English clubs to be invited to play in Irn-Bru Cup

The Irn-Bru Cup will become a complete British and Irish affair after Uefa gave the SPFL approval'¨to include two teams from England's Vanarama National League in next season's knockout competition.

Inverness Caley Thistle are the current holders of the IRN-BRU Cup after defeating Dumbarton in the final in March. Picture: SNS.

Boreham Wood and Sutton United are expected to join the tournament.

Two years ago the competition was revamped with the introduction of ‘Colt’ under-20 teams from Scottish Premiership clubs as well as the inclusion of the Republic of Ireland’s Sligo Rovers and Bray Wanderers.

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Indeed, at one stage there were fears that the trophy would leave these shores when there was a chance of the last two surviving Scottish teams being knocked out of the 2018 semi-finals. Crusaders of Northern Ireland and Welsh side The New Saints reached the last four before losing to eventual winners Inverness Caledonian Thistle and runners-up Dumbarton respectively.

This has not deterred the SPFL and the competition will now involve teams from five countries, with two sides from the fifth level of English football being invited to take part after European football’s governing gave approval to increased cross-border participation.

The Vanarama National League was won by Macclesfield Town last month, with second placed Tranmere Rovers also returning to League 2 by winning a play-off at Wembley, so these clubs will not be involved in the Irn-Bru Cup.

However Boreham Wood, who lost to Tranmere Rovers in the showpiece game for promotion, are expected to be invited along with Sutton United who finished in third place.

Last season the teams from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales entered the Irn-Bru Cup at the second round stage and were kept apart in the draw for that round only. That policy is expected to be adopted again.

The 12 colts teams will again enter at the first round stage along with sides from the Championship, League 1 and League 2 as well as representatives from the Highland and Lowland League.

The date for the draw has still to be announced with discussions between the sponsor and the SPFL still on-going.