Scottish Football’s Most Successful Clubs Ever (May, 2021)

ARL Football Success Ranking System

Whilst any club which remotely thinks it deserves the label ‘big’ should be playing in the top league of its association, buying the best players and, ideally, holding down a global brand presence, it is its trophy cabinet which really sorts the economy class clubs from the private jet ones.

The ARL Football Success Ranking System for men’s European club football establishes for certain which clubs are the most successful of each nation and in the whole of Europe.

It is a system of scoring points to clubs based on what trophies and how many have been won.

Different trophies score different points and are based on a ‘glory’ criteria.

Only ‘competitive football’ trophies are considered.

Competition KeyPoints
UEFA SC: UEFA Super Cup2
LC: League Cup (Scottish League Cup)2
FIFA CWC: Intercontinental Cup / FIFA Club World Cup3
AC: Association Cup (Scottish FA Cup)3
UEFA ECL: UEFA Europa Conference League4
UEFA EL: UEFA Cup / Europa League6
UEFA CWC: UEFA Cup Winners Cup6.5
UEFA CL: UEFA European Cup / Champions League8
T: Top Tier League Title (Division 1 / Scottish Premiership)7

Scotland, its Premiership and ‘Old Firm’

As one of football’s ‘Home Nations’ Scotland’s football spans three centuries. The Scottish Cup is the 2nd oldest in the world and its clubs have been fighting it out for National Championships since 1890.

A number of countries have stand-out giants of the game which dominate their leagues. Scotland is famous for two of these giants and their ferocious, all consuming rivalry is known as the ‘Old Firm’. It has been ever-present and completely overshadows the Premiership. Both clubs subsequently have ginormous Success Point hauls leaving scraps for the rest. Just these two clubs make it into the ‘Big 100+’ yet have over 1000 Success points between them! – As good a testament to Glasgow’s age old dominance over Scottish league football as any.

The Premiership prospered after WW2 but it just couldn’t keep up with the sort of money neighbouring England’s Premier League could attract. 21st Century Scottish football is comparatively poor as a result. Clubs between leagues 11-55 of the UEFA Coefficient score -2 points per domestic trophy. The SP is 11th in the Coefficient as of 2021.

Scottish clubs have had some success in Europe, winning 3 major trophies between them including the first UEFA trophy in the whole of Britain. They have 23 Success Points from UEFA competitions.

Scroll to the bottom to view the full table of Scotland’s Most Successful clubs


Below are Scotland’s 2 Most Successful clubs ever:

2. Celtic FC

Points: 512

Earliest Trophy Won: Scottish Cup, 1892

Latest Trophies Won: Scottish Premiership, Cup and League Cup, 2020

Most Successful Manager: Willie Maley – 154 Success points (1897-1940)

This Glaswegian club was founded by a Catholic priest as a means of raising money to alleviate poverty in the slums. 5 years later they would beat Rangers in their first ever game 5-2, then described as a ‘friendly encounter’.

Few clubs reach the stratospheric 500+ Success Point mark. To do this, Celtic have been filling their boots with silverware almost non-stop. This includes winning over a quarter of all Scottish Cups. They’ve won Titles every decade except the 1940s. The ‘50s was a lean decade, as other clubs such as Hibernian FC enjoyed success, so too were the ‘90s which betrayed the fact Celtic’s stewards had failed to keep abreast of rising commercial revenue streams which had begun to infuse football across Europe.

Its most successful decade was the 2010s with 88 points. It managed 6 Titles in a row from 1905-1910; 9 from 1966-74 plus 9 consecutively from 2012-2020. These are not the sorts of winning streaks seen at all often with other giant clubs!

Under club manager legend, Jock Stein, ‘The Bhoys’ would claim their first quadruple in 1967 managing to grab Scotland’s first and only European Cup as well. It was a feat that’s never been matched south of the border; an ‘annus mirabilis‘ for Celtic. Celtic took full advantage of Rangers’ exile from the top flight to achieve an ‘invincible’ season – and sixth treble – under Brenden Rogers in 2017.

1. Rangers FC

Points: 551.5

Earliest Trophy Won: Scottish Division 1, 1891

Latest Trophy Won: Scottish Premiership, 2021

Most Successful Manager: Bill Struth – 160 Success points (1920-1954)

Rangers FC were founded all the way back in 1872. Those first 19 years before its first major trophy was a rare period when Scottish football was free of the Old Firm’s vice like grip; when only the Scottish Cup was to play for at national level, before the first National Championship in 1890. Rangers would win the 2nd edition in 1891.

