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Small fish are swiming towards the big pond

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Jim Spence | 17:30 UK time, Tuesday, 15 November 2011

This weekend's Scottish Cup third round matches offer non-league clubs an opportunity to put a few noses out of joint.

The Highland League, junior and east of Scotland outfits, all have the chance to vindicate the Scottish Football Association's plans for a pyramid league system.

The ties offer some ambitious clubs a chance to prove their worth and to show that the case for a new set up is compelling.

Stewart Regan, the SFA chief executive, is keen on such a move, but vested interests abound in the Scottish game and the proposals appear to be moving at a snail's pace.

There are clubs in the junior game who attract larger crowds than some Third Division clubs.

Irvine Meadow, giants of the junior game, will pack out Meadow Park for the visit of Gary Bollan's high-flying Livingston.

During the Scottish Junior Cup glory years after the Second World War Irvine Meadow attracted huge crowds.

They were watched by 77,650 in a match against Petershill in 1951 - testimony to the pulling power of the game at all levels in those football-mad days.

Among the games sure to pull in good crowds and to be nail-biters, are winners of last year's East Super league, Boness Utd, who welcome Second Division leaders Cowdenbeath.

While Inverurie Locos take on Peterhead, in another tight looking match which will see a healthy crowd jam into Harlaw Park.

The romance of the cup will be well and truly to the fore in all of the weekend games, but irrespective of the results, it would be good to see progress made soon on the proposals for a newly invigorated pyramid set up in Scottish football.

This weekend's games will be an indicator of the potential which some of the non-Scottish Football League clubs have.

Whether they have the ambition though, to be more than big fish in a small pond, is another matter.


  • Comment number 1.

    I wont be holding my breath Jim....

  • Comment number 2.

    A pyramid system would be perfect; sadly the chairmen of so called local senior teams would never let it happen. A progressive system where promotion and relegation from the senior leagues would attract interest and would showcase many great talents that exist in Junior, highland league and the east and west leagues - just look what Spartans have done against league teams and Annan since being made up

  • Comment number 3.

    Would any of the minor leagues teams be better off with a pyramid system. The upper leagues all seem in a far worst state. The higher ye go the more stadium requirements needed = more finance. Could the likes of Annan & Spartans create finances needed to progress. Aye we all love the auld idea of football as sport, but now it's money - that's the bottom line.

  • Comment number 4.

    the junior game thrives jim why would they want to link up with the cancerous senior game. inverurie loco works in the farcical 12 team ess pea hell where ten teams are playing avoid relegation football from the off aint going to help. if i had a 50p bit for every morris dancer who has ventured north of hadrians to tell us how its done i would b 6 months of the year on spanish golf courses. we have two at the helm now send em homeward. the four times a season is nuts and its repeated all the way thro our game. i have the answer but spl wont consult.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    In the past when there have been vacancies in the SFL, how many Junior clubs have applied for membership? As far as I am aware, the answer to that is "none". I wonder why that may be? Could it be that they prefer being "big fish in a small pool" charging £5/6 and gaining reasonable crowds? Or do they realise that their grounds are not suitable for licensing for senior football and it would cost huge sums of money to upgrade them? (as many SFL clubs have had to do) A pyramid system in Scotland would be almost impossible to establish for geographical and ecconomic reasons as well as a lack of interest from most possible entrants.

  • Comment number 7.

    Attendance at Saturdays Clydebank v Auchinleck Talbot match was higher than every gate in the second and third division on Saturday. And that's not that unusual.

  • Comment number 8.

    i can totally see why junior football is firstly doing better than lower league footbal in scotland and why they maybe wouldn't be so keen on joining it.

    the honest truth is that the ethos of the SFL and SPL is terrible. the junior football is not. the fact that attendences at junior football are higher than league tells a significant story. trying to pay money for players you cannot afford on the pitch is not the key to successs or attracting fans.

    i long for the day when we have one governing body in scotland rather than the blinkered cliques we have. spl and sfl can learn so much from the junior leagues. but reamin in their bubble. those bubbles impede progression and each other. i would love to see the legue re construction done from bottom up rather than top down in many ways.

    if in a dream world the sfa disbands all the governing body and puts itself in charge with the right ethos towards the benefit of all of scottish football then a full pyramid would be best for sure. but untiil the dinosaurs evolve then i cannot blame the junior clubs for staying away.

    in an open saystem and to be honest realistic system. many of the lower teams in the SFL div 3 would operate on the same financial basis of junior. as things satnd they are trying to pretend to be somehting they are not.

    number's are not key here and my point is not rally to promote nay one system but given an SPL1 and 2 of 16 teams with a pyramid system much like norway. we would probably have 3 regional divisions below. teams who are in spl 2 would have pro players on the books and those below would be ameteur. much like the pro/semi pro line between english lg 2 and conference. clubs have to adapt to promotion or relegation. but for it to ever work ticket prices, ethos and stadium requirements would all have to be intergrated and realistic

  • Comment number 9.

    a start would be Dundee and Dundee United merging that would create a space in the league system

  • Comment number 10.

