Junior football clubs back move to join SFA pyramid system

Junior clubs have backed moves to join the Scottish Football Association's pyramid system, with around two thirds in favour of proposals put forward by the Scottish Junior Football Association.

Bonnyrigg Rose revealed that they were planning to follow Kelty Hearts out of the Juniors and into the East of Scotland League. Picture: Alistair Linford

Of 158 clubs who responded to a questionnaire sent out by the SJFA, 99 replied yes to the question: “Should Junior Football join the current pyramid system?”

Just 55 clubs were not in favour.

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Last week, current East Super League leaders Bonnyrigg Rose revealed that they were making plans to leave the Junior game, following in the footsteps of Kelty Hearts, who made the transition to the East of Scotland league at the start of this season.

It is understood that a majority of East-based Junior clubs backed the proposal to join the SFA pyramid.

At present, the pyramid has six tiers, with the four Scottish Professional Football Leagues followed by the Lowland and Highland Leagues (fifth tier) and the East of Scotland and South of Scotland Leagues (sixth tier). Under the current system, the Lowland and Highland League winners play off for the right to challenge the bottom club in the SPFL for their place in League 2.

The SJFA secretary, Tom Johnston, has already written to the SFA to inform them of the results of the three-question survey, which also asked if clubs were currently in line with SFA licensing criteria.

“We realised that there were a growing swell of clubs who wanted to take part in the senior game, so the results have not come as a surprise to us,” said Johnston.

“We’ll take steps to arrange an EGM either sooner or prior to our AGM in June. I’ve already advised the SFA of the outcome of the questionnaire and we’ve been in discussions with Stewart Regan [former chief executive of the SFA] previously.

“It will democratically decided and whatever wins the day, will win the day and it will be up to those other clubs to decide what they want to do, and we’ll see where it takes us.”

Johnston admitted he was surprised to hear of Bonnyrigg’s wish to leave the Junior game last week, with Premier League Dalkeith Thistle having previously expressed their wish to join the East of Scotland League.

He added: “That was a surprise to us. I’m finding it hard to follow the logic of Bonnyrigg. They could have been playing in and winning the Scottish Junior Cup and participating in the Scottish senior cup. I haven’t heard for definite from Bonnyrigg that they have left, so until that happens I don’t know. The Lothian areas are predominantly Junior country so if they do decide to go, I’ll be surprised.

“We don’t want to lose any of our clubs whether they are big or small. We want to retain our numbers as best we can and give them a level of football that they’ll find hard to get elsewhere. I think the Junior game is quite unique.

“If they want to move we’ll wish them well, but we’d much rather they didn’t. There’s a lot of clubs that will never be able to finance club licensing, and that’s some of the bigger clubs. Finance is a major issue, but if that is the will of the clubs, we’ll go.”