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Sport plays a central role in Scottish culture. The temperate, oceanic climate has played a key part in the evolution of sport in Scotland, with all-weather sports like football, rugby union and golf dominating the national sporting consciousness. However, many other sports are played in the country, with popularity varying between sports and between regions.

Scotlandmarker has its own sporting competitions and governing bodies, such as the Scottish Football League, the Scottish Rugby Union, Cricket Scotland, and the Scottish Cyclists' Union. The country has independent representation at many international sporting events, for example the Football World Cup and the Cricket World Cup, as well as the Commonwealth Games; although notably not the Olympic Games.

Scots, and Scottish emigrants, have made several key contributions to the history of sport, with important innovations and developments in:golf, curling, football, rugby union (the invention of rugby sevens, first international, and first league system), Highland games (which have contributed to the evolution of modern athletics events), shinty (the predecessor of both ice hockey and bandy), cycling (Kirkpatrick Macmillan invented the pedal bicycle), and basketball.

Association Football

Football is the national sport, both in terms of participation and numbers of spectators.

There is a long tradition of football games stretching back a number of centuries. However, it should be noted that many of these were quite different to football, and involved carrying the ball. One of these so called games was outlawed in 1424. The history of football in Scotland includes various traditional ball games, for example the Ba game; some of these early games probably involved the kicking of a ball. Uncertainty about the specific nature of these games is because prior to 1863, the term "football" implied almost any ball game that was played on ones feet and not played on horseback. Some of these local games were probably played as far back as the Middle Ages , although the earliest contemporary accounts (as opposed to decrees simply banning "football") come in the eighteenth century. Many of these accounts refer to the violence of traditional Scottish football and as a result many games were abolished or modified. Several burghs retain an annual Ba game, with the Kirkwall Ba Game in Orkneymarker being probably the most famous form of traditional football in Scotland. Elsewhere in Scotland, the greatest evidence for a tradition of football games comes from southern Scotland, in particular the Scottish Borders.

The world's first official international football match was held in 1872 and was the idea of C. W. Alcock of the Football Association which was seeking to promote Association Football in Scotland. The match took place at the West of Scotland Cricket Club's Hamilton Crescentmarker ground in the Partickmarker area of Glasgowmarker. The match was between Scotland and England and resulted in a 0–0 draw. Following this, the newly developed football became the most popular sport in Scotland. The Scottish Cup is the world's oldest national trophy, first contested in 1873 (although the FA Cup is an older competition, its original trophy is no longer in existence). Queen's Park F.C., in Glasgow, is probably the oldest association football club in the world outside Englandmarker.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA), the second-oldest national football association in the world, is the main governing body for Scottish football, and a founding member of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) which governs the Laws of the Game. As a result of this key role in the development of the sport Scotland is one of only four countries to have a permanent representative on the IFAB; the other four representatives being appointed for set periods by FIFAmarker. The SFA also has responsibility for the Scotland national football team.

The national stadium is Hampden Parkmarker in Glasgow. Supporters of the national team are nicknamed the Tartan Army. As of September 2009, Scotland are ranked as the 30th best national football team in the FIFA World Rankings. They have improved steadily after Walter Smith took over as manager, beating 2006 World Cup finalists Francemarker in a European Championship qualifier. The national team last attended the World Cup in France in 1998, but finished last in their group stage after defeats to runners-up Brazil and Morocco. They won a single point after a one-all draw with Norway.

Elite club football in Scotland is split between the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League.

Scotland's football clubs have had a relatively high degree of success internationally . In terms of European competitions, Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen have all won European competitions. Rangers were the first British team to reach a european final, the 1961 Cup Winners Cup. However, Celtic are the only team to have won the European Cup (now the Champions League), Europe's premier competition. Celtic won this cup in 1967 becoming the first British team (and the first from northern Europe) to do so. Their victory is an important one in football history with the competition being won with a team comprising no players born more than thirty miles (48 km) from the home of the club, Celtic Park.

The most successful teams over the years have been the Old Firm: Rangers and Celtic. Glasgow is therefore home to three major football stadia. With Celtic Parkmarker (60,832 seats), Ibrox Parkmarker (50,411 seats) and Hampden Park (52,670 seats).


Scotland is the "Home of Golf", and is well-known for its many links courses, including the Old Coursemarker at St Andrewsmarker, Carnoustiemarker, Muirfieldmarker and Royal Troonmarker. The first record of golf being played was at Leith Linksmarker in 1457.

