Bonnyrigg Rose are exploring the possibility of leaving the Juniors and joining the East of Scotland League.
The East Super League outfit held a special general meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the club’s future direction and 82 per cent of members backed the committee to consider change. Two per cent were against, while 16 per cent abstained.
Although no final decision has been made, Bonnyrigg are considering joining the sixth level of Scottish football’s senior pyramid as a path to full SFA membership and guaranteed entry to the William Hill Scottish Cup. Joining the pyramid system would also support ambitions of becoming a fully-fledged SPFL club.
Bonnyrigg’s profile was raised significantly last season when they made the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup before losing 8-1 to then holders Hibs. It is understood that the East of Scotland League would welcome them into their division.
The New Dundas Park side now have until March 31 to make their application to the East of Scotland League for the 2018/19 campaign if they wish to go down that route although the Evening News understands that deadline could be extended due to an unprecedented level of interest from junior clubs considering making the switch.
The news comes as a blow to the East Region Juniors, who lost current top-flight champions Kelty Hearts to the East of Scotland League last year and could also lose Premier Division outfit Dalkeith Thistle, who are also planning to switch. Bonnyrigg are one of the bigger organisations in the Juniors and were Super League winners two years ago.
A statement on the Bonnyrigg Rose website read: “A special general meeting was held last night on proposals made by the committee in respect of the club’s future direction. The meeting was well attended and there was a Q&A session after the proposals were made and all questions asked, which were valid, as with any periods of change there is uncertainty, were answered to the best of the committee’s ability. We will take the mandate given to us by our members to set the wheels in motion in order to make the recommended proposal a reality over the course of the next few months. We would like to thank everyone who attended the meeting and for giving us an overwhelming vote of confidence, reinforcing the notion that we have, which is what we are trying to implement is for the future benefit for the club in the long term.”
BIG CHANGES COMING FOR LOCAL GAME
The news that Bonnyrigg could apply for East of Scotland membership, despite not being wholly unsurprising, will send shockwaves through the Juniors.
Bonnyrigg are one of the biggest clubs in the East Region – they’ve won the Super League three times, have won the Scottish Junior Cup twice and once had Sir Sean Connery on their books. There is no doubt that the Juniors will not want to lose one of their marquee names, especially after last season’s Super League conquerors, Kelty Hearts, went across to the East of Scotland League, but the harsh reality is that the Scottish pyramid structure is becoming more and more attractive to ambitious clubs. The Juniors, despite being a competitive and entertaining set-up, is a closed shop in terms of progression. Fleeting forays into the William Hill Scottish Cup is often as good as it gets for many teams and Bonnyrigg, having tasted the financial and sporting feasts of playing then-holders Hibs last season in the aforementioned competition, want more.
The East of Scotland League is not going to turn away teams like Rose. Only a few years ago it was almost left behind by the creation of the Lowland League, but next season it looks set to thrive. Where that leaves the Juniors – and its remaining “big fish” such as Linlithgow and Bo’ness – is more questionable. The next few months will be fascinating. The lower leagues in this area are going to change dramatically.