2002-03 Scottish Premier League
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2002-03 Scottish Premier League

Scottish Premier League
Dates3 August 2002 - 25 May 2003
RelegatedNo relegation
Champions LeagueRangers
UEFA CupHeart of Midlothian
Top goalscorerHenrik Larsson (28)
Biggest home winCeltic 7-0 Aberdeen (3 November)
Biggest away winDunfermline 0-6 Rangers (1 September)
Highest attendance59,027 - Celtic v Rangers (6 October)
Lowest attendance3,541 - Partick Thistle v Livingston (28 January)

The 2002-03 Scottish Premier League (known as the 2001-02 Bank of Scotland Premier League for sponsorship reasons) was the fifth season of the Scottish Premier League (SPL), the top level of football in Scotland. It began on 3 August 2002 and concluded on 25 May 2003.[1]

Celtic were the defending champions, but were beaten to the title by Rangers on the final day of the season.[2] This was Rangers' 50th Scottish league title.[3] Both clubs went into the final matchday on the same number of points and with the same goal difference - Rangers were ahead in the table having scored more goals. On the final day, Rangers beat Dunfermline Athletic 6-1 at Ibrox Stadium while Celtic could only win 4-0 at Kilmarnock, meaning Rangers won the title by a goal difference of one more than Celtic. This was the closest finish in the history of the SPL.[3]

Changes from 2001-02 season

Broadcasting rights

Between 1998-99 and 2001-02, exclusive television rights for live Scottish Premier League matches were held by Sky Sports. In January 2002, the SPL rejected a £45 million offer from Sky Sports and began considering setting up its own pay-per-view channel, dubbed "SPL TV".[4] However, these plans broke down in April 2002 when the Old Firm clubs - Rangers and Celtic - utilised the 11-1 voting system to veto the proposals.[5] This caused discontent among the remaining ten SPL clubs, which subsequently announced their intention to resign from the league.[6]

Despite a two-year television deal being agreed with BBC Scotland in July 2002 for a significant amount less than previously offered by Sky Sports,[7] the ten non-Old Firm clubs confirmed their resignation from the SPL in August 2002, citing discontent with the voting system.[8] The ten clubs withdrew their resignations in January 2003 after an agreement was reached to change some of the voting procedures and to change the distribution of TV revenue.[9]

The withdrawal of Sky Sports' interest in the league caused several clubs to experience financial problems, with Hearts and Kilmarnock announcing debts of £3.8 million and £3.5 million, respectively,[10] and Rangers' debt reportedly rising to £77 million.[10]

Motherwell seemed to be affected immediately by the lack of income, entering this season in administration and releasing 19 of their playing staff at the end of the previous season.[11]

European berths

Results in European competition over the previous five years saw the league move up from 16th to 12th in the UEFA country coefficient ranking. This meant that the league earned a second berth in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds for the following season.[12]


Twelve clubs would compete in the league this season - the top 11 clubs of the previous season, and the champions of the 2001-02 First Division.

St Johnstone were relegated to the First Division after five seasons in the top league on 6 April 2002, a draw with Motherwell leaving them 14 points adrift at the bottom with only 4 matches left to play.[13]

They were replaced by Partick Thistle, the champions of the First Division. They secured their second successive promotion and a place in the top flight with a victory over St Mirren on 13 April 2002.[14] This would be their debut season in the SPL and their first season in the top league since the 1995-96 season.

Stadia and locations

Aberdeen Celtic Dundee Dundee United
Pittodrie Stadium Celtic Park Dens Park Tannadice Park
Capacity: 20,866[15] Capacity: 60,411[16] Capacity: 11,506[17] Capacity: 14,223[18]
Pittodrie from Block Y, May 2015.jpg Celtic Park New.jpg Dens stand.jpg East Stand Tannadice.jpg
Dunfermline Athletic

Heart of Midlothian
East End Park Tynecastle Park
Capacity: 12,509[19] Capacity: 17,420[20]
East End Park from Norrie McCathie stand.jpg Tynecastle Stadium 2007.jpg
Hibernian Kilmarnock
Easter Road Rugby Park
Capacity: 16,531[21] Capacity: 17,889[22]
Easter Road 2010.JPG Rugby Park.jpg
Livingston Motherwell Partick Thistle Rangers
Almondvale Stadium Fir Park Firhill Stadium Ibrox Stadium
Capacity: 10,016[23] Capacity: 13,677[24] Capacity: 13,300[25] Capacity: 50,817[26]
Almondvale Stadium.jpg Fir Park, Motherwell. - geograph.org.uk - 219204.jpg JHS@Firhill.jpg Ibrox Inside.jpg

