Scottish League Cup (Betfred Cup) Stadiums & Stats

Just as the English Football Association has a cup and the English Football League has one of their own, so the Scottish FA have one and the Scottish League have another. We’ve already covered the Scottish Football Association Cup, so here we’ll tell you about it’s slightly less-respected equivalent, the Scottish League Cup.

We’ll tell you about the format that the cup takes, the way teams qualify to take part in it and about its history. We’ll also let you know about the grounds that have been used to host the competition’s final in the past.

Scottish League Cup (Betfred Cup) Stadiums

Stadium Year Opened Capacity Ave Attendance Record Attendance Record Attendance Match
Hampden Park
Scotland / Queen's Park
1903 51,866 50,597 149,547 Scotland v England (1937)

Tournament Format

Qualification

Where the Scottish Cup is open to pretty much any team that has ever played football North of the border, the Scottish League Cup is a little bit more discerning in its tastes. For some reason this discerning nature as far as qualification is concerned makes it less prestigious in the eyes of football fans, rather than more. You’d think that a competition that is only for the best of the best would be seen as harder to win than one that lets the lads from the Dog & Duck play in, but there you go.

In short, qualification for the Scottish League Cup is simple: Be one of the teams that is in the Scottish Professional Football League, or SPFL. Only, because competition organisers like to make things as complicated as possible, that isn’t technically true anymore. It was the case up until the start of the 2016-2017 season that it was a straight knockout competition between the 42 teams of the SPFL, but now it has taken on a new, needlessly complex format in order to try to make it more interesting and appealing to broadcasters.

For that reason the Scottish League Cup is open to the 42 members of the Scottish Professional Football League as well as the winners of the Scottish Highland Football League and the winners of the Scottish Lowland Football League. Those leagues are members of the Scottish Football Association but are not part of the Scottish Football League. Instead the winners of each league play a match against each other, with the winner going head-to-head with the lowest placed team from League Two in order to decide who will get to play in League Two the following season. It’s complicated, but actually quite interesting and exciting.

The Group Stage

RoundNew Teams EnteringTeams from Previous RoundTeams TotalNo Fixtures
Group Stage40-4080
Round Two412168
Quarter Finals-884
Semi-Finals-442
Final-221

No longer can this page bank upon the simplicity of a straight knockout tournament. Instead we’ve got to tell you about group stages, seeds, byes and the knockout rounds that come later on. That’s ok, though, as it’s the eccentricities that make the Scottish League Cup exciting to watch.

Here we go, then. The competition begins with eight groups of five teams, with the four clubs who have qualified for the Champions League and Europa League, through either their league finish or cup success from the previous campaign, given byes to the next phase of the tournament. For the 2018-2019 season, for example, that means groups made up of nine Premiership sides, nine Championship teams, all ten sides from League One and all ten teams from League Two and the winners of the Highland League and the Lowland League.

What makes the group stage more exciting than in most other football tournaments is the new bonus point system than the SPFL have introduced. Basically what happens is that during the group stage teams that win a game are awarded three points, those that lose get nothing and teams that draw get one point each. So far so standard. The new system, however, sees drawn group matches also have a penalty shoot-out, with the winners of that getting an additional point. So if your team draws you may still get two points whilst the other side gets one - something that could be crucial in close groups.

The make-up of the groups is also slightly complex, with regionalisation and seeding deciding who will go in a group with whom. Firstly the forty teams that qualify for the group stage will be split into two sections, with four groups of five teams from the North of Scotland in one half and four groups of five teams from the South of Scotland in the other. Furthermore, each section will contain four teams that are ‘top seeds’, four teams that are ‘second seeds’ and twelve unseeded sides. Each group will then contain, rather specifically, one top seed, one second seed and three sides that are unseeded.

Leaving The Group Stage & Entering The Knockout Rounds

At the end of the group stage the winners of each group along with the four best runners-up will make it through to the first knockout round, or the ‘last sixteen’ as it’s also known. ‘But hold on’, we hear you say. ‘Eight group winners and four runners-up only makes twelve, how can it be the last sixteen of the competition?’ Thanks for asking. Remember those four teams that didn’t have to play in the group stage because of their European commitments? This is when they re-enter the fray.

This is also when the competition reverts to being a nice and easy one to understand. No more group stage, no more seeding, no more random points awarded to the winners of penalty shoot-outs. Just a plain and simple knockout competition with matches that are decided on the day, without the need for a replay. Teams are drawn at random from the ‘hat’, with the first name drawn being the home team for the game and the second, obviously, the away side. If the ninety minutes ends in a draw then it will got to extra-time and, if it’s still undecided after two additional periods of fifteen minutes play, penalties.

The winners of the eight games of the first knockout round progress to the quarter-finals, where they are once again drawn against each other at random and go head-to-head at the home ground of the first team drawn from the ‘hat’. The winners of those four games progress to the semi-final stage.

The Semi-Finals And Final

,p>The semi-finals of the Scottish League Cup are still one-legged affairs, with extra-time and penalties coming in to play if needed. The only difference from previous rounds is that the matches are not played at the home ground of either time, instead taking place at a neutral venue. The venue of choice is decided upon by the size of the followings of the teams that are drawn as well as their geographical location.

