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The Scottish Premier League (Scottish Gaelic: Prìomh Lìog na h-Alba), also known as the SPL (and the Clydesdale Bank Premier League for sponsorship reasons), [ 1 ] is a professional league competition for association football clubs in Scotland. It is the top level of the Scottish football league system, above the Scottish Football League.
More people in Scotland per head of population watch their domestic top-level league than any other European nation. [ 2 ] As of October 2011 [update] the Scottish Premier League is ranked 17th in the UEFA rankings of European leagues, which are based on the performances of member clubs in European competitions. [ 3 ] A total of 18 clubs have competed in the SPL since its inauguration in 1998–99, but only two have won the title, the Old Firm of Rangers (7) and Celtic (6).Background
Previously, the Scottish Football League had a two divisional structure (Divisions One and Two) between which clubs were promoted and relegated at the end of each season. However, by the mid 1970s, this organisation was perceived to be stagnant, and it was decided to split into a three divisional structure: Premier Division (formerly Division One), First Division (formerly Division Two) and a newly added Second Division. This system came into force for the 1975–76 season. This setup continued until the 1994–95 season, when a four divisional structure was introduced, along with a new Third Division, with all four divisions consisting of ten clubs.
On 8 September 1997, the football clubs in the Premier Division decided to split from the Scottish Football League and form the Scottish Premier League, following an earlier example in England, which came into force during the 1992–93 season. This decision was fuelled by a desire by the top clubs in Scotland to retain more of the revenue generated by the game. Originally, league sponsorship money was divided proportionally between clubs in all four divisions; after the SPL was formed, this was no longer the case.Competition format
There are currently twelve clubs in the Scottish Premier League. Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference, and then goals scored. At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned champion. If points are equal, the goal difference and then goals scored determine the winner.
A season, which runs from July until May, is divided into two phases. During the first phase, each club plays three games against every other team, either once at home and twice away or vice-versa. After this first phase of matches, by which time all clubs will have played 33 games, the league splits into a 'top six' and a 'bottom six'. Each club then plays a further five matches against the other five teams in their own section. Points achieved during the first phase of 33 matches are carried forward to the second phase, but the teams will compete only within their own sections during the second phase. After the first phase has been completed, clubs cannot move out of their own section in the league, even if they achieve more or fewer points than a higher or lower ranked team, respectively.
At the beginning of each season, the Scottish Premier League 'predicts' the likely positions of each club in order to produce a fixture schedule that will ensure the best possible chance of all clubs playing each other twice at home and twice away. These are known as the league seeding and are based on clubs' performance in previous years. [ 4 ] However, should a club not finish in the half where it was predicted to finish, it faces the possibility of playing an unequal number of home and away games; for example, one club may play another three times at home and once away. [ 4 ]
The bottom placed SPL club at the end of the season is relegated, and swaps places with the winner of the Scottish First Division, provided that the winner satisfies the league's entry criteria.
Originally the SPL contained 10 clubs, but it subsequently enlarged to 12 for the 2000–01 season onwards. The increase from 10 clubs to 12 was part of the deal offered to obtain approval from SFL member clubs. Since then, the SPL has operated a "split league format" to prevent the need for a 44-game schedule, which was once used in the Scottish Premier Division, but is now considered to be too high a number of games in a league season.
Under this system, after 33 games (i.e., when every club has played every other club three times, either twice away and once at home or vice-versa) the division is split into two halves. The clubs play a further five matches against the teams in their half of the division, taking their total to 38 games. This can (and often does) result in the team placed seventh having a higher points total than the team placed sixth, because their final five games are considerably easier. For example, in the 2005–06 season, the seventh placed club, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, gained more points than the fourth placed club, Hibernian.
