Scottish Football Historical Archive


Search this site
The Winners
Scottish League C DivisionElectionsResignationsExpulsionsPoint alterationsPromotion & relegationPlay-offs & test matches1939-40 season
Other Leagues
The War Years
Representative Matches
Club Directory
Site Map
Website Builder

Promotion and relegation

When the Scottish League formed the Second Division in 1893, there was no automatic promotion and relegation between the sections. Instead, the re-election process that was used to regulate entry to the League itself was expanded to movement between the two divisions. Initially the bottom three clubs had to apply for re-election, but this was reduced to two from 1899. It was possible to bypass the Second Division completely and apply for a First Division place, Queen’s Park did so successfully in 1900, while the newly formed Aberdeen were not so fortunate in 1903 losing by only three votes to the Second Division champions Airdrieonians. A Second Division club had to have a great many friends to gain promotion. Hibernian had to win the championship two years running to be promoted, while Kilmarnock were beaten by Clyde on a second ballot, despite the Glasgow side finishing in the bottom two for three years in succession and winning only one game in 1897-98. The amateur clubs Queen’s Park and Port-Glasgow Athletic were both saved on several occasions before the outbreak of War in 1914. There were times when the proposal of automatic promotion was debated. Hearts proposed one up-one down at the 1907 AGM, but lost by 11 votes to 7. They proposed again in 1909, but received even fewer support. It was then agreed on in 1912, but by the time the AGM heard the proposal, bottom club St Mirren had already committed itself to a First Division wage bill, so the idea was shelved.
During the Great War, the Second Division was first suspended, and then scrapped altogether. Those clubs left outside the League formed regional leagues, the strongest of which was the Central League. This new body, not being affiliated with the International League Board, could poach star players without the need to pay transfer fees. Crowds flocked to see these players, and although initially the Scottish League was unconcerned, there were waverers in the Management Committee. By 1921, these men convinced the League to give the Central League what they wanted – to be part of the Scottish League (as the Second Division), and for automatic promotion and relegation to operate. The got their wish at a meeting of the two bodies on 11 May 1921, and in 1922, Alloa Athletic became the first club to be automatically promoted. One of the first victims of the new rule was Queen’s Park who had been saved a number of times by the old re-election process.
The few times that the rule wasn’t entirely enforced was when there was league reconstruction such as the divisions being expanded. When the Premier Division was created in 1975, ten clubs were promoted to Premier status and six moved up to the ‘new’ First Division. Further reconstruction in 1994 saw the creation of a fourth tier when there was a big movement between the sections. Basically Stranraer leapfrogged five clubs into the First Division, the unfortunate sides all being relegated.
When the Scottish Premier League was founded in 1998, the automatic rule was retained despite it being a separate league. The only difference was that all Premier grounds had to be of a certain standard. Unless a promoted club could attain the criteria set down (minimum seating of 10000 and undersoil heating), that club would be denied a place and there would be no relegation from the SPL. Many felt the 10000 seat rule to drastic, and it was later dropped to 6000, which is easier for more clubs to achieve, Since 2005, the Scottish League has reintroduce play-offs to determine som promotion places. It had previously used them between 1995 and 1997.