Scottish League Cup
|Number of teams||44|
|Current champions||Celtic (17th title)|
|Most successful team(s)||
|Television broadcasters||BT Sport|
|2018–19 Scottish League Cup|
The Scottish League Cup, currently known as the Betfred Cup for sponsorship reasons, is a football competition open to all Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) clubs. The competition had a straight knockout format but became a group and knockout competition from 2016–17.
Historically, the Scottish League Cup has oscillated between being a straightforward single-elimination knockout tournament and having an initial group phase. Since the 2016–17 season, the League Cup has used a group phase format. The current format has eight groups of five teams playing each other once in a round-robin format. The forty teams playing in the group stage consist of the 38 league clubs who are not participating in UEFA competitions, along with two teams from outside the league.[note 1] In the group phase, three points are given for a win and one point for a draw. If matches are level after ninety minutes, a penalty shoot-out is held with the winning team gaining a bonus point. The groups are regionalised: there are four groups in the North section, and four in the South section, with three pots for each regional section – top seeds, second seeds, and unseeded clubs. Each group will consist of one top seed, one second seed, and three unseeded clubs.
The eight group winners and four best runners-up progress into the second round, where they are joined by the four clubs participating in UEFA competitions. The tournament then adopts a single-elimination knockout format. There are no replays, which means all drawn matches are decided by extra time and a penalty shootout, if necessary. The semi-final matches are played on a neutral ground, determined by the location and size of supports involved. The final game is traditionally played at Hampden Park in Glasgow, though due to renovations some finals have been played at other venues, such as Celtic Park or Ibrox. The new format also allowed the SPFL to reintroduce the two-weekend winter break in January. Along with the newly designed tournament, a new television deal for it was announced as BT Sport took over rights from BBC Scotland. In February 2016 the SPFL announced the League Cup final would be moved to November.
The cup has its origins in a regional cup competition called the Southern League Cup which was introduced in 1940 when wartime restrictions led to a suspension of the Scottish Cup. This tournament was largely regional and did not involve all of the teams who comprised the Scottish Football League prior to the outbreak of war. The first official Scottish Football League Cup was contested during the 1946–47 season, when Rangers defeated Aberdeen in the final.
The competition was very popular with supporters during the first few decades of its existence. The tournament consisted of 8 or 9 groups consisting of 4 or 5 teams. The groups were seeded into 2 sets with the top 16 teams in Division 1 making up the first four Groups. This guaranteed that 4 'top' teams would play 4 'lesser' teams in the quarter-finals.
Extra games when the Premier League was formed and expanded European competitions meant that by the early 1980s, its long-winded format, which involved group rounds played early on in the season leading to two-legged knock-out rounds similar to the modern UEFA Champions League, attracted much criticism. In the mid-1980s the tournament was revamped to a shorter, single elimination knock-out style with a final played prior to Christmas, which provided the excitement of a cup final early in the season.
During the 1999–2000 competition, the semi-finals and final were moved to the springtime to avoid the congestion of fixtures caused by the early rounds of the UEFA club competitions and Scotland's representatives in Europe were given automatic byes until the third round of competition.
The League Cup has been known by different names due to sponsorship:
|1946–78||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|1979–81||Bell's whisky||Bell's League Cup|
|1981–84||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|1984–92||Skol Lager||Skol Cup|
|1992–94||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|1998–99||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|1999–2008||CIS Insurance||CIS Insurance Cup|
|2008–11||The Co-operative Insurance||Co-operative Insurance Cup|
|2011–13||Scottish Government||Scottish Communities League Cup|
|2013–15||No sponsor||Scottish League Cup|
|2015||QTS Group||The Scottish League Cup presented by QTS (semi-finals and final only)|
|2015–16||Utilita Energy||The Scottish League Cup presented by Utilita|
Since the competition's inception, the winning team has always been awarded the famous three-handled trophy known simply as the Scottish Football League Cup. However, during the 1980s when Skol lager sponsored the competition, a second trophy known simply as the "Skol Cup" was awarded concurrent to the first trophy. During the 1987–88 competition when Rangers won their third Skol Cup, they were given permanent possession of this trophy and a new "Skol Cup" with a slightly different design was introduced the following season.
Until 1995, the winners of the Scottish League Cup were granted a place in the UEFA Cup, although this privilege was rarely invoked as the winning teams usually qualified for Europe by some other means such as winning the League Championship or Scottish Cup. The most recent example was Raith Rovers who represented Scotland in the 1995–96 UEFA Cup after winning the League Cup the previous season as a First Division club. This privilege has since been discontinued due to the reduction in the number of European places granted to Scottish clubs.
Scottish League Cup matches are currently shown live by BT Sport in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In Australia, the Scottish League Cup is broadcast by beIN Sports. The 2009 Scottish League Cup Final was shown live on SBS due to a fixture clash on previous hosts' Setanta channel.
From the 2016–17 edition, the Scottish League Cup rights were awarded to BT Sport following the new format announcement. BT Sport will screen six group stage matches throughout July and seven matches from the knockout stages including both semi-finals and the final itself.
- "Scottish League Cup: New seeded group stage draw on Friday". BBC Sport. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- "New League Cup format and TV deal". SPFL. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
- "Scottish League Cup final returns to November date". BBC Sport.
- Ross, James M. (10 April 2015). "Scottish League Cup Finals". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
- "SFL League Cup Final Results 1946–47 – 2006–07" (PDF). scottishfootballleague.com. Scottish Football League. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 May 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
- "Scottish League Cup sponsor boost". BBC Sport. 7 January 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
- "Co-operative Insurance end Scottish League Cup deal". BBC Sport. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
- "Scottish Government crime seizures to fund League Cup". BBC Sport. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
- "Scottish Government crime seizures to fund League Cup". STV Sport. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
- "Scottish League Cup finds sponsor for final stages". BBC Sport. 19 December 2014. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
- "Utilita Energy to back League Cup". spfl.co.uk. Scottish Professional Football League. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
- "Scottish League Cup: Energy firm Utilita agree sponsorship deal". BBC Sport. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
- "Betfred backs Scottish League Cup". spfl.co.uk. Scottish Professional Football League. 10 May 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- "£1m Scottish League Cup sponsorship deal agreed with Betfred". BBC Sport. 10 May 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2016.