Auchinleck Talbot chief: Playing in SPFL would damage club's identity

The secretary of leading Junior side Auchinleck Talbot has insisted the club has no desire to play senior football, over fears it would damage the Ayrshire team's identity.

Auchinleck Talbot celebrate a goal in a Junior Cup tie. The Bot have won the trophy 11 times. Picture: Greg Macvean
Auchinleck Talbot celebrate a goal in a Junior Cup tie. The Bot have won the trophy 11 times. Picture: Greg Macvean

Henry Dumigan spoke out in the wake of clubs backing plans to allow Junior teams to gain access to the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) through a pyramid system, telling the BBC: “We certainly didn’t vote for it.”

The Bot are one of the most successful Junior sides in the country, having won the Scottish Junior Cup on 11 occasions, the league five times and more than 30 assorted smaller cup tournaments including the Ayrshire Cup.

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They reached the fourth round of the Scottish Cup in the 2011/12 season, and were drawn to face Hearts at Tynecastle, narrowly losing 1-0 to the eventual winners.

Talbot currently play in the West of Scotland Super League Premier Division, facing teams such as Clydebank, Pollok, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy and fierce rivals Cumnock Juniors.

The Scottish Junior Football Association (SJFA) has scheduled an extraordinary general meeting in June, and will hold talks with both the Scottish FA and SPFL about the proposal.

Dumigan, however, is adamant that Auchinleck won’t be giving up their Junior status.

READ MORE - Bonnyrigg Rose to consider move into East of Scotland League

Speaking to BBC Scotland Sport, he said: “We play in the Junior grade of football and I think that’s a good grade. We compete very well with the lower leagues of senior football, but that’s where we see ourselves and that’s it.

“It’s not a lack of ambition. We’ve been a junior club since 1909 and have never had aspirations to go senior.

“We’ve done reasonably well in the Scottish Cup and competed well with the senior clubs, but we see ourselves as a junior football team.

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“We’re very proud to be a junior club. We have no ambition to play senior football. We feel there’s a strong possibility that it will damage the identity of the club.”

Dumigan’s comments came less than a week after it was revealed that East Super League side Bonnyrigg Rose were exploring the possibility of leaving the Junior level and competing in the East of Scotland League.

Last year, Kelty Hearts quit the Juniors for the East of Scotland League, and the pyramid structure is an attractive model for ambitious clubs.

Dumigan conceded it was likely that Junior football will join the pyramid system in the future, but insisted that the Beechwood Park outfit are confident of meeting the “entry level” licensing criteria.

Clubs looking to play senior football must adhere to strict SFA guidelines, including stringent health and safety regulations, a certain standard of stadia and facilities and accessibility for disabled fans.

Dumigan is of the belief that Auchinleck’s existing facilities would help them make the step up more easily, if required.

“We’re pretty confident we could get it because we have the facilities that would help us achieve that level - because if we’re in there, we want to do as well as we possibly can, even if we’ve no ambitions to do it,” he explained.

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Some clubs could face a financial stumbling block if Junior football does join the pyramid system, with Dumigan warning it would be tough on teams that lack adequate facilities.

He said: “There will be a cost implication, and for clubs that don’t have that level of facilities, and if they have aspirations of going higher, there’s going to be a big cost.”