In Scotland it was not until the 19th century that football began to gain respectability and social prominence as it was introduced in some schools – but the lack of a national identity meant there was little opportunity for organised play. Only when like-minded individuals came together to write a set of rules that could be followed by all was the game codified and organised on a national level for the first time.
Following the formation of Scotland's first football club, Queen's Park FC, in 1867, the game experienced a rapid growth, but with no formal structure matches were often arranged in a haphazard and irregular fashion. It was clear that the clubs would benefit from regular competition and organisation.
Queen's Park took the lead, and after an advertisement had appeared in a Glasgow newspaper, representatives from seven clubs – Queen's Park, Clydesdale FC, Vale of Leven FC, Dumbreck FC, Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers FC, Glasgow Eastern FC and Granville FC – attended a meeting in Dewar's Hotel in Glasgow on 13 March 1873. Additionally, Kilmarnock FC sent a letter stating their willingness to join.
That day, these eight clubs formed the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and resolved that "the clubs here represented, form themselves into an association for the promotion of football according to the rules of the Football Association, and that the clubs connected with this association subscribe for a challenge cup to be played for annually, the committee to propose the laws of the competition".
The Scottish FA is the second oldest in world football, junior only to England's Football Association. The first international match had actually taken place in Glasgow one year before, somewhat appropriately on 30 November 1872 – St Andrew's Day – and the opponents were England, the 'Auld Enemy'. The game finished 0-0, the first of 111 encounters between the teams.
Football experienced a meteoric growth, and by the start of the 20th century it had become Scotland's most popular spectator sport. The SFA and the English FA, together with the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and the Irish Football Association (IFA), set up the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in 1886 to monitor the laws of the game. FIFA became a member of IFAB in 1913, and today the board still acts as the guardian of the laws. The SFA joined FIFA in 1910, and was a founder member of UEFA in 1954.
At the top level, the combination of quality players, improved spectator facilities and intense media interest, has led to football becoming highly commercialised and heavily sponsored. Throughout Scotland, football is played regularly on an organised basis by more than 140,000 people, and is clearly Scotland's national game.
Scottish players and coaches have exported their talents successfully to many parts of the world, most notably to England. Players such as Denis Law, Billy Bremner and Kenny Dalglish, and coaches Sir Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson, have all made a substantial and lasting impact on the game in England. The first professionals were Scottish 'professors' in the 1870s, brought to England to raise footballing standards, and Scots have continued to play a key role in the sport's development south of the border.
On the club front, Celtic FC, Rangers FC and Aberdeen FC have all brought European honours to Scotland – Celtic winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1967, and Rangers and Aberdeen lifting the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972 and 1983 respectively. More recently, Celtic got to the UEFA Cup final in Seville in 2003, losing 3-2 to FC Porto, while Rangers were defeated 2-0 by FC Zenit in the final of the same competition in 2008 in Manchester.
Scotland has qualified for eight FIFA World Cup final tournaments (1954, 1958, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1998) and two UEFA European Championships (1992, 1996) without progressing beyond the group stage. The Scottish women’s national football team qualified for their first major finals when they reached UEFA EURO 2017.
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