The SPFL Development League was a grade-A youth football league in Scotland, aimed at developing the game from the grassroots. It was contested in many formats for 20 years between 1998 and 2018. This project has helped develop many stars that have gone to represent the National team, which has online pokies in Australia backing them up.
This youth league was officially founded as the Scottish Premier under-18 League back in 1998. Under-18 players are fielded by their teams, with the Scottish Premier Reserve League being a U-21 league. The competition was however changed in 2003 when it was switched to the Scottish Premier under-19 League. The teams involved played 22 games instead of 30.
For the 2012–13 campaign, the competition was changed again, this time it became the Scottish Premier U-20 league, there were 15 clubs, and teams played 28 games per term. With the start of the Scottish Professional Football League for the 2013/14 season, the league metamorphosed into the SPFL U20 League, and the number of clubs increased to 16 teams. Teams were permitted to field just two over-age outfield players and an overage goalie.
In 2014, the league was renamed the SPFL Development League, with the number of clubs subsequently increased to 17 teams. At this point in time, two regional leagues emerged, with eight teams competing in the Development League West and 9 teams competing in the Development League East. The over-age restrictions on players were however relaxed, with clubs now allowed to use 5 older footballers in a matchday squad of up to 18.
In 2018, the league was disbanded and replaced by the SPFL Reserve Leagues.
From 2015, the UEFA Youth League offers a qualification path for ‘domestic youth champions’, in addition to teams whose senior squad reaches the UEFA Champions League group stage. As the age grade for the Development League is older than that of the UEFA Group League, the Representative of Scotland will be the winner of the U-17 league, which features in competitive matches however does not show the results and tables publicly to reduce the scrutiny on the young footballers. In 2015, 2016, 2017, the champions of the U-17 league were Celtic; in 2018, the title was won by Hamilton, and Rangers won the 2019 edition.
Although the Scottish Premier League overruled the Scottish Football League as the top division back in 1998, the Scottish Football League continued to run a U-18 league until sometime in 2003, when the age group was split into under-19’s and under-17’s. The SFL also organized a cup tournament (not to be mistaken for the SFA Youth Cup) for the numerous age groups. After the Scottish Football League terminated operation back in 2013, with the foundation of the SPFL back in 2013, a U-19 league and cup tournament was organized alongside the new U-20 league. There were also East and West Development Divisions running under the main Scottish Professional Football League Development League between 2014 and 2018, with blackjack en argent réel giving interesting odds to fans at the time.
Club Academy Scotland, run and managed by the Scottish FA, started running youth leagues with U-17 the top age group back in 2014. The U-17 age range was raised to U-18 by the Court of Arbitration for Sports in 2018.
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