Lowland Football League

The Scottish Lowland Football League (SLFL, commonly known as the Lowland League) is a senior football league based in central and southern Scotland. The league sits at level 5 on the Scottish football league system, acting as a feeder to the Scottish Professional Football League, and is above three regional leagues at level 6.

Lowland League
Scottish Lowland Football League.png
Founded2013
Country Scotland
Other club(s) from England (1 team)
ConfederationUEFA
Number of teams18
Level on pyramid5
Promotion toScottish League Two
Relegation toEast of Scotland Football League
South of Scotland Football League
West of Scotland Football League
Domestic cup(s)Scottish Cup
South Region Challenge Cup
Scottish Challenge Cup (top 4)
Scottish League Cup (champions)
League cup(s)Lowland League Cup
Current championsKelty Hearts (2nd title)
(2020–21)
Most championshipsEdinburgh City
The Spartans
East Kilbride
Kelty Hearts
(2 titles)
Websiteslfl.co.uk
Current: 2021–22 Lowland Football League

Founded in 2013, it is currently composed of 18 member clubs in a single division. Geographically, the league covers an area south of Dundee in the Lowlands area of Scotland.

Since 2014-15 it has featured in the senior pyramid system. The winners take part in an end of season promotion play-off with the Highland Football League champions, with the winners then competing against the bottom club in Scottish League Two for a place in the SPFL. Promotion and relegation also exists between the three Lowlands-based regional leagues at level 6 (East, South, and West)

FormatEdit

Teams play each other twice in the league (home and away), receiving three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned Lowland League champions. If points are equal, goal difference, and then goals scored determines the champion. If this still does not result in a winner, the tied teams must take part in a championship play-off match at a neutral venue to determine the final placings.[1]

Promotion and relegationEdit

Since 2014–15, promotion to the Scottish Professional Football League is via an annual play-off, beginning with the Lowland League champions facing the champions of the Highland Football League over two legs (home and away).[2] There is no away goals rule so if scores are equal on aggregate after full-time in the second leg, the game will go to extra time, and then penalties if required. The winners will then face a play-off against the bottom club in League Two with the same rules applying.[3][4] If the League Two clubs loses the play-off final, they are relegated to the Lowland League if they are south of 56.4513N latitude (middle of the Tay Road Bridge).

Promotion to the Lowland League is via a three match round robin play-off between the winners of the East of Scotland Football League, South of Scotland Football League, and West of Scotland Football League, subject to their respective champions meeting league membership criteria. If two clubs meet the criteria they will face each other home and away, if only one club meets the criteria they will be promoted without a play-off, however if no club meets the criteria there will be no promotion to the Lowland League.[5]

Based on the number of clubs remaining after the results of promotion to and from the league are known, the bottom and possibly second-bottom placed clubs will be relegated to the East of Scotland Football League, South of Scotland Football League, or West of Scotland Football League depending on their geographical location.[6]

Scottish CupEdit

All Lowland League clubs are full members of the Scottish Football Association and qualify automatically for the first round of the Scottish Cup. The league champions and the runner-up receive a bye into the cup's second round.

The furthest a Lowland League team has reached in the Scottish Cup is the fifth round (last 16); The Spartans in 2014–15 (lost 1–0 to Berwick Rangers in a replay),[7] East Kilbride in 2015–16 (lost 2–0 to Celtic)[8] and BSC Glasgow in 2019–20 (lost 4–1 to Hibernian).[9]

HistoryEdit

The Lowland Football League was intended on helping institute a football pyramid including promotion and relegation from Scottish football's national divisions down to its junior and amateur levels by the Scottish Football Association.[10]

FormationEdit

The Lowland League was founded by a unanimous vote of members of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) on 11 June 2013,[3] The league would be composed of teams drawn from the East of Scotland, South of Scotland, and junior leagues, who met on 17 June 2013 to elect between them the founder-members of the new league.[11]