Rugby union

Rugby union in Scotland is administered by the Scottish Rugby Union. Murrayfield Stadiummarker, in Edinburghmarker, is the home of the Scotland national rugby union team. Scotland are ranked 10th, in the IRB world rankings. They annually take part in the Six Nations and participate in the Rugby World Cup, which takes place every four years. Scottish players are also eligible for selection for the British and Irish Lions, a composite team that tours the Southern hemisphere every 4 years.

The roots of Scottish rugby go back a long way. Many ball games played in Scotland, and referred to as "football" were frequently as similar to rugby as they were to soccer.

The Scottish Football Union (SFU) was founded in 1873 and was a founding member of the International Rugby Board in 1886 with Ireland and Wales. (England refused to join until 1890). In 1924 the SFU changed its name to become the Scottish Rugby Union.

The world's oldest continual rugby fixture was first played in 1858 between Merchiston Castle Schoolmarker and the former pupils of The Edinburgh Academy. The Edinburgh Academy was also involved in the first ever international rugby union game when a side representing England met the Scottish national side on the cricket field of the Academy at Raeburn Placemarker, Edinburgh on March 27, 1871, which Scotland won. The national side today competes in the annual Six Nations Championship and has appeared at every Rugby World Cup. Scotland have two professional sides that compete in the Magners League and the Heineken Cup - Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors. Until 2007 there was a third side, Border Reivers, but the side were disbanded due to funding problems in the SRU. The BT League Championship exists for amateur and semi-pro clubs. Even the top professional sides struggle to attract crowds comparable to that of English or Welsh clubs but the national side regularly fill Murrayfield for Six Nations fixtures.

Rugby union is most popular in the Borders region, where it is played widely, and this is probably the only area of Scotland where rugby is the most popular sport, although it has a strong presence in Edinburghmarker, Glasgowmarker and Perthshiremarker.

Rugby sevens

Rugby sevens is a variant of rugby union, which was initially conceived by Ned Haig, a butcher from Melrosemarker, Scotlandmarker as a fundraising event for his local club, Melrose RFC, in 1883. The first ever sevens match was played at the Greenyards, where it was well received. The first ever officially sanctioned international tournament occurred at Murrayfieldmarker as part of the "Scottish Rugby Union's celebration of rugby" centenary celebrations in 1973. Due to the success of the format, the ongoing Hong Kong Sevens was launched three years later, and numerous other international competitions followed. In 1993, the Rugby World Cup Sevens, in which the Melrose Cup is contested, was launched, which is named after its town of origin. In the meantime, the Melrose Sevens continue to be popular [264311] and there is a healthy Borders Sevens Circuit. Starting in 2007, the annual IRB Sevens World Series, featuring international sides from around the world, has ended with the Edinburgh Sevens at Murrayfield.


A game of shinty in progress

Shinty or camanachd is the traditional game of the Scottish Highlands, although historically it had a wider range. It is still played widely across the area today, with clubs also based in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Fife and Perth, and in most universities. Its governing body is the Camanachd Association (in Scottish Gaelic, Comunn na Camanachd) who are based in Fort Williammarker.

The sport's premier prize is the Scottish Cup, more popularly known as the Camanachd Cup. Shinty also has the honour of having provided, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the world's most successful sporting team, Kingussie Camanachd. Shinty was formerly played through the Winter but has recently become a primarily Summer game. It has common roots with the Irish sport of Hurling.

American Football

American Football has been played in Scotland since the 1980s.

It is played on an amateur basis throughout Scotland in the same way as the rest of the United Kingdommarker. There are 14 under 18 teams ranging from Inverness in the North, Inverclyde in the West through to Edinburgh in the East. Glasgow Caledonian, Glasgow, Napier, Paisley and Stirling all field teams in the British Universities American Football League.

7 teams currently play in the British American Football League with Glasgow Tigers, Highland Wildcats, Clyde Valley Nighthawks and Edinburgh Wolves in division 2, Dundee Hurricanes and West Coast Trojans (Renfrew) in division 1 and East Kilbride Pirates playing in the Premier Division.

A professional team (the Scottish Claymores) played in NFL Europe between 1995 and 2004 based in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Lawrence Tynes, Joe Andruzzi and Dante Hall all played for the team and went on to have success in the NFL.


scottishathletics is the governing body for athletics in Scotland. It replaced the Scottish Athletics Federation in April 2001.

