SFA turns lights off on St Andrews United membership hopes

United have made a series of upgrades to Barnetts Park.
United have made a series of upgrades to Barnetts Park.
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St Andrews United have joined a list of clubs left simmering by an SFA membership snub.

The Barnetts Park side had hoped to join the game’s governing body in Scotland and, in doing so, continue their progression from the junior set-up to the senior ranks.

At the beginning of last season United, and several other Scottish junior clubs, left the juniors to join the East of Scotland League.

A licence from the SFA is not required to play in the East of Scotland League, but clubs that possess such an award receive additional grants, support, prize-money, sponsorship and promotion opportunities plus entry into the same Scottish Cup as the top teams in the country.

However, clubs, including Saints and the likes of Bonnyrigg Rose, have been left livid after a change was made to the qualifying criteria last season relating to the installation of floodlights.

Now, despite spending an estimated five figure sum upgrading Barnetts Park, and submitting a £2000 application fee to join the SFA, United have been told their move has been turned down.

A club spokesman said: “Unfortunately, the SFA’s decision midway through the 2018/19 season to stipulate the need for floodlights as an additional requirement placed several clubs such as Saints into a compromised position.

“An incredible amount of work was still undertaken by supporters, volunteers and the chairman to satisfy all other licensing criteria and we hoped for a period of derogation to allow for the installation of floodlights at such short notice.

“Planning provision and quotes for the cost of such work have since been sought but a short email circulated by SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell on Tuesday has derailed our attempts to secure that desired licence.

“Since the SFA’s decision to withhold licences from St Andrews United, Bonnyrigg Rose, Camelon, Dundonald Bluebell, Haddington Athletic and Tranent could actually prevent the continued improvement in standards across Scotland, several clubs must now consider whether or not further investment is going to be worthwhile in the long-term.”

United admit they had to grapple for some time with the idea of leaving the juniors in the first place, but had been persuaded by a number of factors.

The development of a pyramid style structure in Scotland appealed and, with so many other clubs choosing to leave as well, it helped persuade those at Saints that the future lay in the seniors and membership of the SFA.

United may feel they’ve been slapped in the face, but are determined not to let their hard work off the field go to waste.

The spokesman added: “Should we wish to proceed with plans to obtain a licence plus SFA membership then our £2000 entry fee is still valid and another application may be made next year once we have installed working floodlights.

“The player budget has already been discussed for next season and our hopes of winning promotion to the East of Scotland Premier League will not be greatly affected by the disappointing news.

“We congratulate Blackburn United, Broxburn Athletic, Easthouses Lily, Hill of Beath Hawthorn, Penicuik Athletic and Tynecastle for successfully obtaining membership of the SFA this week – hopefully we will be playing those sides in the 2020/21 Scottish Cup as part of our centenary season celebrations

A Scottish FA spokesperson said: “Applications from clubs for Scottish FA membership are assessed against the club licensing criteria which is approved by the board of the Scottish FA.”