While most clubs were invited to submit bids to join, Preston Athletic, The Spartans and Threave Rovers were offered automatic entry as they were already fully licensed by the SFA.[11] While 27 clubs had registered their interest, the Lowland League received 17 applications to join.[12] After the meeting on 17 June, it was announced there would be 12 teams in the league, and that they would be: Dalbeattie Star, East Kilbride, Edinburgh City, Gala Fairydean Rovers, Gretna 2008, Preston Athletic, Selkirk, The Spartans, Threave Rovers, University of Stirling, Vale of Leithen, and Whitehill Welfare.[13]

ExpansionEdit

Subsequent seasons saw the number of participating clubs increase. Two clubs, Edinburgh University and BSC Glasgow, were admitted to the league for the 2014–15 season.[14] They were joined the following season by Cumbernauld Colts.[15] Civil Service Strollers and Hawick Royal Albert joined in June 2016, making it a 16-team league.

Pyramid movementEdit

The end of the 2015–16 season was the first time that founding members would leave the league; Edinburgh City became the first club to be promoted to the SPFL, while Threave Rovers declined the opportunity to re-apply to the league after finishing bottom and rejoined the South of Scotland Football League.[16] The same season also saw East Stirlingshire become the first club relegated into the league from Scottish League Two.

Another founding member would leave the league at the end of the 2016-17 season as Preston Athletic were relegated to the East of Scotland League. They were replaced by Edusport Academy who became the first club to gain promotion from the South of Scotland League.[17]

In 2017–18 the first promotion play-off took place between the champions of the East of Scotland and South of Scotland leagues, with former SJFA East Region club Kelty Hearts winning 10–0 on aggregate over Threave Rovers to gain promotion.[18]

Decline of SelkirkEdit

During the 2018–19 season Selkirk resigned their membership in the league owing to insurmountable difficulties.[19] It was agreed by the Lowland League board that all fixtures played by and to be played by Selkirk in 2018–19 would be expunged from the record along with any other data involving Selkirk for that season. The Lowland League moved forward with 15 clubs, however Whitehill Welfare, who finished bottom in the season's competition, were still relegated to the East of Scotland League.[20][21] East of Scotland champions Bonnyrigg Rose were promoted to the league after gaining their SFA membership.[22][23] Berwick Rangers became the second club to be relegated into the league from the SPFL, having lost the League Two play-off against Cove Rangers.[24]

Impact of CovidEdit

At the start of the 2019–20 season Edusport Academy rebranded the club as the Caledonian Braves following a vote online by members of the Our Football Club.com project.[25] [26] The 2019–20 league season was suspended on 13 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[27] A month later, the competition was ended with immediate effect with Kelty Hearts being declared champions on a points per game average based on the current standings.[28] Vale of Leithen who were bottom of the league were also spared relegation.[29]

WOSFLEdit

On 14 April 2020, the Lowland League announced it had approved 67 applications to join the new West of Scotland Football League, which included all 63 clubs from the Scottish Junior Football Association's West Region, and four others. Bonnyton Thistle already a member of the South of Scotland League decided to move due to being based in Kilmarnock.[30] The West of Scotland League will act as a feeder league on the same tier as the East of Scotland Football League and South of Scotland Football League.

Kelty Hearts promotionEdit

The league consisted of 17 teams for the 2020-21 season with East of Scotland champions Bo'ness United being promoted after gaining their SFA membership in June 2020.[31][32] The start of the league season was delayed until October 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and games were played behind closed doors due to Scottish Government restrictions. On 11 January 2021 the league was suspended by the Scottish Football Association due to the escalating pandemic situation.[33] On 30 March the league announced that a majority of clubs had voted to curtail the season, with a points per game basis used to finalise standings and Kelty Hearts were declared as the champions.[34] Kelty became the second Lowland League club to gain promotion to the SPFL after beating Brechin City 3-1 on aggregate in the Pyramid play-off final.[35]

Old Firm ColtsEdit

Celtic and Rangers were approached by the Lowland League for a proposal to admit "B" teams into the league for the 2021-22 season.[36] The proposal was given provisional approval by the majority of member clubs with the vote being confirmed at the leagues AGM on 27 May 2021.[37][38][39]

