North Caledonian Football Association

The North Caledonian Football Association is a football association operating throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and is a Recognised Body of the SFA and as such has its senior football competitions officially registered with the Scottish Football Association.

North Caledonian Football Association
Founded1888 (31 January)
Number of teams11
Level on pyramid6 (from 2021-22)
Promotion toHighland League from 2022
Current championsGolspie Sutherland (10th title)
Most championshipsClachnacuddin reserves (14 titles)
Current: 2021–22 season


The formation of the Inverness Junior Football Association 31 January 1888 saw the introduction of the Inverness Junior Cup. After the final in 1888 the association was renamed the North of Scotland Junior Football Association and the competition the North of Scotland Junior Cup.

The Association's league competition was later introduced in 1896 as the "North of Scotland Junior League" with the initial aim of providing a league format for its junior members and predominantly the "2nd XI" teams from senior Highland Football League clubs. Upon its formation these teams mostly came from the Inverness area. By 1906 though, the Association had welcomed several new member teams from outside the Inverness-shire area, specifically Nairn Thistle and Dingwall Victoria United (later known as Ross County) broadening the coverage of the league across the North. Other clubs from across the Highland counties followed suit, with Muir of Ord and Tore United among those to join.

In 1935 the league dropped its junior status, possibly due to the Scottish Junior Football Association's objections to Senior clubs involvement, and became known as the North of Scotland "2nd XI" League (it was also known colloquially as either the Highland Reserve League or Highland Alliance, the latter a nod to the southern reserve league the Scottish Football Alliance). It was recognised as a senior football league with teams eligible to apply for Scottish FA membership. By the late 1960s/early 1970s, the Highland League reserve teams which had dominated the league gradually dropped out of contention, with most finding that it was not financially viable to run "2nd XI" or reserve teams at a senior level. At the same time, the league began to see an influx of senior football teams joining from the surrounding counties of Easter Ross, Caithness and Sutherland.

By the 1980s, the league had representation from teams all across the North, including as far as Fort William. In a bid to shake off the "2nd XI" tag (and the inference of being "second best" to the Highland League) the member clubs in the league took the decision to rename the league at the 1984 annual general meeting of the North of Scotland 2nd XI Football Association in Bonar Bridge, where teams voted unanimously to change the name of the association to the North Caledonian Football Association and the name of the league competition to the North Caledonian Football League.

In 2020, it was announced that the North Caledonian League is working with the Highland League and North Region Junior FA to form a sixth tier of the Scottish football league system for the far north of the country, with a view to feeding eligible clubs via promotion into the Highland League.[1] It was also announced, along with 4 teams being added to the ranks (2 of which are returning sides) that the league would be temporarily split into two divisions.

In April 2021, it was announced that subject to SFA approval the North Caledonian League, would be joined at Tier 6 by the North Super League and a rebranded Midland League (the remaining Junior East Region clubs that play in Tayside) to form a fully-integrated Tier 6 below the Highland League from 2021-22.[2][needs update]


As well as holding membership of the North Caledonian FA, member clubs are also governed by the constitution of the Scottish Football Association, and as such disciplinary and registration matters are handled by the Scottish Football Association. This is a unique situation in that member clubs are not required to be full members of the Scottish Football Association, despite their players holding senior SFA registrations (professional and amateur).

Golspie Sutherland are the only North Caledonian FA member club to hold full membership of the Scottish Football Association and since season 2007–08 they have obtained direct entry to the Scottish Cup. Previously, they were required to enter the Scottish Qualifying Cup (North).

Since 2013, membership has been extended beyond the Highlands to senior clubs in the Islands, with Orkney, Shetland and Lewis & Harris all entering teams.

Member teams have previously included reserve teams of Highland Football League clubs alongside teams from throughout the Highlands and Islands region.[3]


North Caledonian LeagueEdit

A senior Scottish FA registered competition, the North Caledonian League is an annual league competition which runs from July/August to April, with teams playing each other both home and away with a championship team determined after all games have been played.