Personnel and kits

Managerial changes

Team Outgoing manager Date of vacancy Manner of departure Position in table Incoming manager Date of appointment
Dundee Italy Ivano Bonetti 2 July 2002[39] Sacked Pre-season Scotland Jim Duffy 4 July 2002[40]
Dundee United Scotland Alex Smith 7 October 2002[41] Sacked 11th Scotland Paul Hegarty 5 November 2002[42]
Aberdeen Denmark Ebbe Skovdahl 29 November 2002[43] Resigned 8th Scotland Steve Paterson 11 December 2002[44]
Dundee United Scotland Paul Hegarty 30 January 2003[45] Sacked 12th Scotland Ian McCall 30 January 2003[45]


2002-03 was a successful season for Rangers, who won a domestic treble. They and Celtic competed in a very closely fought title race. Rangers were five points clear of Celtic at the time of the split,[46] but a Celtic victory in the Old Firm derby[47] and Rangers dropping further points against Dundee in the following match[48] left the rivals level on points and on goal difference going into the final day of the season; Rangers were only ahead having scored 95 goals to Celtic's 94. On the final day, Rangers beat Dunfermline Athletic 6-1 at Ibrox Stadium[2] while Celtic could only win 4-0 at Kilmarnock,[49] meaning Rangers won the title by a goal difference of one more than Celtic (a stoppage-time penalty made the outcome more secure for Rangers - they would still have won at 5-1 by the margin of two more goals scored, but until that point Celtic would have claimed the title by goal difference had they scored again). This was the closest finish in the history of the SPL.[3] Celtic striker Chris Sutton sparked controversy by accusing the Dunfermline players of "lying down" to allow Rangers to win the title,[50] a comment which sparked a furious response and the threat of legal action from Dunfermline.[51] Celtic had a more successful season in Europe, reaching the 2003 UEFA Cup Final, but eventually lost to Porto after extra-time in Seville, just four days before the final match of the league season.[52] However, it would ultimately be the first season of Martin O'Neill's reign which ended without a trophy for Celtic.

Hearts qualified for the 2003-04 UEFA Cup after finishing third in the league, but finished 34 points behind the Old Firm. Dundee also qualified for the UEFA Cup in Jim Duffy's first season in charge by reaching the 2003 Scottish Cup Final, despite losing the final to Rangers.[53]

In the bottom half of the table, Eddie Thompson took over as chairman of Dundee United but it would statistically be the club's worst season since World War II at that point, with the team finishing 11th in the league, and sacking two managers. They spent the season in a battle with Motherwell to avoid finishing bottom of the league. Following their entry into administration at the end of the previous season,[11] Motherwell released 19 players before this season and struggled throughout the season, eventually being confirmed as the bottom team on 17 May 2003, following a 3-2 defeat to Aberdeen.[54]

Falkirk became champions of the First Division in April 2003,[55] but their Brockville Park stadium did not have the SPL minimum required 10,000 seats, a problem which prevented their possible promotion to the league only three seasons earlier.[56] With plans to demolish the stadium and build a new stadium, Falkirk proposed a ground-share of Airdrie United's Excelsior Stadium.[57] On 23 May 2003, the twelve members of the SPL voted against admitting Falkirk to the league.[57] After a lengthy appeals process with the Scottish Football Association,[58] including a situation where the following season's fixture list was released and the draw for the 2003-04 Scottish Challenge Cup was made without knowing all of the participants (the fixture list and cup draw referring to Motherwell or Falkirk's place as "Club X"),[59] it was confirmed that Falkirk would not be accepted into the SPL, sparing Motherwell from relegation.[58]


In the initial phase of the season, each of the twelve teams play the other eleven teams three times. After 33 rounds, the league splits into two sections, a top six and a bottom six, with each team playing all the other teams in their section once. The league attempts to balance the fixture list so that teams in the same section have played each other twice at home and twice away, but sometimes this is impossible. A total of 228 matches will be played, with 38 matches played by each team.

League table

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification or relegation[a]
1 Rangers 38 31 4 3 101 28 +73 97 Qualification for the Champions League third qualifying round
2 Celtic 38 31 4 3 98 26 +72 97 Qualification for the Champions League second qualifying round
3 Heart of Midlothian 38 18 9 11 57 51 +6 63 Qualification for the UEFA Cup first round
4 Kilmarnock 38 16 9 13 47 56 −9 57
5 Dunfermline Athletic 38 13 7 18 54 71 −17 46
6 Dundee 38 10 14 14 50 60 −10 44 Qualification for the UEFA Cup first round[b]
7 Hibernian 38 15 6 17 56 64 −8 51
8 Aberdeen 38 13 10 15 41 54 −13 49
9 Livingston 38 9 8 21 48 62 −14 35
10 Partick Thistle 38 8 11 19 37 58 −21 35
11 Dundee United 38 7 11 20 35 68 −33 32
12 Motherwell 38 7 7 24 45 71 −26 28 Spared from relegation[c]
Source: Scottish Professional Football League
Rules for classification: 1) Points; 2) Goal difference; 3) Goals scored
  1. ^ Teams played each other three times (33 matches), before the league split into two groups (the top six and the bottom six) for the last five matches.
  2. ^ As Rangers, the 2002-03 Scottish Cup winners, qualified for the UEFA Champions League via their league position, the place in the UEFA Cup was passed onto Dundee, the cup runners-up
  3. ^ As the First Division champions Falkirk did not have a suitable ground for the SPL, bottom club Motherwell were spared from relegation.