There has been criticism of the split season format. In April 2007, Craig Levein labelled it as "rubbish" and a "nonsense", claiming that it resulted in lost revenue for clubs and put more pressure on managers, [ 5 ] while Rangers manager Walter Smith branded the format as "unfair" and called for an 18-team league to be considered. [ 6 ] The SPL has defended the split format, however, and dismissed the possibility of expanding the league due to a lack of strong enough clubs within the Scottish Football League. [ 4 ] In March 2008 Kilmarnock manager Jim Jefferies was the latest to call for a league revamp, claiming that the potential for four matches per season against the same opponent is too many. [ 7 ]Promotion and relegation
Providing they meet certain criteria regarding their stadium, the top club from the Scottish First Division is promoted to the SPL, with the 12th-placed SPL club relegated. These promotion criteria have previously caused controversy. In 2003, the chairmen of the member clubs voted against Falkirk's proposed ground share with Airdrie United and stopped the club from having the 10,000 capacity stadium it required, thus saving Motherwell from relegation. [ 8 ]
The same situation nearly materialised in 2004. After several votes and discussion, including threats of court cases from Partick Thistle, the team threatened with relegation, Inverness Caledonian Thistle were promoted on the basis that they would ground share with Aberdeen at Pittodrie. [ 9 ] In 2005, the stadium size criterion for entry to the SPL was reduced to 6,000, [ 10 ] thereby allowing Inverness Caledonian Thistle to return to their home stadium during the 2005–06 season. [ 10 ]Old Firm dominance
One of the main criticisms of the SPL is the dominance of the two Old Firm clubs, Celtic and Rangers. No team outside the Old Firm has won the SPL since it was formed in 1998 and there has only been one season (2005–06) where both clubs failed to occupy first and second positions, with Hearts finishing second behind Celtic. Whilst this is similar to other European leagues, this dates back to the beginning of Scottish league football, with a few exceptional periods. The average home attendances of both clubs are significantly higher than the other 10 clubs, resulting in the Old Firm having far greater revenues and therefore more money to spend on players. Both clubs also receive significant revenue from their regular participation in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.
Despite having more resources than other Scottish clubs, the Old Firm still experience difficulty in competing with big clubs from other leagues in terms of transfer fees and player wages due to the SPL's relatively low television revenue. A recurring theme in recent years has been the prospect of the two clubs leaving the Scottish football set-up to join either the English set-up, or an Atlantic League with clubs from countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal. [ 11 ] While some feel that the departure of the Old Firm from the Scottish football setup would be detrimental to Scottish football as a whole, [ 12 ] [ 13 ] others, such as Craig Levein, believe it would benefit Scottish football due to increased competition among the remaining clubs for the SPL title. [ 14 ] World football's governing body FIFA has ruled out the prospect of any move to the English set-up. [ 15 ]Winter break
A further issue of controversy was the SPL's decision to scrap the 'winter break' after the 2000–01 season, thereby forcing clubs to play throughout January and often resulting in postponement of matches and significant damage to clubs' pitches due to adverse weather conditions, as well as player fatigue [ citation needed ] . Managers Martin O'Neill, [ 16 ] Jim Duffy [ 16 ] and Walter Smith are among those who have called for the winter break to be reinstated. [ 17 ] Alex McLeish accused the SPL of taking Scottish football "back to the Dark Ages" after its decision to scrap the mid-season hiatus. [ 16 ]European qualification
The Scottish Premier League were thirteenth in UEFA's coefficient ranking for 2009, meaning that for the 2010–11 season, two SPL clubs qualified for the UEFA Champions League (the SPL champions, who enter the group stages since the defending champions will have already qualified to the group stages, and the runners-up, who enter the third qualifying round for non-champions) as well as two qualifying for the UEFA Europa League (the third and fourth placed clubs). The winners of the Scottish Cup also qualify for the Europa League, unless that team have already qualified for either the Champions League or Europa League. If the Scottish Cup winners have already qualified for the Champions League, the Europa League place is handed to the runners-up, and if the winners have already qualified for the Europa League, the Europa League place is given to the highest-placed SPL club who have not qualified for European competition. The same rule also applies if both the winners and the runners-up have already qualified. In 2010, as Dundee United had qualified for the Europa League through both winning the Scottish Cup and finishing third in the SPL, a Europa League placed passed to Motherwell, who finished fifth in the SPL.