Over the years, the North Caledonian League has been characterised by the number of clubs who have used it as a 'stepping-stone' to the professional ranks of Scottish football. Among those to have 'graduated' from the league are Wick Academy and Fort William who left to join the Highland Football League. The league has also been home in recent years to the reserve teams of Scottish Football League clubs Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County.


The North Caledonian Cup (also previously referred to as the North of Scotland Reserve Cup or PCT North Cup) was the first competition to be contested under the auspices of the North Caledonian FA during the latter part 1887–88 season and it remains part of the season calendar today.

Member teams of the North Caledonian FA also compete in the Football Times Cup, which has existed as part of the North Caledonian FA season since the 1920s.

Several other cups have been contested or awarded during the Association's history, each of which are inactive or played for when season time allows:

  • Jock Mackay Memorial Cup
  • Chic Allan/Port Services Cup
  • Morris Newton/SWL Cup
  • Ness Cup (revived as the 'Division 2' trophy for the 2020–21 season)

Member clubsEdit

Thurso's home ground, Sir George's Park

League and cup membersEdit

Team Location Home ground Capacity Ref.
Alness United Alness Dalmore Park [4] [5]
Bonar Bridge Bonar Bridge Migdale Playing Fields [6]
Bunillidh Thistle Helmsdale Couper Park [7]
Golspie Sutherland Golspie King George V Park 1,000 [8]
Halkirk United Halkirk Morrison Park 1,000 [9]
Invergordon Invergordon Recreation Grounds [10]
Inverness Athletic Ardersier Cromal Park [11]
Loch Ness Inverness Bught Park [12]
Nairn County 'A' Nairn Riverside Park [13]
Orkney Holm The Rockworks [14]
St Duthus Tain Grant Park [15]
Thurso Thurso Sir George's Park 1,000[16] [17]

Guest members for entry into cup competitions onlyEdit

Team Location Home ground Capacity
Lewis & Harris Stornoway, Isle of Lewis Macphail Centre, Ullapool

Member clubs for 2021–22 seasonEdit

Location of teams in 2021–22 North Caledonian Football League

Recent historyEdit

The 2008–09 season saw the league reduced to ten teams following the withdrawal of Dornoch City and Inverness City joining the Junior leagues. Late applicants Tain Thistle took the league membership up to ten teams for the start of the season. Fort William entered a reserve side in the league for season 2009–10 as the first Highland Football League "reserve" side to compete since 1999. Helmsdale based Bunillidh Thistle withdrew whilst Alness United took a year out, and former members Dingwall Thistle returned to complete a ten-team league. Season 2010–11 saw Alness return after a one-year absence whilst Tain Thistle withdrew after two seasons.

Clachnacuddin again entered a reserve side for season 2011–12, whilst Fort William Reserves dropped out due to problems with pitch availability.[18] Before the season started, both Bonar Bridge and Invergordon withdrew, leaving just eight teams in the league. The following season 2012–13, Invergordon returned while Balintore and Dingwall Thistle both withdrew from the league.

Invergordon again withdrew from competition for the 2013–14 season, however, the void was filled by a new team from Dornoch in Sutherland United. That same season, a newly formed Shetland team[19] and Lewis & Harris both registered for competition in the North Caledonian Cup. The following season, 2014–15, Shetland and Lewis & Harris also competed in the Jock Mackay Cup, while a new team, Orkney,[20] was accepted as a member of the league – the first Islands team to be admitted. Invergordon returned a year later following a two-year period of abeyance, however, along with Muir of Ord Rovers, Sutherland United withdrew from the competition after just their second season, taking the number of competing teams down to six for season 2015–16.

The league experienced an upturn in interest from Highland sides in 2016. A total of eight teams registered for league competition in 2016–17, with St Duthus returning to represent Tain[21] and a new team Inverness Athletic was also accepted.[22] The league grew in numbers again in 2017 with the revival of Bunillidh Thistle after almost ten years absence, and for the 2019-20 season, Bonar Bridge reformed and were admitted to the league.