The two winners of the semi-finals, as you’d expect, progress through to the competition’s final where they go head-to-head for the right to lift the trophy up. The final of the Scottish League Cup is also held at a neutral venue, with Hampden Park traditionally the stadium of choice. We’ll talk more about that later, though.

Previous Winners

The table below shows all teams that have won the Scottish League Cup on two or more occasions.

TeamScottish League CupsNo Runners UpLast Won
Rangers2772011
Celtic17152017
Aberdeen682014
Hearts431962
Hibernain372007
Dundee331973
East Fife3-1953
Dundee United251980

Scottish League Cup Stats

Tournament Stats
First Year1946/47
Number Of Teams Competing 42
Record TitlesRangers (27)
Prize Money Winner£250,000 (2018)
Runners-Up £115,000 (2018)
Club Stats
Runners-upCeltic (15)
Total Final AppearancesRangers (34)
Teams To Appear In Final22
Number Of Winners15
Final Appearances Without WinningDunfermline Athletic (3)
Scottish League & Cup Double WinnersRangers (18), Celtic (17), Aberdeen (1)
Scottish League, Cup & League Cup Treble WinnersRangers (7), Celtic (5)
Biggest WinCeltic 7 - Rangers 1 (1957-1958)
Player Stats
Highest Scorer Joe Harper (74)

About the Scottish League Cup

In The Beginning

The Scottish League Cup was first played in the 1946-1947 season, having taken its format from the Southern League Cup. That tournament had itself only been introduced seven years earlier as a temporary replacement for the Scottish Cup. The latter had been suspended because of restrictions put in place due to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The competition was regionalised and not all Scottish Football League teams took part. The first Scottish League Cup final saw Aberdeen lose to Rangers, setting the scene for a competition that the Glasgow club would dominate for its entirety. The League Cup was initially hugely popular with Scottish football fans who enjoyed the unusual format it offered. In fact, the rejigging of the format before the 2016-2017 season is actually a return to the way the competition was played in its formative years.

Originally the tournament would see eight or nine groups formed, with the groups made up of four or five teams. The groups were seeded into two different sets, with the first four groups comprising of the top sixteen teams from the Scottish first division. This ensured that four of the ‘top seeds’ would end up playing against four ‘lesser’ sides in the quarter-finals stage.

Falling Out Of Love With The League Cup

As the years went by and the Scottish Premier League was formed, the League Cup started to lose some of its prestige with supporters. It was also harmed by the expansion of European competitions and the redevelopment of the format of the cup itself. A group stage followed by two-legged knockout rounds later in the season made it a bloated, overly complicated affair that saw it receive much criticism from teams who were struggling to balance the demands of the cup with their league and European adventures.

In the mid-1980s it was revamped once more, with the needlessly long-winded format dropped in favour of a more traditional knockout competition. The final was also moved to a pre-Christmas slot, allowing the games to be played earlier and the excitement of a final early in the season intended to re-ignite people’s passion for the tournament. Sadly the damage had already been done and it has been seen as the less-important cup competition compared to the Scottish Cup ever since.

European Qualification

Prior to the mid-1990s the winner of the Scottish League Cup not only won the trophy but also gained the right to play in the UEFA Cup. Admittedly this didn’t always occur, mainly because the winning team had, more often than not, already qualified for European competition through their league form or by winning the more prestigious Scottish Cup.

The reduction in European places offered to Scottish clubs has seen the process of the Scottish League Cup winners being offered a European place discontinued. Since 1995 the only cup competition in Scotland that sees the winners enjoy a European place is the Scottish Cup. Raith Rovers were the last team to represent Scotland in the UEFA Cup thanks to winning the League Cup, doing so in the 1995-1996 season after winning the cup the year before.

Scottish League Cup Stadiums

The locations for the group stage matches of the League Cup are decided easily. The round-robin style format means that each team plays against the other teams in their group twice, once at home and once away. The location of the knockout matches is equally simple to understand, with the first name drawn out of the ‘hat’ acting as the home team for the match and their opposition becomes the away team.

For the semi-finals a neutral venue is chosen, though the teams are still drawn out of the hat as ‘home’ and ‘away’ sides. This is because some clubs have similar kits to each other, so the ‘home’ side is entitled to wear their first choice kit and the away side is forced to wear a different one when this happens. That is often a cause of superstition for some players and fans, as they believe that being the ‘home’ side offers a psychological advantage. The venue, as mentioned before, is chosen based on how popular it is felt the game is going to be. If Rangers & Celtic were drawn to play each other in a semi-final, for example, then a larger ground would be chosen to host the game.

The final of the Scottish League Cup is almost always held at Hampden Park in Glasgow, much like with the final of the Scottish Cup. Only eight times in the competition’s history has the final been played anywhere else, with Dens Park in Dundee used for the 19791-1980 replay and the 1980-1981 final, Celtic Park and Ibrox used from 1993-1995 and again from 1996-1999 and Celtic Park used once more in the 2013-2014 season.