Clubs also had the opportunity to apply for qualification to the UEFA Intertoto Cup before it was folded into the Europa League; qualification for that event was given to the highest placed applicant, although only two clubs chose to play in the tournament since the SPL's inception in 1998–99 (Dundee in 2001 and Hibernian in 2004, 2006 and 2008). Clubs may also qualify for Europe via the UEFA Fair Play ranking.
Since the SPL's inception, Scotland's UEFA co-efficient has improved significantly, having been ranked 26th in 1998–99. [ 18 ] In 2003 Celtic became the first Scottish club since Dundee United in 1987 to reach a European final, eventually losing 3–2 to FC Porto after extra-time in the UEFA Cup final. [ 19 ] In 2003–04, two Scottish clubs (Celtic and Rangers) qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time. In 2005–06, Rangers became the first Scottish club to reach the knockout stage of the Champions League, [ 20 ] a feat which was repeated by Celtic the following two seasons. [ 21 ] [ 22 ] In the 2007–08 season, three Scottish clubs were competing in Europe after Christmas for the first time since 1970, [ 23 ] while in the same season Rangers reached the UEFA Cup final, their first European final since their UEFA Cup Winners' Cup triumph of 1972, where they lost 2–0 to Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg. [ 24 ] During the season Scotland's European representatives collected the most coefficient points since the 1982–83 season. [ 18 ]
Until 1995, the winners of the Scottish League Cup were granted a place in the UEFA Cup, although this privilege was rarely invoked as the winning teams usually qualified for Europe by some other means such as winning the League Championship or Scottish Cup. The most recent example was Raith Rovers, who represented Scotland in the 1995–96 UEFA Cup after winning the League Cup the previous season as a First Division club. This privilege has since been discontinued due to the reduction in the number of European places granted to Scottish clubs.
Scottish Premier League clubs have almost complete freedom to sign whatever number and category of players they wish. There is no team or individual salary cap, no squad size limit, no age restrictions other than those applied by general employment law, no restrictions on the overall number of foreign players, and few restrictions on individual foreign players – all players with EU nationality, including those able to claim an EU passport through a parent or grandparent, are eligible to play, and top players from outside the EU are able to obtain UK work permits.
The only restriction on selection is the "Under-21 rule". This rule states that each club must include at least three players under the age of 21 in its matchday squad. Opinions on this rule appear to be divided among SPL managers. Walter Smith, Gus MacPherson and Jim Jefferies have expressed their disapproval of the policy. [ 25 ] John Collins, meanwhile, expressed approval of the ruling, claiming that it is healthy for Scottish football and encouraged the development of young players. [ 25 ]
Recent decline in television revenue has resulted in relatively little spending among SPL clubs in recent seasons, with major transfer spending mostly limited to the Old Firm clubs. As a result, many clubs are now more reliant on developing their own young players and selling them on for profit. This has also resulted in a large proportion of SPL clubs' squads being made up of Scottish players (73% in the 2004–05 season). [ 26 ]Sponsorship
The Bank of Scotland, who had sponsored the league since March 1999 (The League was unsponsored for most of the inaugural season), did not renew their sponsorship at the end of the 2006–07 season. Talks began with Clydesdale Bank, [ 27 ] and a deal was confirmed shortly afterwards. A four-year deal for £8m came into effect from July 2007 [ 28 ] and in 2010 this was extended until 2013. [ 29 ]Financial crisis
