Edinburgh clubs will suffer under Juniors reconstruction

The East Region Juniors could be set for a shake-up for the 2018/19 season under a proposal put forward by the body running the semi-professional game.

Tuesday, 14th March 2017, 5:30 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:09 am
Edinburgh United (in red) sayd they will be out of pocket

The second-tier Premier League would be disbanded with three regional leagues set-up under the current Super League which would be reduced to 14 teams from 16.

The proposal has been put forward by the East Region management committee based on feedback from clubs, including the cost of travel, the current Premier League, size of the Super League and teams having too short a season,

The plans will be discussed at a committee meeting in Inverkeithing tonight where clubs are likely to vote on the motion. If a 50 per cent majority of clubs vote in favour, the proposal will be tabled at the governing body’s AGM in June.

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Newtongrange Star, who currently occupy one of two relegation spots in the Super League, would face at least two seasons in the ‘South League’ should they be relegated this season, with no promotion on offer from either of the three regional leagues next season if the proposal is pushed through. The bottom two of the Super League would be relegated next season and placed into either a ‘North’, ‘Central’ or ‘South’ League at the discretion of ERSJFA.

Despite the likelihood of Star facing the prospect of being outwith the top flight for two seasons, the club is in favour of the plans put forward.

“The club is going to accept the proposal, however we are not happy that there will be no promotion possibility next season,” said secretary Joe Wilson.

“The club understands that the travelling for a lot of the smaller clubs is causing issues and we don’t want to see any clubs go. While we are in a reasonable position financially, other clubs don’t have our finances and what comes through the gates of some other clubs, they can’t sustain paying that sort of money for bus travel.

“Should we go down, and the proposal gets carried we’ve got to accept whatever happens, we’ll rebuild over two seasons rather than over one, with the intentions of going straight back up at the first opportunity.”

The top team would be promoted from each of the regional leagues into the Super League under the plans proposed to commence for the 2018/19 season, with second placed teams entered into a four way play-off with fourth bottom from the Super League. The bottom three from the top flight would be relegated and placed into the relevant regional division by the ERSJFA.

Current Super League champions Bonnyrigg Rose are “on the fence” and will listen to the views of other clubs before making their final decision.

Secretary Robert Dickson said: “The travelling costs are getting extortionate. It’s £450 for a bus when you’re travelling up north. We are fortunate, we do generate a good crowd, but there are other clubs who toil and get three men and a dog at a game.

“It’s a shame for smaller clubs and you don’t want Junior football dwindling away. We’re sitting on the fence at the moment, we’ll see what other teams have got to say.”

Haddington Athletic, currently in the Premier League, would be placed into a 16-team South League under the proposal, containing Lothian clubs from Bathgate to Dunbar.

Chairman Drew Donaldson says the club are strongly against the notion of disbanding the Premier League, which he believes would be a backward step.

“We were firm movers of the previous one to create the Premier League and get away from one promotion spot, so this is a huge backward step in our opinion,” said Donaldson.

“It’s crazy because we are basically going back to where we were. If one team was to run away with the league you can forget promotion. This is our second season in the Premier League and there is hardly a meaningless league game, you are either fighting to get up to the top or fighting to get away from the bottom.

“We fought hard to get out the South for years and we went into the Premier League and it did cost us another two or three thousand pound on buses, but now players are quite happy to travel up in cars if we are playing up in Dundee.

Currently in the third tier South Division, Edinburgh United would be moved to the Central League under the idea along with Craigroyston in a 16-team division comprising of mainly Fife-based clubs.

That would mean more travelling for Edinburgh’s only two clubs, who would likely require coach travel for every fixture away from home.

It’s just not feasible according to Edinburgh United committee member Kevin Hanratty.

He said: “From an across the board point of view it’s going backwards and from a club point of view we’d have the same travel over the bridge as we did in the Premier League but playing a less calibre of team.

“As much as people can complain about having too many games towards the end of the season, it’s a better way of doing it than going back to the old way. It would favour teams with bigger budgets with only one promotion place.”