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16 October 2014

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Scottish League formed

Rutherglen Glencairn players


The success of the league set-up in England was viewed with some envy by Scotland's top clubs and the drive to set up a rival league in Scotland grew stronger amongst all in the Scottish game. The main opposition came from those who worried that the establishment of a league in Scotland would inevitably lead to professionalism coming to Scottish football.

That bastion of amateurism Queen's Park Football Club felt so strongly about this that they wanted no part to play in the establishment of the Scottish League and indeed they boycotted the inaugural league season in 1890/91.

There were a number of reasons for the "amateurs" resisting the new league. One of these was that it was felt that rather than nurture the smaller and weaker clubs, the league would ultimately cause their demise. To a club that saw themselves as pioneers of the game, Queen's Park felt that they could not be party to such a potentially destructive element.

Such fears proved inconclusive as within ten years, six of the founder members and "top-flight" clubs of their day, had gone out of existence.

The Queen's Park board also held the viewpoint that, even though payments to players in Scotland was theoretically illegal, it was common practice for some Scottish clubs to make "under the counter" payments to their top players.

This was confirmed when during that first league campaign St Bernards FC were suspended by the Scottish FA for paying one of their players. This row then escalated when another club, Renton, played a friendly fixture against St Bernards and found themselves expelled from the league's opening season as a result. Renton's playing record was expunged, as the new competition was plunged into a deepening crisis so soon after its inception.

Another controversy surrounded three clubs who each had four points deducted, for playing ineligible players, in the 1890/91 season. These were Celtic, Third Lanark and Cowlairs.

The first full season of the Scottish League ended in as close a finish as has been seen since. Two clubs, Dumbarton and Rangers finished the campaign level on points. Goal average, or goal difference had not been considered as a means of separating the teams, so a play-off between the two sides was hastily arranged. The game finished 2-2 and with extra-time and penalties being still an idea of the distant future it was agreed that the trophy would be shared, with each of the clubs holding it for six months. This remains the only occasion where the Scottish championship was tied.
Dumbarton won the title outright the following season

The Second Division was formed in 1893. There was initially no automatic promotion and relegation between the two divisions. The top two clubs in the Second Division and the bottom two in the First were subject to a ballot by all except the bottom two of the First Division clubs. Any clubs level on points played a play-off match to establish which of them were included in the ballot.

A few seasons later the voting system was amended slightly. The change, however, was an extremely controversial one, whereby the bottom two clubs in the First Division were allowed a vote too. This system may seem unfair and indeed could be compared to the controversial votes in recent years, whereby Scottish Premier League clubs decided whether Falkirk and Inverness Caledonian Thistle might be accepted into the top League.

It has to be remembered though that there was, and indeed there still remains, a vast difference between the crowd-pulling potential of the top Scottish clubs and the smaller ones. Therefore matters such as gate receipts and travel costs would be crucial in the decisions of the First Division clubs as to who stayed up and who went, or stayed, down.

Queen's Park finally joined the League in 1900/01. They have remained as amateurs throughout the club's existence, a fact which put them at a massive disadvantage when compared to other clubs. There has been a steady drift of the club's better players to other clubs since the start of the professional era. Yet despite this Queen's Park managed to maintain First Division status for most of the period up to the Second World War, a remarkable achievement.

Goal average was brought in as a method of separating tied teams, in 1921/22. This remained in force until season 1971/72 when it was replaced by goal difference.

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