Member clubsEdit

Team Location Stadium Capacity Seats
Berwick Rangers Berwick-upon-Tweed Shielfield Park 4,099 1,366
Bo'ness United Bo'ness Newtown Park 2,500 0
Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic Bonnyrigg New Dundas Park 2,200 0
Broomhill Alloa Recreation Park[a] 3,100 919
Caledonian Braves Motherwell Alliance Park 500 100
Celtic B Airdrie Excelsior Stadium[b] 10,101 10,101
Civil Service Strollers Edinburgh Christie Gillies Park 1,569 100
Cumbernauld Colts Cumbernauld Broadwood Stadium 8,086 8,086
Dalbeattie Star Dalbeattie Islecroft Stadium 1,320 100
East Kilbride East Kilbride K Park 660 400
East Stirlingshire Falkirk Falkirk Stadium[c] 7,937 7,937
Edinburgh University Edinburgh New Peffermill Stadium 1,100 100
Gala Fairydean Rovers Galashiels 3G Arena, Netherdale 2,000 500
Gretna 2008 Gretna Raydale Park 1,030 138
Rangers B Dumbarton Dumbarton Football Stadium[d] 2,020 2,020
The Spartans Edinburgh Ainslie Park 3,612 534
University of Stirling Stirling Forthbank Stadium[e] 3,808 2,508
Vale of Leithen Innerleithen Victoria Park 1,500 0
Notes
  1. ^ Broomhill are ground-sharing with Alloa Athletic due to the lack of a suitable venue in Glasgow.
  2. ^ Celtic B are ground-sharing with Airdrieonians.
  3. ^ East Stirlingshire are ground-sharing with Falkirk.
  4. ^ Rangers B are ground-sharing with Dumbarton.
  5. ^ University of Stirling are ground-sharing with Stirling Albion.

Former membersEdit

Promoted to the SPFL
Relegated
Resigned

SeasonsEdit

Season Champions Runners-up Relegated Play-off winner
2013–14 The Spartans University of Stirling Does not appear Does not appear
2014–15 Edinburgh City East Kilbride Does not appear Does not appear
2015–16 Edinburgh City * (2) The Spartans Threave Rovers S Does not appear
2016–17 East Kilbride East Stirlingshire Preston Athletic E Does not appear
2017–18 The Spartans (2) East Kilbride (2) Hawick Royal Albert E Kelty Hearts E
2018–19 East Kilbride (2) BSC Glasgow Whitehill Welfare E Does not appear
2019–20 Kelty Hearts Bonnyrigg Rose Does not appear Does not appear
2020–21 Kelty Hearts *† (2) East Kilbride (3) Does not appear Does not appear
* Team promoted to Scottish League Two
E Team relegated to or promoted from the East of Scotland Football League
S Team relegated to the South of Scotland Football League

† Season curtailed due to COVID-19 pandemic - Kelty were announced as champions for the 2019-20[28] and 2020-21 season. A points per game basis was used to finalise standings.[34]

Top ScorersEdit

Season Player Team Goals
2013–14   Keith McLeod The Spartans 17
2014–15   Aaron Somerville Whitehill Welfare 23
2015–16   Ross Allum Edinburgh City 27
2016–17   David Grant East Stirlingshire 35
2017–18   Jack Smith BSC Glasgow 21
2018–19   Craig Malcolm East Kilbride 25
2019–20   Nathan Austin Kelty Hearts 37
2020–21   Jamie Penker University of Stirling 11