Like its Glaswegian rival Celtic, Rangers’ trophy cabinet is absolutely festooned with shiny metal, including a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (CWC) won in 1972. Rangers have won at least 50% of Titles in 4 out of the 13 decades Scottish Championships have run, and 42% of Scottish Titles total and in every decade since the 1890s.

The 1990s was Rangers’ most successful decade, winning 9 Premierships in a row and 97 Success Points under managers Souness and Smith. After ‘The Gers’ latest League/LC double in 2011 something unfathomable happened, Rangers went into administration due to financial mismanagement and re-emerged in the Scottish 4th tier.

Even in spite of this, Rangers FC is Scotland’s most successful club and the 2nd most successful in all of Europe!

Best of the Rest

As Scotland’s 3rd most successful club, outside the Old Firm’s heady heights, ‘The Dons’ of Aberdeen have done well for themselves, clinching major trophies in every decade since the 1940’s except the 2000s. Aberdeen FC won its first Title in 1955. It then revelled in a glory period under a manager who would go on to become one of the greatest managers in modern history. Under Alex Ferguson’s guidance, the club won three Titles, four Scottish Cups and a League Cup. He also lead them to a UEFA CWC, beating mighty Real Madrid in the final, plus Scotland’s first UEFA Super Cup – all this in the space of seven years.

5th placed Hibernian FC enjoyed their time in the sun from 1948-52 with what was regarded as the finest forward line ever in Scottish football – Hibs’ ‘Famous Five’. They won 3 Titles in that time.

Let’s not forget one of Scottish football’s founding fathers, Queen’s Park FC which comes in at 6th. The club actually pioneered passing in football and had a lot of success before the Old Firm’s rise, winning 10 Scottish Cups and 30 Success Points. It has always rejected professional football status, however, believing it spoils the spirit of competitiveness. Subsequently ‘The Spiders’ last trophy was won in 1893.

Competition Key
Points
UEFA SC: UEFA Super Cup
2
LC: League Cup (Scottish League Cup)
2
FIFA CWC: Intercontinental Cup / FIFA Club World Cup
3
AC: Association Cup (Scottish FA Cup)
3
UEFA ECL: UEFA Europa Conference League
4
UEFA EL: UEFA Cup / Europa League
6
UEFA CWC: UEFA Cup Winners Cup
6.5
UEFA CL: UEFA European Cup / Champions League
8
T: Top Tier League Title (Division 1 / Scottish Premiership)
7

Success Point Ranking Table

PositionClubSub-point TotalsSuccess Point Total
1Rangers FCLC: 27 x 2 = 54
AC: 33 x 3 = 99
UEFA CWC: 1 x 6.5 = 6.5
T: 55 x 7 = 385
+7 (Trebles)
551.5
2Celtic FCLC: 19 x 2 = 38
AC: 34 x 3 = 102
CL: 1 x 8 = 8
T: 51 x 7 = 357
+7 (Trebles)
512
3Aberdeen FCUEFA SC: 1 x 2 = 2
LC: 6 x 2 = 12
AC: 7 x 3 = 21
UEFA CWC: 1 x 6.5 = 6.5
T: 4 x 7 = 28
69.5
4Heart of Midlothian FCLC: 4 x 2 = 8
AC: 8 x 3 = 24
T: 4 x 7 = 28
60
5Hibernian FCLC: 3 x 2 = 6
AC: 3 x 3 = 9
T: 4 x 7 = 28
43
6Queen’s Park FCAC: 10 x 3 = 3030
7Kilmarnock FCLC: 1 x 2 = 2
AC: 3 x 3 = 9
T: 1 x 7 = 7
18
=8Dumbarton FCAC: 1 x 3 = 3
T: 2 x 7 = 14
17
=8Dundee United FCLC: 2 x 2 = 4
AC: 2 x 3 = 6
T: 1 x 7 = 7
17
10Dundee FCLC: 3 x 2 = 6
AC: 1 x 3 = 3
T: 1 x 7 = 7
16
11Third Lanark A.C.AC: 2 x 3 = 6
T: 1 x 7 = 7
13
12St Johnstone FCLC: 1 x 2 = 2
AC: 2 x 3 = 6
8
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