Scottish football play-off records

As the season draws to a close, teams up and down the country are getting ready with anticipation, or perhaps dread, that their teams will be involved in the SPFL promotion/relegation play-offs.

Since the 2005-06 season, teams in what are now the Championship, League One and League Two have been involved in play-offs to decide which teams should move leagues – and in recent years new play-offs have been introduced to include the Premiership and the regional leagues below our senior tiers.

Rather incredibly, 36 different teams have taken part in at least one of the league play-offs, with the only teams avoiding them (so far) being: Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts, Inverness CT, Ross County, St Johnstone and St Mirren.

Here I’ve tried to break down the results of the separate play-offs since their current inception to show how league position affects which teams end up as winners, and how different teams have fared over the years.


Winner Finalist Semis Quarters
2015-16 Kilmarnock Falkirk Hibernian Raith Rovers
2014-15 Motherwell Rangers Hibernian Queen of the South
2013-14 Hamilton Hibernian Falkirk Queen of the South

While we’ve only had three Premiership play-offs so far, we can see that the more staggered format of them has had an effect on how league positions affect who progresses.

The Premiership team has triumphed in 2 of 3 finals, with Motherwell and Kilmarnock seeing off challenges from Rangers and Falkirk respectively.  The team finishing second in the Championship has a mixed record, but only once fallen to a team finishing lower in the league.  The 4th placed team has never gone further than the first stage.

Winner Finalist Semis Quarters
11th – Prem 2 (67%) 1 (33%)
2nd – C’ship 1 (33%) 1 (33%) 1 (33%)
3rd – C’ship 0 1 (33%) 2 (67%) 0
4th – C’ship 0 0 0 3 (100%)

Hibs have participated in every play-off so far (although they will avoid that this season), with Falkirk and Queen of the South appearing twice.

Winner Finalist Semis Quarters
Hamilton Accies 1
Kilmarnock 1
Motherwell 1
Hibernian 1 2
Falkirk 1 1
Rangers 1
Queen of the South 2
Raith Rovers 1

Championship / First Division

Winner Finalist Semis Semis
2015-16 Ayr United Stranraer Livingston Peterhead
2014-15 Alloa Athletic Forfar Athletic Brechin City Stranraer
2013-14 Cowdenbeath Dunfermline Ayr United Stranraer
2012-13 Alloa Athletic Dunfermline Brechin City Forfar Athletic
2011-12 Dumbarton Airdrieonians Arbroath Ayr United
2010-11 Ayr United Brechin City Cowdenbeath Forfar Athletic
2009-10 Cowdenbeath Brechin City Airdrieonians Alloa Athletic
2008-09 Ayr United Airdrieonians Brechin City Peterhead
2007-08 Clyde Airdrieonians Raith Rovers Alloa Athletic
2006-07 Stirling Albion Airdrieonians Brechin City Raith Rovers
2005-06 Partick Thistle Peterhead Morton Stranraer

In these play-offs, the team finishing second in League One or the Second Division, as it was, have been easily the most successful – gaining promotion in 5 of 11 seasons (45% of the time).

Just once has a team finishing 4th in the lower league been promoted, which happened in the play-offs’ inaugural year of 2005-06 when Partick Thistle triumphed over Stranraer before beating Peterhead on penalties to climb back up.

Winner Finalist Semis
9th – C’ship 3 (27%) 3 (27%) 5 (45%)
2nd – Lg 1 5 (45%) 2 (18%) 4 (36%)
3rd – Lg 1 2 (18%) 2 (18%) 7 (64%)
4th – Lg 1 1 (9%) 4 (36%) 6 (55%)

The most successful side in the Championship play-offs have been Ayr United, winning three of their five campaigns.  Airdrie have also featured in five play-offs, but have never been able to get the Championship spot despite reaching the final four times.

The team with the worst record in the play-offs, though, are Brechin City – appearing in 6 of 11 seasons without a single victorious run.