RecordsEdit

Biggest home win
Kelty Hearts 11–0 Vale of Leithen, 14 December 2019, and Berwick Rangers 11–0 Vale of Leithen, 9 October 2021
Biggest away win
Vale of Leithen 0–13 Bonnyrigg Rose, 6 October 2021
Most goals in a game
The Spartans 11–2 Selkirk, 7 December 2013[40]
Most points in a season
75; East Kilbride, 2016-17
Fewest points in a season
5; Selkirk, 2013-14[a] (0; Vale of Leithen, 2020-21[b])
Longest unbeaten run in a season
21; Kelty Hearts, 2019–20
Most wins in a season
24; Edinburgh City, 2015-16 and East Kilbride, 2016-17
Fewest wins in a season
1; Hawick Royal Albert, 2017-18 (0; Vale of Leithen, 2020-21[b])
Most draws in a season
10; University of Stirling, 2018-19
Most defeats in a season
26; Hawick Royal Albert, 2017-18
Fewest defeats in a season
1; Edinburgh City, 2014-15 and Kelty Hearts, 2019-20
Most goals scored in a season
107; East Stirlingshire, 2016-17
Fewest goals scored in a season
18; Hawick Royal Albert, 2017-18, Edinburgh University and Vale of Leithen, 2019-20 (5; Vale of Leithen, 2020-21[b])
Most goals conceded in a season
108; Hawick Royal Albert, 2017-18
Fewest goals conceded in a season
12; East Kilbride, 2018-19 (4; Kelty Hearts, 2020-21[b])
Highest attendance
1,510; Kelty Hearts 3–2 Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic, 29 February 2020[41]
Notes
  1. ^ Inaugural league season which consisted of 12 teams. Hawick Royal Albert's 6 points from 30 games in 2017-18 is fewer points per game.
  2. ^ a b c d 2020-21 Season curtailed due to COVID-19 pandemic with fewer than 50% of matches played.

ManagersEdit

The longest-serving manager at a Lowland League club is Douglas Samuel, who has managed The Spartans since 2012.[42] Spartans won the inaugural league title during the 2013-14 season[43] and clinched their second title in 2018.[44]

Civil Service Strollers boss Gary Jardine along with Barry Ferguson are the only managers to guide a Lowland League club to promotion to the SPFL.[45][35]

East Kilbride have won the title twice with two different managers, Martin Lauchlan in 2017[46] and Stuart Malcolm in 2019.[47][48]

Winning managers
Manager Club(s) Wins Winning years
  Gary Jardine Edinburgh City 2 2014–15, 2015–16
  Douglas Samuel The Spartans 2013–14, 2017–18
  Barry Ferguson Kelty Hearts 2019–20, 2020–21
  Martin Lauchlan East Kilbride 1 2016–17
  Stuart Malcolm East Kilbride 2018–19
Current managers
Nat. Name Club Appointed Time as manager
  Douglas Samuel The Spartans 5 June 2012 9 years, 134 days
  Dorian Ogunro Edinburgh University 15 June 2013 8 years, 124 days
  James Orr Cumbernauld Colts 8 June 2015 6 years, 131 days
  Ricky Waddell Caledonian Braves 1 September 2015 6 years, 46 days
  Chris Geddes Stirling University 30 June 2017 4 years, 109 days
  Gary Jardine Civil Service Strollers 23 May 2018 3 years, 147 days
  Derek Ure East Stirlingshire 6 September 2018 3 years, 41 days
  Robbie Horn Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic 8 November 2018 2 years, 343 days
  Max Christie Bo'ness United 30 January 2019 2 years, 260 days
  Ritchie Maxwell Dalbeattie Star 9 May 2019 2 years, 161 days
  Neil Hastings Gala Fairydean Rovers 23 May 2019 2 years, 147 days
  Stuart Malcolm Berwick Rangers 31 May 2021 139 days
  David Gormley Broomhill 12 July 2021 97 days
  Chris Aitken East Kilbride 10 August 2021 68 days
  Stephen Hatfield Gretna 2008 6 October 2021 11 days
  Grant Sandison Vale of Leithen 17 October 2021 0 days

Youth competitionsEdit

The Lowlands Development League operates for the Under 20s youth teams of clubs in the Lowland, East of Scotland, South of Scotland and West of Scotland leagues, along with other invited SPFL clubs. Originally named the Lowland and East of Scotland Under 20 Development League when it began in 2014, this replaced an earlier Under 19 league run by the East of Scotland League. Matches are normally played on Friday nights.

The Under 20s league expanded to 31 teams for the 2019–20 season, split into two conferences, having already increased in size from 13 to 23 teams thanks to the addition of new clubs to the East of Scotland League in 2018–19. A year later, the aborted 2020–21 season saw numbers increase to 68 along with the addition of three West Conferences due to the introduction of the West of Scotland League within the Scottish football pyramid.[49][50][51]

For the 2021–22 season, a record number of 88 clubs are taking part, split across six Conferences.[52] Petershill, Kilwinning Rangers, and Darvel later withdrew their team from the Development League.[53][54][55]

These clubs also take part in two cup competitions for both the Eastern (A, B, C) and Western (D, E, F) conferences, as well as a combined challenge cup. Prior to it becoming a competition for Under 18 teams in 2018 many also competed in the annual SFA Scottish Youth Cup.