Since the SPL began, four of its member clubs have entered administration. Serious financial difficulties first arose in 2002 when broadcaster Sky Sports withdrew their interest in the League’s television rights when the SPL rejected their offer of £45m, hoping that a better deal would arise from another broadcaster. [ 30 ] A better deal failed to arise, however, adding to the clubs’ already delicate financial position. [ 30 ] By season 2001/02, combined debt among SPL clubs was estimated to be around £132m, having been barely into double figures two years previously. [ 30 ] Motherwell became the first SPL club to enter administration in April 2002, with debts of £11m and a wage bill totalling 97% of their annual turnover. [ 30 ] Dundee were next to follow, when in November 2003 they sacked 25 staff after debts of £20m. [ 30 ] The severity of the SPL's financial problems were revealed in September 2003 when combined losses for SPL clubs during 2001/02 was estimated to have been £60m. [ 31 ]
Livingston became the third SPL club to enter administration in February 2004, with debts of £3.5m. [ 32 ] Dunfermline Athletic's financial position also looked bleak, with several players asked to take wage-cuts, [ 33 ] while Rangers Chairman David Murray announced in September 2004 a plan to raise £57m via a rights issue in an attempt to wipe-out a large proportion of the club's debts. [ 34 ] A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2003 described five SPL clubs—Dundee, Dunfermline Athletic, Hearts, Hibernian and Livingston—as "technically insolvent".Financial recovery
After widespread cost-cutting measures, SPL clubs' finances began to show signs of improvement. Both Motherwell and Dundee came out of administration in April [ 35 ] and August 2004, [ 36 ] respectively, while Livingston ended their fifteen month spell in administration in May 2005. [ 37 ] PricewaterhouseCoopers' 2006 report on SPL finances revealed operating profits of £2.8m among SPL clubs—the first collective operating profit made by Scotland's top-flight clubs in over a decade. [ 38 ] Seven of the SPL's 12 clubs had a wage turnover ratio of less than 60%. [ 38 ]
PricewaterhouseCoopers' 2007 report revealed a collective loss of £9m for 2005–06, however six clubs—Falkirk, Hibernian, Inverness CT, Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Rangers—all made a profit. [ 39 ] The report highlighted the increasingly precarious financial position of Hearts, describing their current finances as "unsustainable" with debt rising by £7m to £28m and a wage bill which represents 97% of their turnover. [ 39 ] The figures for 2006–07 showed a collective profit of £3m, with eight clubs making a profit. [ 40 ]
Despite recent improvements in the financial position of SPL clubs, Gretna became the fourth SPL club to enter administration in March 2008 after their main benefactor Brooks Mileson was forced to withdraw his financial support due to failing health. [ 41 ]Financial crises 2007–10
With the financial crises and the UK economic recession, SPL clubs are expected to be badly affected. [ 42 ] A reduction in revenue from ticket sales for SPL games and club merchandise will impact negatively on club expenditure. Players may be expected to take wage cuts and team squads will be reduced. [ 43 ] Indeed some clubs may reduce the number of non-playing staff. [ 44 ] [ 45 ] During 2009 and 2010, the financial constraints at Rangers were widely reported, with the club's debt rising to £30 million. [ 46 ]
The 21st PWC annual review found that SPL clubs made a collective loss of £22M during the 2008–09 season, although this loss was almost entirely due to problems at two clubs. [ 47 ] Rangers incurred a £14M loss after losing most of their European revenues due to an early defeat by FBK Kaunas, while Hearts lost £8M. [ 47 ] Indeed, Rangers stabilised financially since then, with costs severely reduced and income generated from Champions League participation due to winning the league twice. [ 47 ] Hearts were described by The Scotsman as the only true financial "basket case" in the SPL, with the club having a wages-to-turnover ratio of 126% and debt of over three times turnover. [ 47 ]Media coverage Television
