Scottish Premier League

The Scottish Premier League (SPL) is one of the most respected soccer league in Scotland, and currently ranks 17th in the UEFA rankings. Despite the preeminence of other leagues throughout the world, one could say that the SPL is the most popular league in the world among its local population, as more Scots watch the SPL per capita of population than any other country in Europe. Since its inception during the 1998-1998 season, 18 different clubs have given a run at a championship a shot, but only two have come up victorious thus far: Celtic and Rangers.

Twelve clubs currently compete each season in the SPL, but that group can change annually based on relegation and promotions from the feeder league. At the conclusion of every year, which starts in July and finishes up in May, the team with the highest point total earns the title of SPL champion. There are two phases of each season, however. The first phase allows each team a chance to play three contests against each of its 11 counterparts. After these 33 games have been played, the league is split up into a “top six” and “bottom six.” The teams then play another five games, one against each other squad in one’s grouping, and all points from the first phase are carried on to the second phase. At the same time as one team in the top six celebrates a championship, the worst team in the bottom six prepares for relegation to the minors, or the Scottish First Division (SFD). If the winner of the SFD meets league requirements for promotion, the two teams switch leagues.

The current 12 teams are:

  • Celtic
  • Rangers
  • Hearts
  • Kilmarnock
  • Aberdeen
  • Hibernian
  • Motherwell
  • Dundee United
  • Dunfermline Athletic
  • Inverness CT
  • St. Johnstone
  • St. Mirren

Promotion and relegation have, naturally, caused quite the commotion at times. Stadium seating requirements have often caused great problems for squads attempting to make the move to the top league. In 2003, the requirement was 10,000 seats, and Falkirk wasn’t allowed to make the jump, preventing Motherwell from dropping down. A similar incident the following year caused the league to lower its seating requirement to 6,000 in 2005, lessening the possibility for contention over the issue in the following seasons.

Another major issue in the SPL has been competition. Celtic and Rangers have finished first and second in one order or the other in all but one season. In 2006-2006 Hearts managed to finish second to Celtic, with Rangers falling one spot to number three in the standings. The reasons behind their success is not particular to Scotland — the two most successful teams have the biggest followings both on television and in stadium seating, allowing them to pay for the best players. Additionally, both squads participate in regular UEFA Champions League play and in the UEFA Europa League, so they take in further funds that their local rivals are not privy to.

Despite these issues, the two squads, collectively known as the Old Firm, will remain in the SPL for the foreseeable future. There have been discussions of the Old Firm heading to the English Premier League or playing in an Atlantic League with teams from Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands, but both propositions have ultimately been struck down by FIFA.