Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Of late there has been discussion that it may be time to scrap the League Cup in both Scotland and England. In the Betfred Cup this year there has been a refashioning of the 77-year-old trophy. Reverting to a group format based on regional sections at the initial stages of the tournament illustrates there must have been a problem, otherwise changes would not have occurred. 
This was an interesting idea to reignite interest in the trophy, but it has had issues. With a penalty shoot-out taking place after any draw, it even occurs for games that have no meaning. If the bottom two sides who have no chance of qualification face each other on the last round of fixtures and the game ends in a draw, a meaningless shoot-out must take place.
These irrelevant shoot-outs make a nonsense of the new format and is helping to distance fans from the competition. With regards to the English League Cup, The Telegraph stated that ‘The League Cup has been won by a member of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ of the Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool in 10 of the last 12 years’. This is said to be because they have the best strength in depth within in their squads. Going on to say that even the smaller teams rest their best players in the League Cup, nobody takes it too seriously.
With frustration growing in both countries about their League Cup’s there could be a time soon when one or both are scrapped. The strengths or weaknesses of the Betfred Cup are not crucial, upon reading arguments for scrapping the League Cup in England thoughts turned to other abolished cup competitions. There have been many great ideas from people within football about new and exciting cup competitions.
The Glasgow Members Challenge Cup, Ayrshire Cup, East of Scotland Shield and Lanarkshire Cup have all fell fowl to the football chopping block. One such competition which caught the eye was the Anglo-Scottish Cup. The tournament and why it was scrapped will be examined more closely and the possibility of this replacing the English and Scottish League Cup today will be explored.
The Anglo-Scottish Cup ran from 1975 to 1981, comprising of sixteen English teams and eight Scottish clubs. Bringing together Scottish and English sides was an idea that had occurred before with the British League Cup and Empire Exhibition. Scotland and England are two proud nations with fans that are proud of their teams.
The chance to face a team from the other side of the border offers up immense potential for bragging rights. The topic of whether Celtic could compete in the Premier League is regularly discussed, establishing a trophy that placed all Scottish and English teams against each other would provide evidence of how level the playing fields are. There is a lot less money available to Scottish teams, perhaps big cup ties pitting Scotland’s finest against England’s would provide money for teams in all tiers of the Scottish Football League. The Anglo-Scottish Cup provided this platform.
It was a continuation of the former Texaco Cup which was established in 1970, after Texaco withdrew their sponsorship it was renamed the Anglo-Scottish Cup for the 1975-76 season. The cup was designed to bring ‘English and Scottish clubs which had missed out on Europe into competition against one another’. The fact the competing teams were not from Europe does mean that the teams on display were not elite clubs from either country, this could be a further reason why the tournament failed.
The teams on display would not be the best teams in the country and so there was little chance of a marquee team that smaller clubs would want to sign. As well as this, if a team won the tournament but then went on to have a successful season in the league and qualify for Europe, then they would not be able to compete to retain their trophy. This is a further reason as so why the cup does not still exist.
The English sides were placed in four groups of four, playing each other once. Two points for a win, one for a draw and an extra point for every three goals scored in each game. Each of the group winners would face the four winners of the Scottish teams who had won their two-legged knockout tie. The birth of the tournament attracted the attention of some relatively big clubs from both countries.
Seven of the eighteen English clubs were playing in the First Division the season preceding the inaugural Anglo-Scottish Cup, seven from the Second Division, one from the Third and one from the Fourth Division. Six of the eight Scottish sides were from the First Division and two from the Second Division. The 1974-75 was a momentous one for Scottish football as the leagues were restructured from two divisions to three at the end of the season. This meant that the Anglo-Scottish Cup looked to tie into the new structure of the Scottish league system and mark a possible new era for Scottish football.
Given that a higher percentage of top tier teams participated in the cup from Scotland than England, it could be presumed that they were taking the rebranded trophy more seriously. It must also be noted that there was a lot more opportunity for the English teams to be participating in European football compared to the Scottish, so this did reduce the number of possible English participants.
The theme of Scottish teams taking the competition more seriously than the English is something that remained throughout the Anglo-Scottish Cup’s existence. This could display a larger amount of patriotism from the Scottish and complacency from the English. The fans from Scotland were eager to show the English that their teams could compete. The Scottish teams were encouraged to participate and show that they were every bit as good as their English counterparts. For English teams to not all be from the top-tier of English football, shows that teams would not have considered this a serious enough trophy or perhaps a challenging enough task.
The first Anglo-Scottish Cup began in late July, at the beginning of the 1975-76 season. The competition spanned five months with the final being played at the beginning of December. The duration of the fixtures was like that of the Betfred Cup, although ending considerably earlier and matches were played on Monday evenings. Having to play so early in the season and on Monday evenings are certainly factors as to why the competition failed.