Between season 1998–99 and season 2001–02, exclusive television rights for live Scottish Premier League matches were held by Sky Sports, with a highlights package held by STV's Scotsport. After Sky Sports withdrew their interest in the SPL when their offer for £45m to continue ownership of the live TV rights were declined by the SPL on the grounds of not being substantial enough, discussions began in 2002 for a new pay-per-view satellite television channel, dubbed "SPL TV". [ 48 ] Discussions broke down in April 2002, however, when the Old Firm clubs, Rangers and Celtic, utilised the 11–1 voting system to veto the proposals. [ 49 ] This caused discontent among the remaining 10 SPL clubs who subsequently announced their intention to resign from the league. [ 50 ]
Despite a two-year television deal being agreed with BBC Scotland in July 2002 (for a significant amount less than the money previously offered by Sky Sports), [ 51 ] the 10 non-Old Firm clubs confirmed their resignation from the SPL in August 2002, citing discontent with the league's 11–1 voting procedure which effectively gave the Old Firm clubs a veto over attempts to change SPL rules. [ 52 ] The ten clubs withdrew their resignations in January 2003 after an agreement was reached to change the voting procedures and to change the distribution of TV revenue. [ 53 ]
With BBC Scotland's television contract due to expire after the 2003–04 season, the SPL agreed a new television deal with Irish broadcaster Setanta Sports in February 2004 in a four-year deal worth £54m. [ 54 ] In June 2008, it was announced that a further four-year deal would commence for the 2010/11 season, with the deal worth £125m. [ 55 ]
Setanta lost the rights to show live SPL games in the United Kingdom as they were unable to pay the £3 million they owed to the SPL. [ 56 ] The SPL then agreed a deal with ESPN and Sky Sports worth £13 million per season to the clubs. [ 56 ] This is comparable to the deal which Setanta previously had in place, [ 56 ] but it was around half of the amount that Setanta would have been paying from 2010. [ 57 ] The Old Firm criticised the decision of nine of the other SPL clubs to accept that offer from Setanta, instead of taking an alternative package from Sky that would have been worth significantly more than the deal signed after Setanta went into administration. [ 57 ]
BBC Scotland's Sportscene currently own the rights to broadcast highlights of each game first on terrestrial TV. The BBC also hold the rights to show on-line internet highlights to UK users for one week after each game. BBC Alba, launched in September 2008, show one full SPL game every Saturday evening for two seasons. The games are broadcast three hours after the game has ended. The SPL is broadcast in Australia by Setanta Oz and in the USA by Setanta Sports North America. [ 58 ]International television
The SPL is available to view in the following countries around the world.
Radio broadcasting rights are currently held by BBC Radio Scotland, who have held the rights since the SPL's inception in 1998. [ 59 ] BBC Radio Scotland also provide internet webcasts to all Scottish Premier League matches, having became the first broadcaster to introduce such a service in June 2000. [ 60 ] However Old Firm games are broadcast when available on BBC Radio 5 Live and also on 102.5 Clyde 1.SPL members for 2011–12
Locations of the current SPL teams in Scotland [ v · d · e ]
The following twelve clubs will compete in the Scottish Premier League during the 2011–12 season:
spell in top divisionFormer SPL members
These are previous members of the SPL in reverse order of them losing membership.
in top division
St. Mirren, Inverness CT and Dunfermline Athletic are the only clubs to have been promoted into the SPL twice. Dunfermline Athletic are also the only club to have been relegated twice from the SPL.
The following is a list of the current managers in the SPL. The list is arranged chronologically by appointment.Statistics Championships All-time SPL table
This table is a cumulative record of all SPL matches played since the inception of the league in 1998. The table is accurate from the 1998–99 season to the end of the 2010–11 season, inclusive. [ 64 ] Teams highlighted in bold are current members of the Premier League.
