Thousands waiting dawn of a new season

BOCA SENIORS and Athletico Northfield may ply their trade at a level far below the glamour football clubs whose names they have part-borrowed, but they will begin the new amateur season this weekend with as much enthusiasm and pride at stake as their senior counterparts.

In Edinburgh and the Lothians every Saturday and Sunday for the next ten months, 160 teams comprising around 2,500 players will compete across three amateur leagues.

Despite the lengthy register of participants for the new campaign, the match secretary of the oldest association of the three, the Edinburgh Sunday Amateur FA (ESAFA), has reported a slight decline in the number of member clubs, while other leagues have increased the number of teams.

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Chris Smith, though, still believes the oldest established league, with 19 teams across its Premier and First Divisions, is top of the tree in terms of quality, if not sheer numbers.

"This coming season, membership is unfortunately pretty low," he says. "There have been new leagues forming in Edinburgh in recent years, but we should still have a good season. In terms of Scottish Cup participation, we are still the best. We've had finalists in recent years and our teams have gone farthest of any association.

"At the moment we have 19, whereas last season we had 26. It's a case of teams transferring to different leagues. With our association, because we have some quality teams, a lot of the teams who can't cope drop out.

"We try to promote playing against better teams, from this coming season, we'll have reduced rates, incentives for teams who sign up other teams."

ESAFA markets its leagues to potential member clubs in the face of competition from the Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur FA (LEAFA) and the Edinburgh and District Sunday Amateur League.

The situation reflects a stubbornness not unique in Scottish football, whereby teams of a similar level compete in varying niche leagues rather than come together as one association. ESAFA's Mr Smith sees too wide a chasm to bridge between the different leagues in order to ever effect a merger that would create a single 'Super League.'

"I've got my own views on it, as do a lot of other people," he says. "There is so much politics involved in it that, personally, I just want what is most competitive for the league."

Last season's league champions, LBC, the team affiliated to Lochend Boys' Club who reached the Scottish Amateur Cup final, came within one game of achieving the Grand Slam (league championship and four cups), and will be raring to go one better this year.

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Lothian Athletic, who pushed their rivals all the way in 2009/10, are expected to continue to do so this year.

EADSAFA will begin the campaign in rude health, with a membership of 33 teams across three leagues, but by far the largest association is LEAFA, who run six leagues of 12 teams each within their Saturday section, and a further 36 teams across three leagues every given Sunday.

The roster of more than 100 teams includes ten new clubs. Any club interested in joining should contact David Ramage on 0131-538 3222 for details.