The European and UEFA Cup games were all played on Wednesday nights, a tradition which has remained. With most games not being dictated by television, as has plagued today’s game, this allowed a decent rest from Saturday afternoon to Wednesday night. However, those competing in the Anglo-Scottish Cup were plagued with short recovery times which would no doubt have led to squad rotation and then a lower quality of competition. This is exactly the complaint that has met today’s domestic cup competitions. These factors diminished the integrity of the Anglo-Scottish Cup.
The first Anglo-Scottish Cup was eventually won by Middlesbrough who defeated Fulham 1-0 over two-legs. Middlesbrough won the first leg at their home ground in Ayresome Park. Given that this was a final and the first trophy that Middlesbrough won in their history, it would be fair to presume that this would attract an above average sized attendance. However, there were 15,000 fans present at the first-leg of the Anglo-Scottish Cup final, in contrast Boro’s average attendance for that season was 23,000.
This was rather low, however an interesting stat that may help to make Boro’s attendance seem more respectable comes at Anfield. On the same day of the first-leg of the Anglo-Scottish Cup Final, Liverpool were facing Slask Wroclaw in the third round of the UEFA Cup. The game of the same day was the first-leg in Wroclaw, Poland so it would be unfair to compare these two attendances, the return leg at Anfield however, was played in front of 18,000 fans. The UEFA Cup was certainly a respected trophy of the time so for Liverpool to have only 3,000 more fans does not make Boro’s attendance look too bad. Images from Boro’s home leg are crude, yet illustrate that there was a lot of empty seats for a cup final.
Yet when the attendance at Craven Cottage is analysed, it shows a considerable respect for the competition. Fulham’s average attendance for the 1975-76 season was just 9,750, yet for the second-leg of the Anglo-Scottish Cup Final there were 13,750.
This is lower than the Boro fans attendance for the first-leg, but considerably more than average for a Craven Cottage crowd. Fulham were a newly promoted side and so may not have been used to or expecting success that season so would have welcomed a decent cup run. Images of the second leg show a packed crowd for an ultimately disappointing day for the Cottagers.
These attendances illustrate that although it wasn’t taken as a priority, the Anglo-Scottish Cup had a place in football and the fans wanted to win the trophy. This is like cup competitions today in both Scotland and England, fans are keen to win a trophy yet the attendances for earlier rounds are usually low, especially with the bigger clubs.
If the draw matches a smaller team against a big team or a local derby, then the attendances will rise, otherwise fans often remain disinterested until later rounds. Although this is a sweeping statement, upon examining the first Anglo-Scottish Cup final, it appears that the Anglo-Scottish Cup could still have a place in football today as fans would probably be somewhat interested should their team get to the latter stages.
Despite all this, if this was the case then the Anglo-Scottish Cup would still be in existence today. There is a reason for the decline of the trophy. There were several key occurrences that illustrate why the tournament was scrapped. The year following Middlesbrough’s victory, Newcastle were kicked from the competition after fielding a weakened side to Ayr in the Quarter-Final and thus losing 3-0.
Removing Newcastle was a decision made with the right intentions, the organisers wanted to keep the integrity of the cup at the forefront. However, it could have possible negative repercussions. Firstly, it could be perceived by Ayr United fans that there was a perception from the organisers that the only way they could beat Newcastle would be if they were not taking the competition seriously. Secondly, as participation in the cup was not a reward for finishing within certain places in the league, removing Newcastle from the cup would no doubt tar their opinion of the Anglo-Scottish Cup, either just to the Magpies but possibly further afield.
Any other team contemplating entering the tournament would no doubt have seen this dismissal and maybe doubted if they would ever want to participate in the event. Teams did not have to participate, and some would have thought it was better to keep their players fresh for the league campaign and other trophies on offer, rather than having to play another voluntary cup that they risked exclusion if the organisers did not perceive their team strong enough.
Not only were they excluded, ‘Newcastle United were fined £4,000 by the Football League for fielding a weakened team in the quarter-final of the Anglo-Scottish Cup against Ayr United on Sept. 15, the money being paid as compensation to the Scottish club’. By removing Newcastle the organisers illustrated how important they perceived the trophy to be, but it simply wasn’t, by removing them they would have distanced many of the top teams in Scotland and England from entering the competition.
Had entry been compulsory then they were within their rights to remove teams, but as it was a voluntary trophy they needed to look after the teams who were entering. Because of this, and a general dipping interest in the competition, the quality of teams diminished.
The number of teams from the top division of Scotland and England for the 1975-76 Anglo-Scottish Cup has already been examined, to illustrate the declining interest in the tournament the 1979-80 season will also be explored. Of the sixteen English teams in the competition, only two were from the First Division (both were relegated at the end of that season), eight from the Second Division and six from the Third Division.
As for Scotland, six were from the Scottish Premiership (two of whom were later relegated) and two from the First Division. This further illustrates that the Scottish teams took this more seriously than the English, the cup was in its tenth year and all the previous nine winners were English. With English interest decreasing season on season it became more likely that soon a Scottish side would soon lift the trophy.
