Historical Football Kits


The Scottish Professional Football League

Formed in 1890, the Scottish Football League was the third oldest national league in the world (the Irish League was formed three weeks earlier). Originally the competition was strictly amateur, (professionalism was not recognised in Scotland until 1893) and formed of eleven clubs, ten of which were based in the West of Scotland. Of the original members, only Celtic, Dumbarton, Hearts, Rangers and St Mirren survive.

Scotland is unique in having several quite separate governing bodies and structures that oversee men's football. "Senior" competition is governed by the Scottish FA (SFA) and includes members of the Scottish Professional Football League (formed by the merger of the Scottish Football League and Scottish Premier League in 2013), the Highland League and the Lowland League. "Junior" clubs play at a lower standard and are governed by the Scottish Junior FA (SJFA). "Junior" refers to the standard rather than the age of the players. Junior and Senior clubs did not compete against each other (with a few historical exceptions) and there is no mechanism for clubs to progress from Junior to Senior status although clubs may resign their membership in order to join a higher (or lower) level. Some clubs who dropped out of the Scottish League continue to play within the Junior framework. In recent years a select number of Junior clubs have been invited to take part in the Scottish FA Cup.

A third body, the Scottish Amateur Football Association (SAFA) oversees some 1,000 clubs in 67 different local leagues playing at a lower level.

The Scottish Juvenile FA (SJFA) was formed in 1899 and organised the game at under-21 level although age guidelines were lax, and limits were set at 25 and even 27 at various stages. A rival Scottish Secondary Junior FA (SSJFA) was formed in 1921 and over time came to dominate the game at youth level. In 1985 the SSJFA was renamed as the Association of Scottish Youth Football Clubs (ASYFC). In 1999 the rump SJFA merged with the ASYFC and the Youth Division of the Scottish Amateur FA to form the Scottish Youth FA.

Yet another body, The Scottish Welfare Football Association was formed in 1918 to boost morale among factory workers. At one stage more than 500 teams competed in competitions organised by the SWFA but this number has now dwindled to around 200 mainly in the North of Scotland. The SWFA is itself affiliated to the Scottish FA.

Until 2015 there was no pyramid structure in Scotland: while clubs were free to change affiliation, they could not progress through the different levels.

The Scottish Premier League (SPL) broke away from the Scottish Football League in 1998.

The SFA commissioned McLeish Report (2010), which called for a wholesale reorganisation of Scottish professional football, was shelved although the Rangers debacle in 2012 reinvigorated calls for reform of what many supporters and commentators regarded as a discredited and fragmented structure. Although many proposals were made, a combination of self-interest and lacklustre leadership meant none were adopted.

Finally, in June 2013 the SFL clubs voted in favour of a plan put forward by the SPL to merge the two leagues as the Scottish Professional Football League. Although nominally a merger, this was effectively a take-over by the SPL and marked the end of the Scottish Football League. Play-offs were introduced that for the first time made it possible for teams to progress from regional leagues to the top levels.

Dave Moor (February 2024)