Rules, Fixtures and Other Matters

The Rules

By June 1890 all the administrative personnel where elected and in place so now all that was left was to ratify the rules of the competition and arrange the fixtures. The League Rules for 1890 were agreed as follows: -

I. The association of the clubs shall be called “The Scottish Football League” and shall consist of eleven clubs. All clubs included in the League shall sign the following agreement at the beginning of each season; each agreement to be signed by the president, secretary and treasurer of each club: -

“We hereby agree to become members of the Scottish Football League and to fulfil the fixtures by it, and to abide by its decisions and resolutions for the space of twelve months from 1st August 18__ under a penalty of £20”

II. The office bearers shall consist of a committee composed of one representative from each club, and shall elect from amongst themselves a chairman, a vice-chairman, treasurer and secretary. Those offices shall be honorary.

III. The annual general meeting shall be held on the first Friday in June in each year. Each club shall be entitled to two representatives at each League meeting.

IV. The annual subscription shall be £5. The committee may also order a match each season, the proceeds to be devoted to the funds of the League, or call upon each club to contribute equally each sum as they my deem advisable.

V. At the end of each competition the club scoring the largest amount of points shall be declared the champion club of the League. The three clubs having the lowest number of points shall retire at the end of each season, but shall be eligible for re-election. All elections shall be conducted by ballot.

VI. Averages for the championship shall be taken from wins and draws (and not from the number of goals scored), to be counted as follows: - two points for a win and one for a draw. In the event of two or more clubs being equal in points, they shall play off for the championship.

VII. The committee shall conduct the business of the League. They shall also convene meetings at any time they may deem necessary, and shall have the power to deal with any offending club or clubs, player or players, as they think fit.

VIII. All matches shall be played under the rules of the Scottish Football Association any bona-fide member of a club shall be allowed to play, provided he has not taken part in a League match for another club in the same season. A bona-fide member of a club is one who has been registered with the secretary of the League as such 14 days before playing, and has not played for any other club during that period. Any club breaking this rule and playing ineligible men, shall have two points deducted from their score, and if the match in which such violation has taken place has resulted in a win for the offending club, or a draw, the points thus obtained shall not be added to their score.

IX. All matches shall be arranged at a meeting, specially convened for the purpose, after the Annual Conference of Football Association Secretaries, and this meeting shall fix a date on which the competition shall be concluded.

X. The secretary shall keep a list of referees whose names have been approved by the committee, and no referee shall act except he has been so approved. If the competing clubs cannot agree upon a referee, the secretary shall appoint one. The scale of fees shall be that of the Scottish Football Association.

XI. Each club shall play its full strength in all matches, unless some satisfactory explanation be offered to the committee.

XII. Any infringement of the League rules shall be dealt with in such manner as the committee may think fit. Aggrieved clubs shall have power to call a meeting of the League on payment of a deposit of £1, which shall be forfeited in the event of the complaint being considered frivolous. At the annual meeting a majority of the representatives of the clubs present shall have the power to exclude from the following season’s competition any of the first eight whose conduct has in their opinion objectionable. The three last clubs shall retire after the adoption of the reports and balance sheet, and thus take no part in the selection of the eleven for the next season.

XIII. All communications must be addressed to the secretary, who shall conduct the correspondence of the League. On the secretary receiving a requisition signed by half the members of the League, he shall convene a League meeting.

XIV. No alteration shall be made to these rules except at the annual meeting, or at a special meeting called for that purpose, and 21 days’ notice must be given to the honorary secretary on any proposed alterations to the rules; the same to be printed and forwarded to the clubs at least 14 days before the meeting for the revision of the rules.

XV. The net gate receipts shall be divided between the two competing clubs in the proportion of two-thirds to the ground club, and one-third to the visiting club, a guarantee being given to the latter of £5.

Clause I dealt with commitment to the League. Once signed a club faced a financial penalty if they later withdrew. This commitment was for one season only and would be renewed for each subsequent season. Clauses II, and III dealt mainly with administrative matters regarding the form in which the League committee would take and when special meetings would be called. Clause IV covered the funding of the League by way of subscription.

How the competition was to be decided was covered in Clauses V and VI. Clause V was of particular importance since it set out that the bottom three clubs at the end of the campaign would have to be re-elected to compete the following season. Clause VII covered disciplinary matters. Such matters would be dealt with by as and when by committee and would, more or less, have unlimited powers in how to deal with member clubs and/or players.

Clause VIII covered the registration of clubs, officials and players. Clubs and players had to be registered with the SFA to be a member of the league and furthermore, as with the Scottish Cup, any player who had played for one member club could not play for another. However an early version of a transfer policy was introduced. Any player who had played for a member club could be eligible for another member club provided there was a “cooling-off” period of 14 days.

