Scottish Premier League (SPL)

Scottish Premier League (SPL)

The Scottish Premier League has quite an interesting history behind it with dissolutions and mergers. The League was first founded in 1998 as an independent league away from the chains of the Scottish Football League.

The SPL was active and successfully operating for 15 years until it was abolished as an individual league in 2013. Namely, it was merged with the Scottish Football League, and together they were transformed into the Scottish Professional Football League. The first division of the newly formed league is known as the Scottish Premiership.

During its independent days, the SPL featured 19 clubs, out of which, only two managed to secure the honorary championship title throughout its 15 seasons. These clubs were the famous Celtic and Rangers clubs.

The History of the Two Leagues

The Scottish Football League started out as a two-division league with the First and Second Division. During the 1970’s, the league was restructured to feature three divisions in total, from then on, the first was called the Premier Divison, the Second was called the First Division, and a third one was added to be known as the Second Division. Again, the league was extended 20 years later and included one more, the Third Division. Each division (4 in total) featured ten clubs who were promoted and relegated throughout the seasons based on their accomplishments.

After three years in this set-up, the Premier Division decided to part ways with the SFL by forming the Scottish Premier League. The decision was based on profit interest, whereby the clubs could keep more of the revenues instead of sharing it with the other divisions. The SFL was organized to allocate sponsor money proportionally among the clubs, and when the SPL was formed, its players were able to keep commercial profits they made. They only continued to pay an annual fee to the SFL.

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The SPL Structure

The SPL started out with ten clubs, but eventually, by 2000 they extended membership to include 12 clubs. It stayed in the format until its dissolution. After the extension, and in order to avoid a schedule that included 44 games, the SFL was divided into two parts. The 10-month season would be played in two phases. The first phase included 33 games per team which meant that they had to play each other three times either at home or as guests. The second phase would divide the teams further into the bottom and top six. In that way, every team had to play against each team from their group which accounts for five more matches. The ranking in the top or bottom six was closed after the first phase, and there was no possibility to get promoted or delegated to the other group. As soon as they were formed based on the points they achieved in the 33 games, there was no opportunity to change the bottom or top status. When we say that some football experts were outraged by the split, we do not exaggerate. Amyn called for a reorganization of the league that seemed unfair, including proposals for extending the league to 18 clubs. Nevertheless, the SPL remained determined to keep it running under the split format.

Insolvency and the Role of Gretna

The SPL started to have financial problems and indebtedness rose quickly. The SPL relied mostly on ticket sales and their fans, rather than profits from commercials and TV. The League was only sponsored by major Scottish banks, and the last sponsorship deal lasted until 2013.

The SPL has had already financial troubles since 2002, and teams decided to rescue it by entering administration. One of the teams was also Gretna F.C., but unfortunately, their million-heavy owner Mileson fell ill, and the deal dropped as well. Gretna F.C. itself also became insolvent and was relegated from the SPL. After that, the club completely dissolved and a new club was formed Gretna F.C. 2008. The club did not get to play in the SPL though. Other clubs also faced financial disasters, and the total loss of all clubs together in 2008/2009 amounted to £22 million. The SPL struggled for several more years until it was completely abolished in 2013 and merged into a completely new Scottish Professional Football League.