The Scottish Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly known as the Scottish Cup, is an annual association football knock-out cup competition for men's football clubs in Scotland. The competition was first held in 1873–74. Entry is open to all clubs with full or associate membership of the Scottish Football Association (SFA). The competition is called the William Hill Scottish Cup for sponsorship reasons.
Although it is only the second oldest competition in association football history, after the FA Cup, the trophy that is presented to the competition winner is the oldest in association football and is also the oldest national trophy in the world. It was first presented to Queen's Park, who won the final match of the inaugural tournament in March 1874. The current holder is Hibernian, who won the tournament for the third time by defeating Rangers 3–2 in the 2016 final.
The tournament starts at the beginning of the Scottish football season in August or September. The Scottish Cup Final is usually the last game of the season, taking place at the end of May. Participating teams enter the tournament at different stages depending on their league ranking. The lowest ranked clubs enter the tournament at the first round whilst the highest ranked, those that compete in the Scottish Premiership, enter at the fourth round stage.
The competition is a knock-out tournament. In each round of games the teams are paired at random, with the first team drawn listed as the home team. Every game lasts 90 minutes plus any additional stoppage time. The winner of each game advances to the next round, whilst the loser is eliminated from the tournament. If a game ends in a draw, the fixture is replayed at the home ground of the other team at a later date. If the replay also ends in a draw, 30 minutes of extra time is played followed by a penalty shoot-out if there is still no clear winner. In the semi-final and final rounds, if the game ends in a draw there is no replay; the winner is decided either in extra time or by a penalty shoot-out.
The competition has a staggered entry system. In the 2013–14 season, 36 clubs entered from the first round; sixteen from the Highland League, three qualifying Junior clubs and seventeen other clubs affiliated with the Scottish Football Association. Scottish League Two clubs entered in the second round along with the top two clubs from the previous season's Highland League and the winners of both the South of Scotland League and the East of Scotland League. Scottish League One and six Scottish Championship clubs started in the third round, while the remaining four Championship clubs and all 12 Scottish Premiership clubs entered in the fourth round.
Any club that is a full or associate member of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) is entitled to compete in the tournament and qualifies automatically. Every team that plays in the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) is therefore eligible. Between 1895 and 2007, clubs that were SFA members but not competitors in the country's professional football leagues could only qualify for the tournament by winning the Scottish Qualifying Cup.
Clubs that are not members of the SFA may still qualify for the tournament by winning the Highland League, Lowland League, East or South of Scotland football leagues. Clubs that are members of the Scottish Junior Football Association (SJFA) have been able to qualify since 2007 by winning one of the three regional Super League divisions or by winning the Scottish Junior Cup. Three junior clubs, Banks O' Dee, Girvan and Linlithgow Rose are also SFA members and therefore qualify automatically. From 2015, the winners of the Scottish Amateur Cup are also eligible to qualify.
Players that are registered with a competing club are eligible to play. However, players are not entitled to play for more than one club during the same tournament. Each club names eleven players and up to five substitutes before every match. In order to play in the final match, a player must have also been registered to compete in the semi-final round for the same club. If a club fields a player that is not registered to play, the club may be expelled from the tournament.
Before the semi-final and final rounds, the venue of each match is determined when the fixtures are drawn; the first club drawn in a fixture is named the home team and chooses the venue for the match, usually its own home ground. In the event of a game ending in a draw, the venue for the replay is the home ground of the second club drawn. The semi-final ties are played at a neutral venue; usually Hampden Park in Glasgow. On occasions when Hampden has been unavailable, such as when it was being renovated in the late 1990s and when it was being transformed into an athletics stadium for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the semi-finals have been hosted at Celtic Park and Ibrox Stadium, also in Glasgow.
Hampden Park also usually hosts the final match of the tournament. The venue has hosted the majority of finals including the first in 1874. Other venues that have hosted the final in the tournament's early years are Hamilton Crescent, Kinning Park and Cathkin Park; all in Glasgow. The last game of the 1896 tournament is the only final that has been hosted outside Glasgow when rivals Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian played at New Logie Green in Edinburgh. Hampden Park has held world and European records for the highest attendance, some of which were recorded at Scottish Cup games. The 1937 final played between Aberdeen and Celtic attracted a crowd of 147,365 spectators which was a world record for a national cup final and remains a European record.
As Scotland is a member of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the winner of the Scottish Cup qualifies to compete in European-wide competitions organised by UEFA. Between 1960 and 1998, the Scottish Cup winners qualified for the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup along with winners of other domestic cup competitions across Europe before it was abolished. The Scottish Cup winners now qualify to compete in the following season's UEFA Europa League (formerly known as the UEFA Cup). It is possible for the Scottish Cup winners to have already qualified for a UEFA competition through their league ranking in the Scottish Premiership. In this scenario the qualification spot passes to the highest ranked team in that competition not yet qualified, rather than to the Scottish Cup runners-up. Until 2014, the Scottish Cup runners-up qualified for European competition if the cup winners had also qualified for the Champions League.
The Scottish Football Association was founded in 1873 and the Scottish Cup was created as an annual competition for its members. The first Scottish Cup match took place on 18 October 1873 when Renton defeated Kilmarnock 2–0 in the first round. In its early years the competition was dominated by Queen's Park who won the final 10 times in the first twenty years. Vale of Leven, Dumbarton and Renton were also successful during this period. In 1885, the record margin of victory in the tournament was recorded when Arbroath defeated Bon Accord 36–0 in a first round match.