Australian Rules Football

Aussie Rules has never had a high profile in Scotland, but Scots played an important role in setting up some of the clubs in Australia. Scots living in Melbournemarker and Victoriamarker in the mid-19th century were greatly involved in the formation of the rules of the game, as well as the formation of a number of early clubs, including the still-existing Essendon Bombers in the Australian Football League.

There are currently four teams in SARFL, most established in the early 2000s. There was an abortive attempt during the 1990s to set up the Caledonia Sharks. Until recently, Scottish Aussie Rules tended to be subsumed to the British leagues, but this is less the case now.


BADMINTONscotland is the national governing body for the sport of badminton in Scotland.


Baseball has existed in Edinburghmarker since the 1930s when it was played at US air bases at Kirknewton and East Fortunemarker. The British Baseball Federation has a Scotland Division [264312] comprising the Edinburgh Diamond Devils, the Glasgow Baseball Association, and the Strathclyde Falcons. As of 2007, the Glasgow Baseball Association formed a senior team for those players who wanted to play baseball at the club beyond the age of 16, they won their first game against the Manchester A's. There have been only 8 Scottish baseball players to play in the Major leagues, the last being Tom Waddell in 1987. Baseball is a minority sport in Scotland and is only played at an amateur level. However, baseball is expanding in the country, and in June 2007, a youth baseball team in Fife was founded.


basketballscotland is the governing body of basketball in Scotland.


Ryan Watson batting against India

Cricket has a much lower profile in Scotlandmarker than it has south of the border in Englandmarker. Scotland is not one of the ten leading cricketing nations which play Test matches, but the Scottish national team is now allowed to play full One Day Internationals even outside the Cricket World Cup, in which Scotland competed in 2007. Scotland has a well established recreational cricket structure. Scotland has co-hosted the Cricket World Cup in 1999.


Cycling is a popular amateur sport, with 99 clubs throughout the country, from the Shetlandmarker Wheelers to the Stewartry Wheelers. At the elite level, Scots have been more successful at track cycling rather than road racing, although Scotland has a long history of time-trialing on the road. The lack of road races within the country, with not a single UCI-ranked event, is largely to do with the refusal of Scottish local authorities to close public roads to allow road races to take place safely. Scotland has one velodrome, at Meadowbank Stadiummarker, in Edinburghmarker. Another is under construction in Glasgow for 2014 Commonwealth Games. The governing body is the Scottish Cyclists' Union.

In recent years mountain biking has become very popular, with Scottish geography being ideal for training and racing. The Fort Williammarker World Cup event has become the highlight of the series.

Scotland has produced several world-class cyclists. Probably the most renowned champion out of Scotland is the great Robert Millar, a King of the Mountains, and fourth-place overall, at the 1984 Tour de France; and very nearly a winner of the 1985 Vuelta a España (where the strange manner of his defeat to Pedro Delgado is still a matter of some controversy). He came second in the 1987 Giro d'Italia and second twice in the Vuelta: 1985 and 1986. Indeed Millar is widely considered to be the best cyclist to have ever come out of the UK (although many would also argue the merits of the Englishman Tom Simpson).

In the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, Chris Hoy became the most successful British Olympian in over 100 years when he cycled to 3 golds in the velodrome in sprint events (Sprint, team sprint and keirin). His achievements earned him the honor of carrying the nations flag in the closing ceremony and a knighthood in 2008.

Graeme Obree, and David Millar (no relation) have also reached the very peak of their respective events.


Scotland is the home of curling (2002 Olympic champions, women) which, although not as popular today as in Canadamarker, remains more popular in Scotland than anywhere else in Europe. Scotland are the current (2006) men's World curling champions, and have won World championship gold on 3 previous occasions.

Gaelic Football & Hurling

Scotland GAA is the GAA board that is responsible for Gaelic Games in Scotland. Scotland is treated as a "County" by the GAA.

The Ireland hurling plays an annual international against a Scottish shinty side under composite rules.

Highland games

The Highland Games are a distinctive feature of the national sporting culture. There are numerous annual games hosted in the Highlands including Braemarmarker and Dunoonmarker.


Scots have been very prominent on the podium at the Judo events at the Commonwealth Games.


