Scottish Premiership vs English Premier League – What’s The Difference?

If you’re a fan of European football, you may have noticed several English and Scottish teams. 

These teams regularly compete in European tournaments and play in their leagues, the Scottish Premiership and English Premier League.

How are these 2 competitions different, and which one is better?

Here’s what you need to know:

The difference between Scottish Premiership and Premier League 

The Scottish Premiership involves the top 12 teams in Scottish football. On the other hand, the Premier League includes the top 20 teams in English football

Both of these competitions mainly differ in terms of their league structure and Champions League qualification.

Here is a further comparison between these 2 leagues:

Number of teams involved

The Scottish Premiership has 12 teams competing for the league every season. 

Unlike its northern neighbour, the Premier League has 20 teams. This is similar to the other top leagues in Europe, including:

The only top European league that does not have 20 teams is the Bundesliga, which only has 18 teams in their league.

Origin of teams

The teams in the Scottish Premiership originate from Scotland, while those in the Premier League originate from England & Wales

It may be easy to confuse since these countries are part of the United Kingdom.

Here are some of the top teams that have been playing in these leagues:

Scottish Premiership Premier League
RangersManchester City

Frequency and duration of competitions

Similar to other competitions in Europe, both competitions have a similar schedule which starts in August and ends in May.

The Scottish Premiership has a 3-week winter break which normally starts in mid-December until the competition resumes in the second week of January.

However, the Premier League has a different approach to the winter break. During theirs, some premier league teams play while other teams are on a break. 

This format is structured to keep up with the television broadcasting contracts.

Format of competition

Like other top European leagues, the Premier League follows the popular double round-robin league format. This format means that each team will face the other 19 in the league, at home & away, for a total of 38 matches.

However, the Scottish Premiership has a unique competing structure. This structure includes a triple round-robin with a split format.

There are two phases in the Scottish Premiership. The first phase involves each club playing against the other 11 on three separate occasions – once at home and twice away, or vice versa. 

In the second phase, all teams in the league will be separated into two playoff sections after completing 33 rounds of games. 

Both sections contain six teams where each team plays five games, either home or away, against the other five. These sections are called:

  • ‘Bottom six’ Relegation round
  • ‘Top six’ Championship round

At the end of both rounds, the top finisher of the Championship round wins the league title. In contrast, the bottom finisher of the Relegation round gets relegated.

Squad size

Premier League regulations allow only 25 players for each club’s squad. The rules also restrict the number of foreign players to 17.

A Premier League matchday squad can only accommodate 20 players. This includes the starting lineup of 11 players and an additional 9 substitutes.

Likewise, the Scottish Premiership allows only 25 players for each club. However, there is no limit on the number of foreign players

Furthermore, the Scottish Premiership does not limit the number of players allowed for the matchday squad. This means all 25 players can be called up for any match.

Qualification for competition

The Premier League is the top competition in the English football pyramid. As such, all 20 Premier League teams are the top 20 in England itself

Several tiers exist below the Premier League; these include:

Teams move up and down the pyramid through the relegation/promotion system. Thus, if your team is at the bottom, they will be evaluated on their seasonal performance and rewarded with promotion or relegation

The EFL Championship is directly below the Premier League. It is a tough league where 24 teams compete for 3 promotion spots to the Premier League. At the end of the season, the winner and 2nd place gain promotion while the bottom three get relegated to EFL League One. 

The teams that finish in 3rd to 6th place will compete in the Championship playoffs for a spot in the following Premier League Season!

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Due to the direct reward of promotion, the playoff matches are very intense.

The Scottish Premiership is also the highest level of Scotland’s football pyramid, known as the Scottish Professional Football League

Teams move through the levels via promotion/relegation like their English counterparts. Other league competitions in the Scottish football pyramid include:

Promotion to the Scottish Premiership is automatically guaranteed by winning the Scottish Championship, which is competed by 10 teams. 

An extra promotion spot is contested via playoff rounds, in a knockout format, between the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-placed teams. The 3rd and 4th place teams play the first game, and the winner faces the 2nd-placed team.

The winner of the Championship playoffs will then play against the 11th-placed team of the Premiership.

If the Premiership team wins, they keep their place and get relegated if they don’t.