Clause IX dealt with the fixture list and Clause X the appointment of referees. Clause XI stipulated that member clubs must at all times field their strongest team although how such assessment could be gauged remained open to debate.

Clause XII dealt with disputes between clubs. Aggrieved clubs had the power to call a meeting of all member clubs upon payment of a £1 deposit. Representatives of the member clubs would then meet to decide on the outcome. Furthermore at the annual meeting the member clubs had the power to expel any other club, not subject to re-election, for conduct not deemed suitable. Also at the AGM only member clubs not subject to re-election could decide on which clubs would be elected/re-elected.

Clauses XIII and XIV covered further administrative elements including rule changes and notices for calling special meetings. The final Clause, Clause XV dealt with division of gate receipts.

In addition to the above rules there was also agreement between member clubs not to play ordinary matches against non-league clubs where such matches clashed with a league fixture unless sanctioned by all member clubs. This agreement was also extended between the Scottish League and the English League. A Scottish member club would not play an ordinary match against any English club (league member or not) in England if it clashed with English League fixtures. Similarly English member clubs would not play any Scottish club in Scotland if Scottish League fixtures were being played on that date.

As can be seen from the rules there was no attempt to hide the fact that the league would be an exclusive organisation right from the very beginning. The sole purpose was to have a competition that protected the members’ interests as regards guaranteed fixtures and therefore a guaranteed income. The agreement that a quarter of the member clubs would be subject to re-election was brutal and although a club facing re-election could make a case for remaining a member, they had no say in the debate nor could they vote to “save” themselves. If a club failed to be re-elected a club from “outside” could replace them if they applied for election. Again, however, the applicant club would have no say or vote. The overused modern phrase, “sporting integrity”, expressed by club spokesmen and other individuals only when it suits them, is an empty and meaningless phrase. The rules clearly demonstrate right from the outset that sporting integrity was the furthest from the member clubs minds.

The Fixtures

By the end of June 1890 the SFA had issued the fixture list for the season. These covered the dates for the Scottish Cup ties and the individual football association cup-ties. It also covered international fixtures and inter association fixtures. The Scottish League therefore placed their fixtures in the dates not used as promised to the SFA. The full fixture list for season 1890/91 was as follows: -

Saturday 16th August, 1890                          Saturday 23rd August 1890

Cambuslang v Vale of Leven                          Cambuslang v Rangers
Celtic v Renton                                               Cowlairs v Vale of Leven
Dumbarton v Cowlairs                                    Heart of Midlothian v Celtic
Rangers v Heart of Midlothian                       Renton v St.Mirren
                                                                        Third Lanark v Dumbarton

Saturday 30th August, 1890                          Saturday 6th September, 1890

Celtic v Cambuslang                                       Scottish Cup, First Round
Dumbarton v Heart of Midlothian
Rangers v Renton
St.Mirren v Cowlairs
Vale of Leven v Abercorn

Saturday 13th September, 1890                   Saturday 20th September, 1890

Abercorn v Renton                                         Renton v Vale of Leven
Cambuslang v St.Mirren                                St.Mirren v Abercorn
Dumbarton v Rangers
Heart of Midlothian v Cowlairs                     Linlithgow FA v East of Scotland FA
Third Lanark v Celtic                                     East of Scotland Shield, First Round
                                                                       Glasgow Cup, First Round

Saturday 27th September, 1890                   Saturday 4th October, 1890

Scottish Cup, Second Round                          Abercorn v Third Lanark
                                                                        Celtic v Cowlairs
                                                                        Heart of Midlothian v Renton
                                                                        Rangers v St.Mirren
                                                                        Vale of Leven v Dumbarton

Saturday 11th October, 1890                       Saturday 18th October, 1890

Dumbarton v Abercorn                                  Scottish Cup, Third Round
St.Mirren v Vale of Leven                             Clevland v East of Scotland FA
                                                                       Linlithgowshire Cup, Quarter-Finals
East of Scotland Shield, Second Round
Glasgow Cup, Second Round

Saturday 25th October, 1890                      Saturday 1st November, 1890

Abercorn v Celtic                                         Ayrshire Cup, First Round
Cowlairs v Dumbarton                                 Dunbartonshire Cup, First Round
Heart of Midlothian v Vale of Leven           East of Scotland Shield, Third Round
Renton v Cambuslang                                  Glasgow Cup, Quarter-Finals
                                                                      Lanarkshire Cup, First Round
Dunbartonshie FA v Ayrshire FA                 Renfrewshire Cup, First Round
                                                                     Stirlingshire Cup, First Round