Top scorers

Source: SPL official website


The average attendances for SPL clubs during the 2002/03 season are shown below:

Team Average
Celtic 57,471
Rangers 48,814
Hearts 12,057
Aberdeen 11,774
Hibernian 10,157
Dundee United 7,665
Kilmarnock 7,407
Dundee 7,399
Livingston 6,663
Dunfermline Athletic 6,124
Motherwell 6,085
Partick Thistle 5,657

Source: SPL official website

Monthly awards


  1. ^ "Scottish Premier League Archive 2001/2002". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Rangers win to clinch title". BBC Sport. 25 May 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Season Review 2002/03". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ "FANS GET A TELLYFUL; SPL set to launch its own TV station as Sky switch off". Daily Record. 16 January 2002. Retrieved 2008.
  5. ^ "Old Firm scupper SPL TV". BBC Sport. BBC. 8 April 2002. Retrieved 2008.
  6. ^ "Scottish league faces collapse". BBC Sport. BBC. 16 April 2002. Retrieved 2008.
  7. ^ "SPL signs BBC deal". BBC Sport. BBC. 31 July 2002. Retrieved 2008.
  8. ^ "Scottish clubs quit SPL". BBC Sport. BBC. 1 August 2002. Retrieved 2008.
  9. ^ "SPL ends internal strife". BBC Sport. BBC. 22 January 2003. Retrieved 2008.
  10. ^ a b "Sky threat to pull plug". BBC. 14 December 2001. Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Nevin and Black quit as crisis hits Motherwell". The Daily Telegraph. 24 April 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ "Qualification for European club football 2003/04". Bert Kassies. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ "Well condemn sad Saints". BBC Sport. 5 April 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ "Jags secure top-flight return". BBC Sport. 13 April 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ "Aberdeen Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  16. ^ "Celtic Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  17. ^ "Dundee Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  18. ^ "Dundee United Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  19. ^ "Dunfermline Athletic Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  20. ^ "Heart of Midlothian Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  21. ^ "Hibernian Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  22. ^ "Kilmarnock Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  23. ^ "Livingston Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  24. ^ "Motherwell Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  25. ^ "Partick Thistle Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  26. ^ "Rangers Football Club". Scottish Professional Football League. Retrieved 2015. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. ^ "Aberdeen". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  28. ^ "Celtic". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  29. ^ "Dundee". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  30. ^ "Dundee United". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  31. ^ "Dunfermline Athletic". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  32. ^ "Heart of Midlothian". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  33. ^ "Hibernian". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  34. ^ "Kilmarnock". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  35. ^ "Livingston". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  36. ^ "Motherwell". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  37. ^ "Partick Thistle". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  38. ^ "Rangers". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 2018.
  39. ^ "The Bonetti years". BBC Sport. 2 July 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  40. ^ "Jim Duffy returns to Dens". BBC Sport. 5 July 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  41. ^ "Dundee Utd sack Smith". BBC Sport. 7 October 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  42. ^ "United appoint Paul Hegarty". ArabZone. 5 November 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  43. ^ "Skovdahl ready to quit Aberdeen". The Guardian. 30 November 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  44. ^ "Paterson named new Aberdeen boss". BBC Sport. 11 December 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  45. ^ a b "McCall succeeds Hegarty at Tannadice". The Guardian. 30 January 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  46. ^ "2002-03 Summary". Soccerway. Retrieved 2018.
  47. ^ "Rangers 1-2 Celtic". BBC Sport. 27 April 2003. Retrieved 2003.
  48. ^ "Dundee dent Gers' title hopes". BBC Sport. 4 May 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  49. ^ Victory not enough for Celtic, BBC Sport, 25 May 2003
  50. ^ "Sutton claims Fifers 'lay down' to Rangers". The Herald. 26 May 2003. Retrieved 2003.
  51. ^ "2003 UEFA Cup final". UEFA. Retrieved 2003.
  52. ^ "Rangers complete treble". BBC Sport. 31 May 2003. Retrieved 2003.
  53. ^ "Motherwell facing the drop". BBC Sport. 17 May 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  54. ^ "Falkirk send SPL message". BBC Sport. 19 April 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  55. ^ "Falkirk stadium hopes boost". BBC News. 6 December 2000. Retrieved 2018.
  56. ^ a b "Falkirk denied SPL promotion". The Guardian. 23 May 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  57. ^ a b "Falkirk denied promotion". BBC Sport. 27 June 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  58. ^ "Club X fixture shock". BBC Sport. 16 June 2003. Retrieved 2018.

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