    #9 Hee-Hee There,s allways one.

    Your username says it all !!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Jim Spence,

    We've been here before Jim and now we're going over old ground for the umpteenth time.
    I totally agree that some junior clubs draw bigger gates than a lot of senior clubs and no doubt some will progress further in the Scottish Cup but that isn't the point.
    What needs to be considered is;
    How many junior clubs actually want to "move up" to the senior ranks?
    How would they finance any necessary improvements to their grounds?
    Would they be better off being "big fish" rather than risking oblivion ?
    Where would the money come from for better players?

    Not easy is it?

    I take it the Irvine Meadow v Petershill match was a cup final ?

  • Comment number 12.

    As already mentioned the Football League stadium requirements is one of the biggest problems.
    What puzzles me is how a person can attend a match in the Juniors perfectly safely, yet the same stadium would be deemed 'unsafe' if they were playing in the League.

    But then, got to agree with morbhoy, how many non League teams want to move up ?

    Also, where would Stranraer be relegated to if they finished last ?

  • Comment number 13.

    #12 if a pyramid system were to be ever imlimented then not only would the ground requirements have to be relaxed but a set structure for all teams feeding in and out of the leage would have to be established.

    but no i agree that just now alot of junior teams wouldn't want to be involved witht the football league. when you consider that would mean getting the potential to play big teams, it shows how awful our league is. no team in england wouldn't want to get promoted to league 2! with no sponsor fo our top flight and lots of teams reducing capcity of or selling their grounds, we'll all be watching junior football soon as the league will have killed itself. yet doncaster is still grinning. gross!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Last post is spot on, how is it that league teams have to have specific ground requirements. Yet be drawn away in a cup tie to a ground that does not meet them. Do they have to pass a basic safety standard, if so why is that standard not good enough for lower league divisions. As stated some junior teams attract bigger crowds than 3rd Div. So why the disparity in necessary stadium requirements, might be the answer to reluctance to go further than the small pool.

  • Comment number 15.

    Was meant for #12 but applies as much to #13

  • Comment number 16.

    It is slightly odd that ground requirements have to be met for league sides, and yet Junior and - to a lesser extent - HFL grounds don't! Maybe they have a safer class of spectator!!!!
    With regards to a pyramid system - if the Juniors don't want it, well that's all well and good, but how about HFL, EoS, and WoS leagues? That is where all the last entrants to the league have come from, and a sense that they could join the 'big' league may, just may, encourage some more fans through the turnstiles. However that would make more sense if the lower 2 leagues were regionalised for the first 18 games of season , and then the top 5 of each compete for promotion to Div 1 and the bottom 5's compete to avoid relegation via the pyramid system.
    As for #12 - Stranraer would join the WoS league should they be relegated.

  • Comment number 17.

    Time to do away with East, West, Highland & Junior. Make a 4th Div. with realistic ground requirements. Then you can have a real pyramid, 2 or 3 up & down, playoffs if ye like that sort of stuff. Nae fan mesel but does draw crowds - which is needed. Gotta interest the fans, theys gettin bored empty stadiums in the premier. It's time for a shakeup,

  • Comment number 18.

    How can we realistically expect to be able to make improvements to our whole set up when the requirement at our highest level needs an 11 - 1 vote? How can any good ideas for reconstruction (if that's what's needed?), from any level, be implemented when there is such a restriction in place at SPL level?

  • Comment number 19.

    Good to see Spency doing his bit for the planet by recycling the same rubbish he was spouting a couple of months back. This really is lazy journalism. There are threads on Pie and Bovril that explain why a pyramid system wont happen, or happen soon anyway, contributed to by people who happen to know a lot more about the lower SFL leagues and Juniors than Spency can obviously be bothered researching. The amount of coverage given to the lower leagues by the BBC is shocking.

  • Comment number 20.

    Tim, who exactly is in The WoS league?

  • Comment number 21.

    Out of interest where does the South of Scotland come into this?? Would Stranraer not go in to that if there was a pyramid?? Teams like St Cuthberts, Threave and Dalbettie star the last two did play in EofS and Gretna 2008 play there now so how would this league come into it?

  • Comment number 22.

    I think the South of Scotland League is amateur. Also, it lacks sufficient number of games, and is of a poor standard. I doubt if Stranraer would be pleased to go there.

    I reckon the South of Scotland would probably have to join up with the West Juniors, otherwise Stranraer would be stuck with no place to go.

    I've got no problem with a blog being repeated. But your point about the pathetic coverage of the lower leagues in Scotland is valid.

    All I want is for Scottish football to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING !
    If it works keep it, if it doesn't bin it.


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