In 2020, two new clubs, Loch Ness and Scourie joined the league, along with returnees, Nairn County 'A' and Alness United - taking the membership of the league to 13 teams for the first time in over 20 years. For the 2020-21 season, clubs agreed to play in two leagues of six (Bunillidh opted out) during the Covid-19 pandemic as a means of reducing the amount of games.[23]

Previous championsEdit

Season Champion
1896–97 Inverness Celtic
1897–98 Inverness Citadel reserves
1898–99 Nelson
1899–1900 Nelson
1900–01 Inverness Thistle reserves
1901–02 Inverness Citadel reserves
1902–03 Inverness Citadel reserves
1903–04 Clachnacuddin reserves
1904–05 Clachnacuddin reserves
1905–06 Nelson
1906–07 Nelson
1907–08 Nelson
1908–09 Nelson
1909–10 Clachnacuddin reserves
1910–11 Inverness Citadel reserves
1911–12 Nelson
1912–13 Nelson
1913–14 Albert
1914–19 League cancelled due to WWI
1919–20 Dingwall Victoria United
1920–21 Nelson
1921–22 Inverness Citadel reserves
1922–23 Caledonian reserves
1923–24 Fortrose & Rosemarkie Union
1924–25 Catch-my-Pal
1925–26 Nelson
1926–27 Clachnacuddin reserves
1927–28 Dingwall Victoria United
1928–29 Inverness Thistle reserves
1929–30 Clachnacuddin reserves
1930–31 Inverness Thistle reserves
1931–32 Clachnacuddin reserves
1932–33 Inverness District Asylum
1933–34 Inverness District Asylum
1934–35 Inverness Thistle reserves
1935–36 Nairn County reserves
1936–37 Clachnacuddin reserves
1937–38 League cancelled
1938–39 Highland Light Infantry
1939–46 League cancelled due to WWII
1946–47 Invergordon
1947–48 Inverness Thistle reserves
1948–49 Caledonian reserves
1949–50 Clachnacuddin reserves
1950–51 Clachnacuddin reserves
1951–52 Caledonian reserves
1952–53 Caledonian reserves
1953–54 Elgin City reserves
1954–55 Nairn County reserves/Buckie Thistle reserves (shared)
1955–56 Clachnacuddin reserves
1956–57 Clachnacuddin reserves
1957–58 Clachnacuddin reserves
1958–59 Inverness Thistle reserves
1959–60 Inverness Thistle reserves
1960–61 League incomplete
1962–63 Inverness Thistle reserves
1963–64 Clachnacuddin reserves
1964–65 Avoch Rovers
1965–66 Ross County reserves
1966–67 Brora Rangers reserves
1967–68 Brora Rangers reserves
1968–69 Dingwall Thistle
1969–70 Caledonian reserves
1970–71 Dingwall Thistle
1971–72 Dingwall Thistle
1972–73 Alness United
1973–74 Alness United
1974–75 Golspie Sutherland
1975–76 Golspie Sutherland
1976–77 Invergordon
1977–78 Dingwall Thistle
1978–79 Wick Academy
1979–80 Wick Academy
1980–81 Wick Academy
1981–82 Wick Academy
1982–83 Bunillidh Thistle
1983–84 Muir of Ord Rovers
1984–85 Fort William
1985–86 Muir of Ord Rovers
1986–87 Wick Academy
1987–88 Invergordon
1988–89 Bunillidh Thistle
1989–90 Balintore
1990–91 Balintore
1991–92 Clachnacuddin reserves
1992–93 Golspie Sutherland
1993–94 Halkirk United
1994–95 Inverness Caledonian Thistle reserves
1995–96 Fearn Thistle
1996–97 Ross County reserves
1997–98 Inverness Caledonian Thistle reserves
1998–99 Golspie Sutherland
1999–2000 Thurso
2000–01 Alness United
2001–02 Invergordon
2002–03 Thurso
2003–04 Golspie Sutherland
2004–05 Alness United
2005–06 Balintore
2006–07 Golspie Sutherland
2007–08 Golspie Sutherland
2008–09 Golspie Sutherland
2009–10 Thurso
2010–11 Halkirk United
2011–12 Halkirk United
2012–13 Thurso
2013–14 Halkirk United
2014–15 Golspie Sutherland
2015–16 Halkirk United
2016–17 Invergordon
2017–18 Orkney
2018–19 Golspie Sutherland
2019–20 League incomplete due to COVID-19 Pandemic
2020–21 Golspie Sutherland

