Highlands & Islands

Cove Rangers' promotion leaves odd number of teams in division

Cove Rangers celebrate promotion to League Two Image copyright SNS
Image caption Cove Rangers celebrated promotion to the SPFL - but their success leaves the Highland League in a predicament

The Highland League will discuss options for the way forward after champions Cove Rangers secured their place in next season's SPFL.

The Aberdeen side became the first team from the division to step up to League Two through the pyramid system, by thrashing Berwick Rangers 7-0 on aggregate in the play-off final.

It leaves the Highland League with an odd number of teams for next season - 17 - and a dilemma about what to do.

It will be discussed at Monday's AGM.

One option the clubs will consider is to do nothing, and simply carry on with 17 teams.

Another is to continue as normal, but use the next 12 months to see if any teams express an interest in joining the division.

With a geographical area which covers everything north of the River Tay - a catchment area that includes Dundee - you would think there would be no shortage of candidates.

However, the Highland League has strict entry criteria. Anyone wishing to become part of their ranks must be a licensed member of the Scottish FA, and must adhere to their guidelines regarding floodlights - and they do not come cheap.

'Massive upgrades'

Aberdeen-based junior side Banks o' Dee tick all of those boxes, and they were contacted by the league to ask if they were interested in submitting an application to join.

However, the North Region Superleague champions rejected the possibility of SHFL membership.

Banks o' Dee chairman Brian Winton said the timing was not right.

"There are several reasons for it - we embarked four or five years ago on a strategy to get our SFA licence, we signed up to the pyramid system, we've done massive upgrades to the facilities, installed astrograss, built floodlights, built two new stands," he explained.

"We're currently going through another upgrade to the stand, new boardroom, new facilities, disabled area, and we've got aspirations to do more next summer.

"Our operational funding is constrained because we've got a big capital programme going on, and I think it's the right thing for Banks o' Dee - I'm trying to build a club sustainable in the long-term and to be ready for any future possibilities that come along."

'Splitting opinion'

He also said he would like to see the pyramid system fully introduced to Scotland, with it affecting planning for clubs that do not know whether promotion will be a possibility at the end of the season.

Highland League secretary Rod Houston said after Banks o' Dee's decision they would now move forward with other options.

One of those options would be to allow an Inverness Caledonian Thistle Colts team in to the league.

The Caley Jags are keen on the move, but the proposal, which will also be discussed, appears to be splitting opinion among the member clubs.

An option could be to stick with the 17 teams, but allow the Inverness Colts to play a friendly against whatever team has a 'free' weekend in each round of fixtures.

Everything will, or should, become a bit clearer when the member clubs get round the table on Lossiemouth at the start of next week.

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