Lacrosse is a minor sport mainly played by women, and based firmly in private schools. Field lacrosse is the main sport, but box lacrosse is also played. It is always at amateur level. However, lacrosse in Scotland goes back to 1890 at St Leonards School, Fifemarker, where women's lacrosse had been introduced by Louisa Lumsden. Lumsden brought the game to Scotland after watching a men's lacrosse game between the Canghuwaya Indians and the Montreal Lacrosse Club.

Scotland fields three national teams - men's, women's and an indoor side

Rugby League

Rugby League is administered by Scotland Rugby League. The main international team has been playing since 1909 although their first proper international wasn't until 1996 when they beat Ireland in Dublin 6-26. In the 2000 Rugby League World Cup, Scotland finished last in their group, although only narrowly lost to Ireland, Samoa and New Zealand. The latter two matches were played in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively.

A major boost to rugby league in Scotland came when the Challenge Cup Final was brought to Murrayfieldmarker, Edinburghmarker. On both occasions over 60,000 watched the final. This was coupled with a fantastic 42-20 win over France in July 2001, possibly one of Scotland's best wins in their short history.

The domestic game in Scotland drastically changed in 2003 when a new league was formed incorporating six teams into the Rugby League Conference umbrella. There are now several teams, Easterhouse Panthers, Jordanhill Phoenix and Paisley Hurricanes from Glasgowmarker, Edinburgh Eagles from Edinburghmarker, Moray Eels from Lossiemouthmarker, Fife Lions from Dunfermlinemarker and Carluke Tigers from Carlukemarker. Fife Lions and Edinburgh Eagles have been the most successful teams, both having won the league recently. There are plans to expand the league and possibly have another team in Glasgow, as well as one from the Borders.

In 2007 Scotland qualified for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup after beating Wales 21-14 at Bridgend, before losing 18-16 in Glasgow. The points advantage allowed them through and they will play in Group B against France and Fiji in Australia in November 2008.

Scotland also have another team, labelled 'The Bravehearts'. This is a team made up of players entirely from the eight Scottish Conference teams.


Scotland has produced many great snooker players over the years. Many of which have gone on to win the World Championship. Walter Donaldson was the first Scotsman to be crowned World Champion, winning in 1947 and again in 1950.

In the modern snooker era the most successful Scottish snooker player is Stephen Hendry. He has won the World Snooker Championship a record 7 times, winning it 5 years in a row from 1992 onwards and holds the record as being the youngest ever winner, beating Englishman Jimmy White 18 frames to 12 in 1990 aged just 21 years.

Since the emergence of Stephen Hendry in 1990 a Scottish player has featured in almost every World Snooker Championship Final 1991, 2000, 2003 and 2005 being the only years since 1990 when a Scottish player hasn't made it to the final and Scots have won 10 of the 17 championships contested in this time. Scottish winners besides Hendry include John Higgins and Graeme Dott. Stephen Maguire is also an emerging talent in sport with a number of event wins on the tour.


Scotland currently has two Motorcycle Speedway teams racing in the UK Premier League, Glasgow Tigers and Edinburgh Monarchs.


The governing body is the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association.


Tennis has a very long history in Scotland, with real tennis being played at Falkland Palacemarker, Fifemarker. Scotland competes as Great Britain in tennis, however its contribution to the pool of British players has been traditionally been very poor in the modern era with almost all notable players being English. However, this has taken an about turn in recent years with emergence of Andy Murray and his brother Jamie. Andy Murray is by some distance the best player currently representing Britain and is the UK number 1 and comfortably inside the world top 10. Brother Jamie is a doubles specialist and won the mixed doubles along with Serbian Jelena Janković at Wimbledon in 2007, the first time any British player has won a major title at Wimbledon in 20 years. There are no official ATP tournaments in Scotland however, with all major events in Britain being contested in England.

The Aberdeen Cup, established in 2005, is an annual competition between the Scotland and England tennis teams.

Olympic Games

Scottish athletes have competed at every Olympic Games, since the inaugural modern Games, as part of the Great Britain and Irelandmarker team (prior to Irish independence) and then the Great Britain and Northern Irelandmarker team. A Scot, Launceston Elliot, won Great Britain and Ireland's very first Olympic gold medal, in 1896 in Athensmarker. Some of the most notable Scots athletes are Eric Liddell, (whose story is featured in the film Chariots of Fire), Alan Wells, the Olympic 100m winner in 1980, and Chris Hoy, winner of four cycling gold medals in 2004 and 2008.