The Scottish Cup trophy is the oldest national trophy and also the oldest association football trophy in the world. It was made by silversmith George Edward & Sons in Glasgow and has been presented to the winners of the tournament since 1874. The solid silver trophy is 50 cm in height and weighs 2.25 kg. The original trophy is displayed at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. It is removed once each year to be cleaned and presented to the tournament winners. After the presentation ceremony, the trophy is returned to the museum. A replica of the original trophy is given to the tournament winners after the ceremony and is also used for promotional purposes.
A total of 34 clubs have appeared in the final, of whom 25 have won the competition. The most successful club in terms of wins and appearances in the final is Celtic with 36 wins from 55. Celtic and Rangers have finished runners-up on more occasions than any other club with 18 defeats each in the final. The most recent winner is Hibernian, who defeated Rangers 3–2 in the 2016 final.
Clubs that win the Scottish Cup can complete a domestic "double" by becoming Scottish league champions in the same season. Only three clubs have won both competitions in the same season. Rangers have completed the double on 18 occasions followed by Celtic on 15. Aberdeen achieved the feat once in 1984. Since the creation of the Scottish League Cup in 1947, clubs can complete a domestic treble by also winning this tournament in the same season. Rangers have achieved this on seven occasions followed by Celtic's three.
Some clubs have become renowned for eliminating higher ranked clubs from the tournament despite being underdogs. Division Two club East Fife won the tournament in 1938 by defeating Division One club Kilmarnock, the first team from outside the top-tier of league football to win the trophy. East Fife had previously reached the final in 1927 after eliminating three higher ranked clubs in the preceding rounds. Hibernian became the second second-tier side to win the cup as they defeated Rangers, another second-tier side, in the 2016 final. Only one other club from outside the top-tier of league football has won the competition; non-league Queen's Park defeated Celtic in the 1893 final. Several other clubs have reached the final whilst competing outside the top-tier of league football, but were defeated in the final. These include Dumbarton, Kilmarnock, Airdrieonians, Falkirk (twice), Gretna, Queen of the South and Ross County.
In the rounds before the final some notable shocks have occurred. In 1959, Dundee were eliminated by Highland League club Fraserburgh despite having Scotland international footballers in their squad. A season later, Eyemouth United reached the quarter final stage of the tournament after defeating two higher league clubs. In 1967, Berwick Rangers eliminated defending champions Rangers in the first round. Other results regarded as shocks include Stenhousemuir's win against Aberdeen in 1995 and Albion Rovers' defeat of Motherwell in 2013. Celtic's shock defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 2000 led to the famous newspaper headline "Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious".
The Scottish Cup has been sponsored several times since the first organisation backed the tournament in 1983. The sponsor has been able to determine the name of the competition. There have been four sponsors since 1983 as well as several name changes within the duration of each sponsorship. The competition relies on revenue earned from these agreements although it ran without a title sponsor for over 100 years until the late 1980s.1983–1988: Scottish Health Education Group (known simply as the Scottish Cup)
1989–2007: Tennent's Lager (known as the Tennent's Scottish Cup)
2008–2010: Backed by the Scottish Government (known as the Homecoming Scottish Cup in 2008–09 and the Active Nation Scottish Cup in 2009–10)
2012–present: William Hill (known as the William Hill Scottish Cup)
The Scottish Health Education Group was the first organisation to sponsor the Scottish Cup in 1983 with the largest sponsorship package in Scottish football at the time, worth around £200,000. The partnership was praised for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle linked with football. The deal ended in 1989 when Tennent Caledonian Breweries won the sponsorship rights. Tennent's association with the tournament raised the debate about alcohol sponsorship within sports following the riots at the 1980 Scottish Cup Final which resulted in the sale of alcohol being banned at Scottish sporting events. Despite this controversy, the partnership was largely successful and lasted 18 years until 2007. The SFA received around £25 million over the duration of the sponsorship deal. The Scottish Government in association with businessman Willie Haughey sponsored the Scottish Cup between 2008 and 2010. The 2008–09 competition was known as the Homecoming Scottish Cup to promote Scotland's year of homecoming and tourism. The 2009–10 competition was known the Active Nation Scottish Cup to promote a healthy living through football. Carling was an additional sponsor between 2010 and 2014 as the competition's official beer. The current title sponsor is bookmaker William Hill.
Scottish Cup matches are currently broadcast live by both BBC Sport Scotland in Scotland and Sky Sports across the rest of the United Kingdom and also into Ireland.
BBC Radio Scotland provide radio coverage including several full live commentaries with additional commentaries broadcast on Radio Scotland's local frequencies. Radio broadcasting rights are also held by BBC Radio nan Gàidheal and BBC Radio 5 Live also carry some games.
The Scottish FA sells overseas rights separately from their domestic contract. In Australia, the Scottish Cup is broadcast exclusively by Setanta Sports Australia. Premium Sports hold the rights for the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. In the United States, the tournament is broadcast by GOL TV.
The Scottish Cup Final is one of several events reserved for live broadcast in Scotland terrestrial television under the Ofcom Code on Sports and Other Listed and Designated Events.