Club performanceEdit

As of end of season 2020–21
Club Winners Season(s)
Clachnacuddin reserves
1903–04, 1904–05, 1909–10, 1926–27, 1929–30, 1931–32, 1936–37, 1949–50, 1950–51, 1955–56, 1956–57, 1957–58, 1963–64, 1991–92
Golspie Sutherland
1974–75, 1975–76, 1992–93, 1998–99, 2003–04, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2014–15, 2018–19, 2020–21
Nelson FC
1898–99, 1899–1900, 1905–06, 1906–07, 1907–08, 1908–09, 1911–12, 1912–13, 1920–21, 1925–26
Inverness Thistle reserves
1900–01, 1928–29, 1930–31, 1934–35, 1947–48, 1958–59, 1959–60, 1962–63
Caledonian reserves
1948–49, 1951–52, 1952–53, 1969–70
Halkirk United
1993–94, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2013–14, 2015–16
1946–47, 1976–77, 1987–88, 2001–02, 2016–17
Inverness Citadel reserves
1897–98, 1901–02, 1902–03, 1910–11, 1921–22
Wick Academy
1978–79, 1979–80, 1980–81, 1981–82, 1986–87
Alness United
1972–73, 1973–74, 2000–01, 2004–05
Dingwall Thistle
1968–69, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1977–78
1999–2000, 2002–03, 2009–10, 2012–13
1989–90, 1990–91, 2005–06
Brora Rangers reserves
1966–67, 1967–68
Bunillidh Thistle
1982–83, 1988–89
Dingwall Victoria United
1919–20, 1927–28
Inverness Caledonian Thistle reserves
1994–95, 1997–98
Inverness District Asylum FC
1932–33, 1933–34
Muir of Ord Rovers
1983–84, 1985–86
Nairn County reserves
1935–36, 1954–55*
Ross County reserves
1965–66, 1996–97
Albert FC
Avoch Rovers
Buckie Thistle reserves
Catch-my-Pal FC
Elgin City reserves
Fearn Thistle
Fort William
Fortrose Union
Highland Light Infantry FC
Inverness Celtic

* - Shared title

BOLD indicates the team is still playing within the NCFA

Italics indicates the team is defunct or merged with another team that does not play in the NCFA


  1. ^ Clark, Will (8 April 2020). "Highland League could see promotion and relegation". John O'Groat Journal.
  2. ^ Law, Danny. "Relegation play-offs look set to be introduced to the Highland League from next season". Press and Journal. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. Retrieved 2011-07-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Alness United,, Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  5. ^ "We are delighted to be back in the North Caledonian League for the forthcoming season". Twitter. 2020-04-20. Retrieved 2020-06-24.
  6. ^ Bonar Bridge,, Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  7. ^ Bunillidh Thistle,, Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  8. ^ Golspie Sutherland,, Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  9. ^ Halkirk United,, Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  10. ^ Invergordon,, Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  11. ^ "Inverness Athletic F.C." Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  12. ^ "Football league accepts Nairn County reserve team and Inverness amateur club to play next season". Inverness Courier. 2020-06-22. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  13. ^ "Football league accepts Nairn County reserve team and Inverness amateur club to play next season". Inverness Courier. 2020-06-22. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  14. ^ Orkney,, Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  15. ^ "St Duthus F.C." Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  16. ^ "Non League Scotland". Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  17. ^ Thurso,, Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  18. ^ Clach back in North Caledonian League Highland News, Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  19. ^ "Shetland Squad : Shetland Football". Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  20. ^ "Ball rolling on Orkney FC - The Orcadian Online". The Orcadian Online. 2012-08-02. Retrieved 2016-06-08.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "St Duthus accepted into the North Caledonian FA | St Duthus Football Club - Tain, Highland, Scotland". Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  22. ^ "North Caledonian FA - Latest News". Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  23. ^ Association, North Caledonian Football. "NCFA AGM - new members and league structure | Latest News - North Caledonian Football Association, Scotland". Retrieved 2021-03-19.

External linksEdit