Scotland have only ever won one Olympic medal as Scotland, when the men's field hockey team won a bronze medal at the 1908 Summer Games. This was also the only occasion when either Englandmarker (gold) or Walesmarker (bronze) have won a medal in their own right; and was Irelandmarker's only medal (silver) prior to independence. The curling gold medal in Chamonixmarker in 1924 was won by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club team, the Scottish national team, and the women's curling gold in Salt Lake Citymarker in 2002 was won by the top Scottish team at the time, skipped by Rhona Martin.

For a list of Scottish Olympic medal winners, see Scottish Olympic medallists.

Commonwealth Games


Scotland has been successful in all forms of motor racing especially since its growth in popularity since World War II. Several Scottish drivers have had illustrious careers at the top level and success has come in many different championships including Formula One, The World Rally Championship, Le Mans 24 hoursmarker, CART, and the British Touring Car Championship.

Formula One

Scotland has had several Formula One drivers over the years since the championship commenced in 1950. A full list of these drivers can be found at :Category:Scottish Formula One drivers. Of these drivers the best known are Jim Clark, who won 2 World Championships before his untimely death, Jackie Stewart who managed to gain 3 World Championships and David Coulthard who raced from 1994-2008 with McLaren F1, Williams F1 and Red Bull F1. Coulthard has been Scotland's most successful driver in recent memory finishing runner up in the World Drivers Championships in 2001 and is the front running British Driver in the all-time list in seventh position. No round of F1 has however been held in Scotland making the country one of the most successful countries without hosting a race.


The McRae family are Scotland's best known rally drivers, in particular Colin McRae who won the WRC in 1995. He also managed to affirm his popularity by adding his name to a series of successful rally games. Louise Aitken-Walker made significant inroads into the male-dominated sport. Scotland also hosts a number of minor rally events and has hosted the British round of the WRC however this now takes place almost exclusively in Walesmarker.

Le Mans

Allan McNish has competed in both F1 in 2002 for Toyota and in German Touring cars Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM), but is best known for his 1998 24 Hours of Le Mansmarker victory with the Porsche team. Peter Dumbreck has also competed in the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans, and is better known for his infamous accident in the 1999 event where his Mercedes-Benz CLR car suffered aerodynamic problems and took off, somersaulting through the air.


In British Touring Car Championship Scotland has had a had a double champion in John Cleland. A number of drivers have raced successfully in recent years including Anthony Reid and David Leslie. One round of the championship is annually held in Scotland.

American Race Series

Some Scottish drivers have had success in the Americanmarker series of mainly oval racing. Currently Dario Franchitti from Bathgatemarker, competes in the Indycar Series, having won the 2007 series and the 2007 Indianapolis 500. Allan McNish currently competes in the American Le Mans ALMS series where he made history by driving the first diesel powered race-car in the series to victory.

Superleague Formula

The Rangers F.C. car on the grid.
Rangers F.C. currently enter a car into the Superleague Formula series. The team is operated by Alan Docking Racing. Rangers F.C have 1 win and 3 podiums.

Scottish circuits

Which there are a number of smaller circuits for private use in Scotland and a number of rally stages, the only circuit to host top level circuit motor racing in Scotland is Knockhillmarker in Fifemarker.

Sports media

Scotland has a distinct set of media products, especially when it comes to sports coverage. The main Scottish daily newspapers, the Daily Record, The Herald and The Scotsman, have extensive coverage of Scottish and international sport; and coverage of Scottish sport is one of the key tools used by Scottish editions of English newspapers, most successfully employed by The Scottish Sun. However, there is a tendency for the majority of coverage to be of football.

There is also a variety of magazine titles. Titles include The Celtic View, Rangers News, Bunkered, Scottish Club Golfer and Rally Action.

The main sports television shows on the largest two channels are Scotsport on STV and ITV1 Border Scotland (which is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's longest running sports television programme) and Sportscene on BBC Scotland. BBC Radio Scotland's main sports show is Sportsound, and it has other sports output, for example the comedy show Off the Ball. All the main independent radio stations report on local sport, and often cover football matches live (although not the SPL, to which the BBC hold exclusive radio rights).

BBC Alba's Spòrs shows one full SPL match.

See also


  1. [Magoun, F.P. (1931) Scottish Popular Football, 1424-1815, The American Historical Review]
  2. Minutes of the Football Association of October 3 1872, London
  4. This is correct as of April 2008, [1]

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