The strongest Scottish side in the competition was St Mirren, they ended up finishing third in the Scottish Premiership and only six points behind champions Aberdeen. St Mirren lived up to expectation and made it to the final facing the strongest English team in the cup, Bristol City. Bristol ended up finishing 20th in the First Division which again shows the gulf of quality of teams that were entering from either side of the border.
Another effective way of demonstrating continued Scottish and dwindling English interest is by comparing attendances for the first and second legs of the final. The first leg was played at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate, they had an average attendance of 19,000 in the 1979-80 season, yet there were only 3,750 for the Anglo-Scottish Cup Final.
The fact that this is so much lower than the 15,000 that watched Middlesbrough in the Anglo-Scottish Cup five years before, is the perfect illustration of the deteriorating interest. English fans were losing interest in this predictable trophy, very quickly. English teams year on year were winning and the calibre of teams was decreasing, this led to disinterested fans and small attendances.
This is in stark contrast to the St Mirren supporters in the second-leg of which there were 12,500, the highest average St Mirren attendance in their history was in the 1949-50 season were 17,000 fans were at Love Street. The closeness of these two statistics illustrates how many fans were at the game and how important it was to St Mirren and the Scottish sides to win the Anglo-Scottish Cup. St Mirren fans would have realised that this was their opportunity to be the first Scottish team to win the trophy.
Bristol were a poor First Division side and the Buddies were ready to capitalise on this and make history for themselves. There was a lot more on stake for St Mirren as they would face English ridicule had they lost, but ultimately delivered a win that made all of Scotland proud. The St Mirren fans were much more interested in the trophy and they deserved to be the team that won.
In no disrespect for St Mirren, their victory did somewhat mark the end of the trophy as a serious competition. English teams were just not interested in competing, and now a Scottish team had finally won the trophy it became obvious interest would only continue to decline. At that point Scottish teams were competing to be the first non-English team to win the trophy, this feat was now achieved and so there seemed little further prestige on offer.
The following campaign was the last time that the Anglo-Scottish Cup existed, the Scottish teams withdrew afterwards claiming the English teams weren’t taking it seriously enough and so the competition’s eleven-year history came to an end and the Anglo-Scottish Cup became another trophy to enter history.
Third Division Chesterfield won the 1980-81 Anglo-Scottish Cup, this was the final nail in the coffin of the trophy that confirmed interest no longer remained for the tournament from elite teams.
The trophy itself remains with Chesterfield; they proudly own a piece of forgotten football history. It is perhaps comforting knowing that a lower league side such as Chesterfield can posses the trophy, however the fact that they do illustrates just how much respect for the trophy was abandoned.
The Anglo-Scottish Cup was a promising idea, but it is easy to see why interest declined and the trophy was ditched. Harsh treatment of much needed top-tier teams, partnered with fixture congestion and a voluntary participation means that decline in interest from clubs and fans appears inevitable.
The concept of Scottish teams facing English teams in a cup competition is promising, with the League Cup faltering in Scotland and England this could be an interesting avenue to peruse. It is unlikely that if Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester City faced a Second Division Scottish side away in a new Anglo-Scottish League Cup they would fill a large allocation.
However, if the new format in the Betfred Cup was used to place non-Scottish Premiership or English Premier League teams against each other, then the top-tier sides could enter the competition at a later stage. This could potentially spark new interest in the League Cup in both Scotland and England.
A compulsory entry and fixtures replacing those that are already in place would mean clubs had to take the trophy at least semi-seriously, and fans would be excited to face new teams in a new trophy. Unfortunately, not being in a position to compose new cup competitions, it is unlikely this would ever happen.
The main piece of evidence to suggest this would not work lies in the Proact Stadium with Chesterfield, the failure of the Anglo-Scottish Cup is perhaps enough to suggest that within eleven years another trophy could enter the annals of history. For now, fans will have to put up with a League Cup that seems to be losing interest from fans, players and clubs on both sides of the border.
 StMirren.info, ‘Anglo Scottish Cup Winners 1980’, at http://www.stmirren.info/id484.html accessed 15 Mar. 18.
 The Telegraph, ‘Why it’s time to admit defeat and abolish the League Cup’, athttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2017/01/10/time-admit-defeat-abolish-league-cup/ accessed 15 Mar. 18.
 D. Ross, GAFFERS: A Whose Who of Scottish Football Managers (London, 2013), p.530.
 YouTube, ‘Middlesbrough 1 vs Fulham 0 1975 (Anglo-Scottish Cup) [Boro MOTD 12/33]’, athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ6kSVtwlao accessed 15 Mar. 18.
 Gazette Live, ‘Flashback: Unseen photos of Boro’s 1975 Anglo-Scottish Cup win’, athttp://www.gazettelive.co.uk/sport/football/flashback-unseen-photos-boros-1975-8262746 accessed 15 Mar. 18.
 J. Whitaker, An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord …, Volume 110 (London, 1978), p.583.
 CFChistory, ‘Winning the Anglo-scottish Cup 1980-81’, at http://www.cfchistory.com/1980-anglo-scottish-cupaccessed 15 Mar. 18.
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