P = Position; Ssn = Number of seasons; Pld = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points; Ppg = Points per gameTop scorers
Former Kilmarnock and Rangers player Kris Boyd has scored the most goals in the SPL, with 164 goals. [ 65 ] He broke the previous record of 158, set by Henrik Larsson, by scoring five goals for Rangers in a 7–1 win against Dundee United on 30 December 2009. Boyd and Larsson are the only players to have scored more than 100 goals in the SPL, which started in the inaugural 1998–99 season. There are players who have scored far more goals in the predecessor Scottish Football League competition, with Jimmy McGrory and Bob McPhail each scoring more than 300 goals in the top flight of Scottish football. [ 66 ]Top 10 SPL scorers
Records and awards
Dunfermline Athletic 1–8 Celtic (2005–06) [ 64 ] Most goals in a game Motherwell 6–6 Hibernian (2009–2010) [ 64 ] Most consecutive wins Celtic, 25, 2003–04 [ 64 ] Most consecutive games unbeaten Celtic, 32, 2003–04 [ 64 ] Most consecutive defeats Partick Thistle, 10, 2003–04 [ 64 ] Most consecutive games without a win Hamilton Academical, 22, 2010–11 Most consecutive games without scoring a goal Dunfermline Athletic, 9, 2006–07 [ 64 ] Most points in a season Celtic, 103 points, 2001–02 [ 64 ] Fewest points in a season Gretna, 13 points, 2007–08 [ 64 ] [ note 8 ] Most goals scored in a season Celtic, 105 goals, 2003–04 [ 64 ] Fewest goals scored in a season St. Johnstone, 23 goals, 2010–11 [ 64 ] Most goals conceded in a season Aberdeen, 83 goals, 1999–00 [ 64 ]
Gretna, 83 goals, 2007–08 [ 64 ] Fewest goals conceded in a season Celtic, 18 goals, 2001–02 [ 64 ] Most wins in a season Celtic, 33, 2001–02 [ 64 ] Fewest wins in a season Dunfermline Athletic, 4, 1998–99 [ 64 ]
Livingston, 4, 2005–06 [ 64 ] Fewest defeats in a season Celtic, 1, 2001–02 [ 64 ] Most defeats in a season Livingston, 28, 2005–06 [ 64 ] Most draws in a season Dunfermline Athletic, 16, 1998–99 [ 64 ] Fewest home defeats in a season Celtic, 0, 2001–02 and 2002–03 [ 64 ]
Rangers, 0, 2009–10 [ 64 ] Fewest away defeats in a season Celtic, 0, 2003–04 [ 64 ] Fewest home wins in a season Hamilton Academical, 1, 2010–11 [ 64 ] Fewest away wins in a season Dunfermline Athletic, 0, 1998–99 [ 64 ] Youngest player Scott Robinson, for Hearts vs Inverness CT, &10000000000000016000000 16 years, &10000000000000045000000 45 days [ 67 ] Youngest goalscorer Fraser Fyvie, for Aberdeen vs Heart of Midlothian, &10000000000000016000000 16 years, &10000000000000306000000 306 days [ 67 ] Oldest player Andy Millen, for St. Mirren vs Hearts, 42 years 279 days, 15 March 2008 [ 67 ] Most goals in a season Henrik Larsson (Celtic), 35 goals, 2000–01 [ 67 ] Fastest goal Anthony Stokes, 12.4 seconds, Hibernian 1–4 Rangers, 27 December 2009 [ 67 ] All-time top scorer Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock and Rangers), 164 goals [ 67 ] Most hat-tricks Henrik Larsson (Celtic), 12 [ 67 ] Hat-tricks in consecutive games Henrik Larsson (Celtic), 2000–01 [ 67 ]
Anthony Stokes (Falkirk), 2006–07 [ 67 ] Most goals in a game Kenny Miller, 5, Rangers v St. Mirren, 4 November 2000 [ 67 ]
Kris Boyd, 5, Kilmarnock v Dundee United, 25 September 2004 [ 67 ]
Kris Boyd, 5, Rangers v Dundee United, 30 December 2009 [ 67 ] Most consecutive clean sheets Robert Douglas, Celtic, 7 games, 2000–01 [ 67 ] Most clean sheets in a season Fraser Forster and Łukasz Załuska, Celtic, 23 games, 2010–11 [ 68 ] Most SPL appearances Scott Severin, 345 (correct to the end of the 2010–11 season) Highest attendance 60,440, Celtic v St. Mirren, 7 April 2001 [ 69 ] Lowest attendance 431, Gretna v Inverness CT, 5 April 2008 [ 69 ] Highest average attendance 59,369, Celtic, 2000–01 [ 69 ] Lowest average attendance 2,283, Gretna, 2007–08 [ 69 ] Highest transfer fee paid Tore André Flo, from Chelsea to Rangers, £12m, 23 November 2000 [ 70 ] Highest transfer fee received Aiden McGeady, from Celtic to Spartak Moscow, £9.5m, 13 August 2010 [ 71 ] Highest transfer fee between two SPL clubs Scott Brown, from Hibernian to Celtic, £4.4m, 1 June 2007 [ 72 ]
The following clubs have won Programme of the Year: [ 73 ] [ 74 ]Notes
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