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Scottish football stands test of time

From its beginnings in the 19th century, football has become the national game in Scotland.

Scottish football stands test of time
Scottish football stands test of time ©Popperfoto/Getty Images

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.


Rod Petrie

Rod Petrie
Rod Petrie©UEFA

Nationality: British
Date of birth: 22 April 1956
Association president since: 2019

Rod Petrie was appointed as the 53rd president of the Scottish Football Association on 12 June 2019.

Petrie trained as a chartered accountant with Ernst and Young before joining investment bank Quayle Munro as managing director. He was an advisor to Sir Tom Farmer during the takeover of Hibs in 1991, before joining the board at Easter Road five years later. Petrie was appointed managing director of Hibs in 1997, and has also fulfilled the role of chief executive as well as chairman. He has served on Scottish FA committees since 1997, as a director of the association’s SFA board since 2007, and as vice president since 2011. He was also involved in the creation of the Scottish Premier League (SPL).

“It is always appropriate to respect and honour the past,” he said. “My appointment is not a reward for what I have done, rather a recognition of the contribution I can make during my term of office as president. I take the responsibility seriously and will continue to work hard in the best interests of Scottish football.”


General secretary

Ian Maxwell

Ian Maxwell
Ian Maxwell©SFA

Nationality: British
Date of birth: 2 May 1975
Association CEO since: 2018

• Ian Maxwell joined the Scottish Football Association (SFA) as chief executive on 21 May 2018.

• Maxwell’s playing career started at Hampden Park, where he made 123 appearances for Queen’s Park FC before his playing career took him to Ross County FC, Saint Johnstone FC, Saint Mirren FC and Partick Thistle FC. He served as assistant manager for Partick Thistle before taking on the roles of general manager and managing director at the Firhill club. In 2016, Maxwell was also named as one of three Scottish Premiership representatives on the Scottiosh Professional Football League (SPFL) board.

• "The Scottish FA's vision is to inspire a nation," he said. "That’s exactly what we are here for. I have led teams from playing in them, from being an assistant manager to then running a club. As the national association, the onus is on us to drive football forward at every level."