership. In this vein, they are currently owned by Edinburgh businesswoman Anne Budge, with capital coming from the fan group "Foundation of Hearts". After storming the Championship, racking a league record of 91 points and 96 goals, Hearts swiftly reclaimed their Premiership place in the 2014–15 season. Were controversially relegated back to the Championship in 2019-20 after the season was ended early due to the COVID-19 Pandemic; they appealed against the decision, but were unsuccesful.
  • Inverness Caledonian Thistle
    • Founded: 1994
    • Nicknames: Caley Thistle, Caley
    • Stadium: Caledonian Stadium, Inverness (capacity: 7,750)
    • Last Season in the Premiership: 2016/17
    • Currently: In the Championship
    • Manager: John Robertson
    • 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.note  They first reached the SPL in 2004 and returned in 2010, qualifying for Europe for the first time in 2013. Caley stayed in the top flight for seven years until finishing last in the 2016–17 Premiership. Their home kit is blue and red, a combination of the colours of the predecessor clubs (Caledonian blue, Inverness Thistle red and black stripes).
  • Partick Thistle
    • Founded: 1876
    • Nicknames: The Jags
    • Stadium: Firhill Stadium, Glasgow (capacity: 10,102)
    • Last Season in the Premiership: 2017/18
    • Currently: In League One
    • Manager: Ian McCall
    • 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 most recently promoted to the Premiership in 2013, and stayed there until losing the 2018 promotion/relegation playoff final to Livingston. Were controversially relegated to League One in 2019-20 after the season was ended early due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, even though they were only bottom by two points and had a game in hand when the season was halted; like Hearts, an appeal against the decision was unsuccessful.

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