Bohemians have called for a rethink on Irish clubs’ involvement in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup as they believe the cross-border competition is devaluing their own national cup.
They have also criticised the rebranding of the Challenge Cup, claiming the new name invites people to “sneer”.
Uddingston-based bakery Tunnock’s took over the sponsorship of the competition this season from Irn-Bru. The tournament is run by the Scottish Professional Football League who have expanded it in recent years to include teams from Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and the English National League.
The Challenge Cup used to be only for teams in the Scottish senior leagues below the top flight.
Waterford manager Alan Reynolds has also been critical of the competition.
The quarter-finals of the FAI Cup were due to be played last weekend but Waterford’s last-eight tie with Dundalk was postponed to allow them to play Hearts Colts in the Challenge Cup last Friday night.
International call-ups have also disrupted Ireland’s national knockout tournament and Bohemians had two players involved with the Republic Under-21 squad which meant their FAI Cup quarter-final against Crumlin United was postponed. However, it would not have gone ahead anyway as the Tunnock’s tie with Airdrieonians would have taken precedence and the Dublin club believe that both scenarios are wrong.
Airdrie beat a weakened Bohemians side 3-2 in Lanarkshire last weekend.
Bohs scratched from last season’s competition due to fixture issues after their quarter-final tie with East Fife was scheduled to take place in October after the Irish season had finished and was then postponed 10 minutes before kick-off in February.
In an article on their website, Bohemians said: “The involvement of Irish clubs in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Scottish Challenge Cup has come in for much criticism and derision.
“Even the name of it seems to invite a sneer.
“The fact the FAI Cup quarter-finals are scheduled the same week as when Irish clubs are supposed to compete in the Scottish Challenge Cup is a source of much frustration.
“Many argue – convincingly – that Irish clubs’ participation in the Scottish Challenge Cup taking precedence over the last-eight of the FAI Cup is an insult to the country’s premier cup competition. It is particularly frustrating considering the same scheduling clash occurred last season [in a tie against Derry City]. Once was perhaps understandable, but for it to happen a second time is hard to fathom.
“But if Irish clubs are to continue in this tournament, the scheduling of the FAI Cup ought to be addressed and given the respect it deserves.”
There has also been criticism from closer to home, with Ayr United manager Ian McCall accusing the SPFL of “ruining” the Challenge Cup as he slammed the “rag-tag” revamp of the competition.
Championship side Ayr endured an ultimately fruitless nine-hour round-trip to Wales last Saturday to face Wrexham, losing out on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
While Ayr were admirably well supported at the Racecourse Ground, both sides made wholesale changes and McCall reckons a once great tournament has been cheapened by inviting clubs from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland to compete.
“I took part in that competition years ago as a journeyman lower league player and it was a great competition to play in,” McCall said. “I played in the final and there were 14,000 fans there for St Mirren v Falkirk. Now it’s just a rag-tag tournament.
“We had ten players out on Saturday, Wrexham left about eight out and, as crazy as it sounds for a Scottish tournament, even the type of footballs we played with were completely different in Wales.
“I get it: they are round. But it’s still very different.
“It’s just a rag-tag competition now and it’s been ruined in my opinion.”