The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) was founded in 1930 as a governing body to oversee pipe band competition and to promote and encourage the development of pipe band culture throughout the world. Originally founded as the SPBA, it gained the Royal seal of approval in 1980, its jubilee year.
The RSPBA sets the rules and guidelines for pipe band contests that take place in Scotland, administers the events themselves, coordinating adjudication, logistics and evaluation, and holds Annual General Meetings to ensure that the rules and regulations are up to date. In addition, the RSPBA administers and coordinates the World Pipe Band Championships, the largest and most prestigious competitive pipe band event of the year, held every August in Glasgow. In addition to "The World's", there are three other Major Contests - Scottish, British and European Championship. At Branch level, there are numerous contests held at Highland Games and any venue which raises the fund to hold a contest. Bands are placed in a Grade system - from Grade 4 up to Grade 1. Competitive standards are set and maintained by the Music Board, and each branch of the RSPBA may appoint two National Council members to represent their Branch Members at the national level.
Prior to 1930, pipe band competitions were limited in number and each had its own format, in terms of playing requirements, rules, and judging. Bands joining the SPBA agreed to play only at contests sanctioned by the SPBA - a rule that still causes consternation today - in order to force contests to adhere to SPBA standards.
Prior to the formation of the SPBA, the Cowal Games had been seen as the de facto World Championships. When the SPBA proposed to hold a World Championship in name after the war, the Cowal organisation was promised that the Cowal games would always retain major status, a promise kept until serial neglect of the bands by the organisers led to competing bands demanding the RSPBA withdraw Cowal's status in 2013.
The RSPBA is formally an organisation where the unit of membership is the pipe band, not the pipers and drummers that make up the band. Organisation is at times opaque, and communication with members tends to be strictly along organisational lines. This tends to lead to widely misunderstood decision making.
The RSPBA has many sister organizations throughout the world. See List of pipe band organisations