UEFA competitions placing

Based on their league performance during the season, your team will be eligible to qualify for UEFA competitions. The qualification is different for both competitions:

PositionScottish PremiershipPremier League
1stChampions League
Third Qualifying Round
Champions League
Group Stage
2ndChampions League
Second Qualifying Round
Champions League
Group Stage
3rdEuropa Conference
League playoffs
Champions League
Group Stage
4thEuropa Conference
League playoffs
Champions League
Group Stage

Unlike the Scottish Premiership, the top four Premier League teams gain direct entry to the Champions League.

UEFA awards qualifications to European competitions based on the coefficient rankings system. Since the Premier League is 1st and the Scottish Premiership is 9th in the rankings, this explains the gap between leagues regarding qualification spots. 

Furthermore, the English FA Cup winner gets a spot in the Europa League Group stage, and the EFL Cup winners qualify for the Europa Conference League Groupstage.

You can find out the difference between these 2 cups here.

In Scotland, the winner of the Scottish Cup is also granted a spot in the Europa League’s third qualifying round

Rewards for winning the competition

 Here are the rewards your team will receive when they win either competition:

Scottish PremiershipPremier League
Prize MoneyLowerHigher
Qualification for next season’s Champions LeagueYes Yes
Qualification for SuperCupNo Supercup is contestedFA Community Shield

When comparing the 2020/21 prize money that the winners received in the Scottish Premiership and Premier League, the Premier League winners received a vastly larger sum of prize money (€184 million vs €3.35 million).

Furthermore, the winners of both competitions qualify for the Champions League. However, English champions automatically qualify for the group stages, while the Scottish champion gets a spot in the Third Qualifying Round.

In terms of the Super Cup competitions that they play, the Premier League Champions will play against the FA Cup winners in the Community Shield held at the beginning of the season.

Meanwhile, no sort of Supercup competition is organized in Scottish football.

Dominance of teams

Based on past winners of both leagues since the 2011/12 season, let’s examine the trend of dominance in both leagues:

Scottish PremiershipPremier League
Celtic (9)Manchester City (5)
RangersChelsea (1)
Liverpool (1)
Leicester City (1)
Manchester United (1) 

The Scottish Premiership has been dominated by the Old Firm teams, Celtic & Rangers, for a very long time. In fact, no team has won the league title since 1985 apart from either team!

Meanwhile, the Premier League is definitely more competitive, as there have been 5 different winners in the past 10 years.

Manchester City still shows great dominance since they have won 5 out of the last 10 titles

However, several unpredictable events have occurred, such as Leicester City winning the league in 2016.

Champions League performances

In this section, we will see how the clubs from these leagues have performed in the Champions League

This is the best indicator of how well the league is as a whole since the Champions League is competed by the top European clubs.

For a direct comparison, here are the Champions League semi-finalists for the past 5 years that come from either league:

YearScottish PremiershipPremier League
2020/2102 (Manchester City
and Chelsea)
2018/1902 (Tottenham
and Liverpool)
2017/1801 (Liverpool)

Scottish teams have a poor record in the Champions League. The last appearance by a Scottish team in the UCL knockout Stages was Celtic in their 2012/13 round of 16 defeat by Juventus.

Celtic’s triumph in 1967 also makes them the only Scottish team to win the Champions League

This record pales compared to English teams, with 5 teams that won the tournament 14 times in total and many appearances in the final.


Here is a summary of the comparison between these 2 leagues:

Scottish PremiershipPremier League
Number of teams1220
Origin of teamsScotlandEngland & Wales
Duration10 months10 months
FormatTriple round-robin with final
/ Relegation rounds
Double round-robin
of matches
Squad size25 (no squad regulations)25 (only 17 non-homegrown allowed)
QualificationWinner of Scottish Championship
11th place in Premiership will compete against
the winner of 2nd-4th place Championship playoff place
Top 2 from EFL Championship
3rd – 6th will play in playoffs
Champions League
2 Playoff spots4 Group Stage spots
Prize MoneyLowerHigher
Qualification for next season’s
Champions League
for Super Cup
No Super Cup playedFA Community Shield
Dominance of teamsMainly CelticMainly Manchester City
Champions League performances
No semifinalists in this century5 semifinalists
in the last 5 years


The Scottish Premiership and Premier League are the best football leagues in the United Kingdom.

However, based on their Champions League performances, dominance trend, and overall structure, the Premier League is far better than its Scottish counterpart!

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