SeasonsEdit

The Spartans won the first Lowlands Development League title in 2015.[56] The title was then won by Preston Athletic in 2016,[57] East Kilbride in 2017,[58] and Heriot-Watt University in 2018.[59]

From the 2018–19 season, the league was split into two conferences. Conference B winners Spartans won their second title after beating Conference A winners Kelty Hearts in a play-off match which determined the overall league champions.[60]

Edinburgh City were declared champions of Conference A and University of Stirling champions of Conference B after the 2019-20 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[61]

There was no league champion for 2020–21 as the season did not start due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[62]

Season Champions Runners-up
2014–15 The Spartans Whitehill Welfare
2015–16 Preston Athletic The Spartans
2016–17 East Kilbride The Spartans
2017–18 Heriot-Watt University Cumbernauld Colts
2018–19 The Spartans (2) Kelty Hearts
2019–20 Conference A: Edinburgh City; B: University of Stirling
2020–21 No competition

Lowland League CupEdit

This 16 team straight knock-out tournament takes place over four weekends at the end of the league season. The league champion has the right to withdraw from the competition to concentrate on the Scottish League Two play-offs.

Season Winner Score Runners–up
2013–14 University of Stirling 5–2[63] Preston Athletic
2014–15 East Kilbride 3–1[64] Gretna 2008
2015–16 East Kilbride 0–0 AET
4–2 on penalties[65]
Gretna 2008
2016–17 The Spartans 3–0[66] BSC Glasgow
2017–18 Cumbernauld Colts 3–1[67] Selkirk
2018–19 BSC Glasgow 2–1[68] East Stirlingshire
2019–20 No competition
2020–21 No competition

SponsorshipEdit

On 24 September 2013, the Scottish Sun newspaper announced it was sponsoring the league.[69] The league was then sponsored by Ferrari Packaging on a two-year agreement, which was extended to cover the 2017–18 season.[70] In August 2018, GeoSonic, the Alloa-based sonic drilling contractor, concluded a one-year deal to become the new title sponsor of the Scottish Lowland Football League for the 2018-19 season.[71]

Media coverageEdit

The league has its own podcast known as The Lowland League Catchup.[72] As well as weekly previews to games, and reviews known as the Roundup.[73]

On 19 September 2018, the SLFL agreed a comprehensive media partnership with RockSport Radio but this has since ended.[74]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Scottish Lowland Football League Constitution and Rules" (PDF). Scottish Lowland Football League. 20 July 2018. p. 16. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  2. ^ Park, Michael (30 March 2018). "Playoff Dates Confirmed". Scottish Lowland League. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Scottish FA approves Lowland League for next season". BBC Sport. 11 June 2013.
  4. ^ "Cowdenbeath 1-1 East Kilbride AET (penalties 5-3)". 20 May 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  5. ^ "LOWER PYRAMID PLAY - OFF COMPETITION RULES" (PDF). Lowland Football League. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
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  8. ^ "East Kilbride 0 Celtic 2: Hoops go through but Ronny Deila's men struggle". Daily Record. 7 February 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  9. ^ McKay, Gabriel (9 February 2020). "BSC Glasgow 1 Hibs 4 as McNulty sinks Lowland League side - 3 talking points". Daily Record. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
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  50. ^ "A further update ahead of the 2020/21 Development League". Twitter. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
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  53. ^ "We can confirm that Petershill u20s have withdrawn from this season's competition". Twitter. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  54. ^ "Regretfully, Kilwinning have withdrawn from Conference F, and their results will be removed and reflected in the updated table". Twitter. Retrieved 16 October 2021.
  55. ^ "Regretfully, Darvel have withdrawn from Conference F". Twitter. Retrieved 16 October 2021.
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External linksEdit