SPARTANS chairman Craig Graham believes the introduction of a pyramid system into Scottish football has provided some welcome light at the end of the tunnel for frustrated non-league clubs.
The Lowland League was voted through this week and yesterday it emerged that the new set-up will start in August, with promotion to the Scottish Professional Football League set to be implemented from the 2014/15 season. “For the whole of Scottish football, it’s a big step forward,” said Graham. “The pyramid structure is the prize that some people have been wanting for as long as 20 years. All the clubs at our level and in the Highland League are delighted with Wednesday’s announcement [that a pyramid system will be implemented].
“At our club, we’ve won our league three of the last five seasons. It’s always good to win your league, but it will be even more exciting to know that if we win it we have the chance to then go and climb another rung on the ladder. If a space had come up at any time in the SFL, we would always have applied for it, but I think it’s far better to get in on merit rather than because of the demise of another club. Having seen Annan and the Highland clubs, we feel we’d be able to hold our own if we get promoted into the SPFL. We’d need to change quite a lot about the club to become more professional if we were to go up but I’m absolutely convinced we’ve got the potential to do well. All teams entering the Lowland League would be entitled to feel the same way.”
While the presence of play-offs means there is still no guarantee that a non-league team will earn promotion every season, Graham believes that a positive early impression from the sides that do get promoted could lead to automatic promotion opening up. “In England, they started off with a play-off to get into the league, and then went to automatic promotion, so it’ll be interesting to see how it develops in Scotland,” he said. “If enough ambitious teams start getting into the SPFL through the play-off, then there might be a decision to open it up to automatic promotion further down the line.”
Graham feels the Lowland League is a positive development. “Even if there was to be no promotion to the SPFL, there was still an appetite to go for the Lowland League. It will improve the quality of the league because it will be the best teams from the South and the better teams from the East.”