Saturday 8th November, 1890                    Saturday 15th November, 1890

Scottish Cup, Fourth Round                         Cambuslang v Third Lanark
                                                                      Celtic v Heart of Midlothian
                                                                      Rangers v Cowlairs
                                                                      St.Mirren v Renton

                                                                      Dunbartonshire FA v Renfrewshire FA
                                                                      East of Scotland FA v Glasgow FA

Saturday 22nd November, 1890                 Saturday 29th November, 1890

Ayrshire Cup, Second Round                       Scottish Cup, Fifth Round
Dunbartonshire Cup, Quarter-Finals
East of Scotland Shield, Quarter-Finals
Glasgow Cup, Semi-Finals
Lanarkshire Cup, Second Round
Renfrewshire Cup, Quarter-Finals
Stirlingshire Cup, Second Round

Saturday 6th December, 1890                     Saturday 13th December 1890

Abercorn v Cambuslang                               Cambuslang v Heart of Midlothian
Dumbarton v St.Mirren                                 Renton v Abercorn
Heart of Midlothian
Third Lanark v Renton                                  Ayrshire Cup, Quarter-Finals
Vale of Leven v Celtic                                   Dunbartonshire Cup, Semi-Finals
                                                                       East of Scotland Shield, Semi-Finals
Glasgow NE Cup, Quarter-Finals                 Glasgow Cup, Final
                                                                       Lanarkshire Cup, Quarter-Finals
                                                                       Renfrewshire Cup, Semi-Finals
                                                                       Stirlingshire Cup, Quarter-Finals

Saturday 20th December, 1890                    Saturday 27th December, 1890

Cowlairs v Cambuslang                                 Abercorn v Dumbarton
Dumbarton v Celtic                                       Celtic v St.Mirren
Renton v Rangers                                          Cowlairs v Heart of Midlothian
Third Lanark v Vale of Leven                       Rangers v Third Lanark
                                                                      Vale of Leven v Renton
Scottish Cup, Quarter-Finals

Saturday 3rd January, 1891                         Saturday 10th January, 1891

No scheduled fixtures                                     Cowlairs v Rangers
                                                                        Renton v Celtic
                                                                        Third Lanark v Cambuslang

                                                                        Sheffield FA v Glasgow FA
                                                                        Ayrshire Cup, Semi-Finals
                                                                        Lanarkshire Cup, Semi-Finals
                                                                        Renfrewshire Cup, Semi-Finals
                                                                        Stirlingshire Cup, Semi-Finals

Saturday 17th January, 1891                       Saturday 24th January, 1891

Cambuslang v Cowlairs                                 Abercorn v St.Mirren
Celtic v Third Lanark                                     Cowlairs v Renton
Dumbarton v Renton                                      Dumbarton v Cambuslang
Rangers v Abercorn                                        Third Lanark v Heart of Midlothian
St.Mirren v Heart of Midlothian                    Vale of Leven v Rangers

Scottish Cup, Semi-Finals

Saturday 31st January, 1891                        Saturday 7th February, 1891

Cambuslang v Renton                                    Abercorn v Rangers
Cowlairs v Abercorn                                      Heart of Midlothian v Cambuslang
Dumbarton v Vale of Leven                           Renton v Third Lanark
Rangers v Celtic                                            Vale of Leven v Cowlairs
Third Lanark v St.Mirren
                                                                       Scottish Cup, Final
Dunbartonshire FA v East of Scotland FA     Linlithgowshire Cup, Semi-Finals
Glasgow North Eastern FA v Ayrshire FA

Saturday 14th February, 1891                     Saturday 21st February, 1891

Celtic v Cowlairs                                            Celtic v Dumbarton
Heart of Midlothian v Dumbarton                  Rangers v Cambuslang
Third Lanark v Rangers                                  Third Lanark v Cowlairs
Vale of Leven v St.Mirren                              Vale of Leven v Heart of Midlothian

Dunbartonshire Cup, Final                             Glasgow FA v London FA
Renfrewshire Cup, Final                                 Renfrewshire FA v East of Scotland FA
                                                                        Ayrshire Cup, Final
                                                                        Glasgow NE Cup, Semi-Finals
                                                                        Stirlingshire Cup, Final

Saturday 28th February, 1891                     Saturday 7th March, 1891

Cambuslang v Abercorn                                 Abercorn v Vale of Leven
Celtic v Vale of Leven                                    Cambuslang v Celtic
Dumbarton v Third Lanark                             Cowlairs v St.Mirren
Renton v Cowlairs                                          Heart of Midlothian v Third Lanark
St.Mirren v Rangers                                        Renton v Dumbarton

