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Football

Scottish League formed

The first Rangers team

© EMPICS

The formation of the Scottish Football League was inevitably linked to developments in England, where the Football Association was formed in London as far back as 1863. In those days there was certainly no universal agreement on the rules of the game, with football rules in Scotland still allowing the ball to be handled by all the outfield players, as well as the goalkeeper, whereas in England only the keeper was permitted to handle the ball and then only in his own area.

Nevertheless, there were huge differences in the rules, which had been adopted even across England, where for example the two Sheffield clubs were playing to different rules than most of the other clubs. Therefore, one of the first tasks to be undertaken by the new Football Association was to lay down a uniform set of rules for the game.

With no organising body in existence north of the border and football in Scotland comprising mainly of a series of friendly matches, some with English clubs, Queen's Park, Scotland's oldest and best-known club at that time took the dramatic step of joining the FA in 1870.

Indeed Queen's Park were one of the clubs which entered the initial FA Cup in 1871/72 and along with each of the other entrants they paid the sum of one guinea towards the cost of the trophy. Other Scottish clubs that played in the English Cup were Third Lanark, Cowlairs, Rangers, Renton and Partick Thistle.

The drive towards setting up a Football Association in Scotland grew stronger in the early 1870s and eventually the Scottish Football Association was established in 1873. Scotland's own knockout cup competition, the Scottish FA Cup was first competed for in the 1873/74 season, with Queen's Park being the first winners.

Queen's Park 1874

© EMPICS

The main factor in the establishment of a separate league in Scotland was the advent of professional football south of the border. Payments to players had been made legal in England in 1885 and professional footballers were paid decent salaries for that time. Ironically this attracted many Scottish players southwards to ply their trade in England, whereas in Scotland the game remained, in theory anyway, an amateur game until 1893.

In 1887 the Scottish Football Association ordered all of its member clubs to withdraw from the English FA and cease further participation in the FA Cup.

In the same year in England, an exiled Scot, one William MacGregor, came up with the idea of a "league" competition to replace the ongoing diet of friendlies, which was only interrupted by the occasional FA cup-tie.

MacGregor's idea was that the clubs would play each other twice in a season, on a home-and-away basis, with two points being awarded for a win and one for a draw. The team with the highest number of points when all fixtures had been played would be declared champions. Discussions between the clubs led to 12 clubs from the North and the Midlands contesting the first English League season in 1888/89.

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