Clyde, Stirling Albion, Dumbarton and Partick Thistle all triumphed in their only appearance in the play-offs.

Winner Finalist Semis
Ayr United 3 2
Alloa Athletic 2 2
Cowdenbeath 2 1
Clyde 1
Dumbarton 1
Partick Thistle 1
Stirling Albion 1
Airdrieonians 4 1
Brechin City 2 4
Dunfermline 2
Stranraer 1 3
Forfar Athletic 1 2
Peterhead 1 2
Raith Rovers 2
Arbroath 1
Livingston 1
Morton 1

League One / Second Division

Winner Finalist Semis Semis
2015-16 Queen’s Park Clyde Elgin City Cowdenbeath
2014-15 Stenhousemuir Queen’s Park Arbroath East Fife
2013-14 Stirling Albion East Fife Annan Athletic Clyde
2012-13 East Fife Peterhead Berwick Rangers Queen’s Park
2011-12 Albion Rovers Stranraer Elgin City Queen’s Park
2010-11 Albion Rovers Annan Athletic Alloa Athletic Queen’s Park
2009-10 Forfar Athletic Arbroath East Stirling Queen’s Park
2008-09 Stenhousemuir Cowdenbeath East Stirling Queen’s Park
2007-08 Arbroath Stranraer Cowdenbeath Montrose
2006-07 Queen’s Park East Fife Arbroath Stranraer
2005-06 Alloa Athletic Berwick Rangers Arbroath Stenhousemuir

These play-offs have proved to be far more unpredictable, with a more even spread of winners across the different positions.  The team facing relegation has been successful in 4 out of 11 seasons (36% of the time), but interestingly the team finishing 4th in the lower league has been promoted once more than for those finishing 2nd or 3rd.

Winner Finalist Semis
9th – Lg 1 4 (36%) 2 (18%) 5 (45%)
2nd – Lg 2 2 (18%) 5 (45%) 4 (16%)
3rd – Lg 2 2 (18%) 2 (18%) 7 (64%)
4th – Lg 2 3 (27%) 2 (18%) 6 (55%)

Queen’s Park are the team that are most associated with the League One play-offs, with 8 appearances in 11 seasons.  However, they’ve also been underachievers – having only gained League One status through them twice – with a five year streak of elimination in the semi-finals between 2009 and 2013.

Albion Rovers have won both their League One play-offs, with Forfar Athletic and Stirling Albion both being promoted in their solitary campaigns as well.

Winner Finalist Semis
Queen’s Park 2 1 5
Stenhousemuir 2 1
Albion Rovers 2
East Fife 1 2 1
Arbroath 1 1 3
Alloa Athletic 1 1
Forfar Athletic 1
Stirling Albion 1
Stranraer 2 1
Cowdenbeath 1 2
Annan Athletic 1 1
Berwick Rangers 1 1
Clyde 1 1
Peterhead 1
East Stirling 2
Elgin City 2
Montrose 1

League Two / Pyramid

Winner Finalist Semis
2015-16 Edinburgh City East Stirling Cove Rangers
2014-15 Montrose Brora Rangers Edinburgh City

There have only been two play-offs so far to decide the fate of the lowest-ranked team in senior football, with one win for the League Two side and one win for the regional league representative.

There’s also a symmetry in the teams representing the regional leagues, with Brora Rangers of the Highland League being involved in the first play-off final and Edinburgh City of the Lowland League being the successful team in last year’s play-off.

Winner Finalist Semis
10th – Lg 2 1 1
Highland 0 1 1
Lowland 1 0 1

So far, although it’s only been two years, only Edinburgh City have participated more than once in the play-offs.

Winner Finalist Semis
Edinburgh City 1 1
Montrose 1
Brora Rangers 1
East Stirling 1
Cove Rangers 1


I’ll do my best to keep this post up to date each season with the latest results, as I do with my Scottish League Champions Without the Old Firm post.

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