SFA International Trial Match                        SFA International Trial Match

Saturday 14th March, 1891                          Saturday 21st March, 1891

Celtic v Rangers                                             Celtic v Abercorn
Renton v Heart of Midlothian                        Heart of Midlothian v St.Mirren
St.Mirren v Cambuslang                                Rangers v Dumbarton
Third Lanark v Abercorn                               Vale of Leven v Third Lanark

Renfrewshire FA v Ayrshire FA                    Wales v Scotland
East of Scotland Shield, Final                        Linlithgowshire Cup, Final
Lanarkshire Cup, Final

Saturday 28th March, 1891                         Saturday 4th April, 1891

Abercon v Cowlairs                                       Abercorn v Heart of Midlothian
St.Mirren v Dumbarton                                 Cambuslang v Dumbarton
Vale of Leven v Cambuslang                         Cowlairs v Third Lanark
                                                                        Rangers v Vale of Leven
Scotland v Ireland                                          St.Mirren v Celtic

                                                                        England v Scotland
                                                                        Glasgow North Eastern Cup, Final
                                                                        Roseberry Charity Cup, Semi-Finals

Saturday 11th April, 1891                            Saturday 18th April, 1891

Heart of Midlothian v Abercorn                    No Scheduled Fixtures
St.Mirren v Third Lanark

Glasgow Charity Cup, Semi-Finals

Saturday 25th April, 1891                            Saturday 2nd May, 1891

Glasgow Charity Cup, Final                          No Scheduled Fixtures

Saturday 9th May, 1891                               Saturday 16th May, 1891

No Scheduled Fixtures                                   League Charity Cup, Semi-Finals

Saturday 23rd May, 1891                             Saturday 30th May, 1891

No Scheduled Fixtures                                   No Scheduled Fixtures

Saturday 6th June, 1891                              Wednesday 10th June, 1891

No Scheduled Fixtures                                    League Charity Cup, Final

Saturday 13th June, 1891                             Saturday 20th June, 1891

No Scheduled Fixtures                                   No Scheduled Fixtures

Saturday 27th June, 1891

Roseberry Charity Cup, Final

Other Matters – Some Terminology

Reporting of football matches during Victorian times was often brief and tended to stick mainly to what the reporter viewed as important. More often than not goal times were not recorded and almost just as frequently the actual goal scorers were omitted. Before league football the only competitive matches were cup ties all other matches, many of which were pre-arranged to fill out the season, were classed and described as ORDINARY MATCHES.

In these early decades of football it was rare for cup-ties to be postponed prior to kick-off due to weather conditions and/or the condition of the pitch. The paying public and the players seemed to be of hardy stock prepared to turn out to play or watch no matter how severe the weather. What mostly happened was that if the conditions were in such a bad state that a fair contest would be unlikely, the two club captains and the referee would agree before kick-off that the cup-tie would be declared a FRIENDLY MATCH rather than a competitive one. This meant that the “real” cup-tie would be played on another day but at the same time those who braved the conditions to watch a football match would not miss out. It also meant, of course, that gate money need not be refunded. The downside to this arrangement, however, was that the fans were quite often unaware of the changed status of the match until after the fact.

A common reference used in newspaper reports was the description of a goal scored from a SCRIMAGE. In the days before broadcast cameras and TV replays all that could be relied on was the human eye of the reporter in the instance of the event. Sometimes this could result in the wrong player being awarded the goal, but there were other times when it was just impossible to distinguish who actually scored. The classic case would be the situation were there were so many players around the ball either trying to score or prevent a goal that it was just impossible to make out who actually got the final touch. Such instances were described as a goal resulting from a SCRIMAGE.

Every match played had to be overseen by three officials. The most important of these was the referee who was the sole arbiter of the match and whose decision on any dispute was final. The referee for competitive matches was always neutral, i.e. had no connection whatsoever with either competing club. His two assistants who ran the boundary line on either side of the pitch were not neutral but were representatives of the competing teams, one from each club. These officials were described as UMPIRES 

In these early days the ATTENDANCE figures tended to be pure guess work by the reporter reporting the match hence the common publishing of rounded figures e.g. 5,000. It is quite likely that clubs did not have the facilities to count how many spectators actually attended in any case. Attendance figures should therefore be taken as estimates and regarded a rough guide as to how many spectators turned out for a particular match. In some instances where it was hard to gauge the attendance the reporter would just comment “in front of a large/small crowd". Clubs were not obliged to issue the official attendance for league matches until the mid 1960s.