Scottish Junior Football Association secretary Tom Johnston admits they didn’t do enough to convince Junior clubs in the east to stay, although he doesn’t know what more they could have done.
Junior football in the east has changed drastically with 24 clubs having signed up for the East of Scotland League as of next season. Every club east of West Lothian has departed, leaving behind an association mainly comprised of Fife and Tayside based clubs.
The format of the East Juniors for next season is still to be rubber-stamped by administrators, but the Evening News understands a regionalised structure of three leagues will be put in place.
Johnston, secretary of the SJFA, says Junior football still has a future, although he says they’ll learn a lot from the east exodus.
“We’ll just continue as we have done before,” said Johnston. “It might be a depleted East Region we have, but we are still very strong in the north and the west. We will continue as we have done previously.
“It’s disappointing to see all these clubs leaving, especially seeing as they have been around for a long, long time as Junior clubs. If that’s what they want to do... it’s really entirely up to them. We’ll focus on the teams that remain and we’ll march on.
“It seems to have been a kind of domino effect recently, a lot of clubs left because of others. I don’t know what we could have done about that. We’ll look at it and we’ll learn. From what remains, we’ll try and make that stronger.”
Johnston is confident west clubs won’t end up joining an equivalent league, with plans still in place to bring the Juniors in line with the SFA’s Pyramid.
He continued: “If we get in at tier 6 in the Pyramid, I don’t think there would be any requirement for them to leave. What they have got there in the west is a pretty strong organisation, so I don’t see the same applying in the west.
“We’ll learn from the situation in the east and we’ll make improvements and we’ll take it forward.
“Obviously we didn’t do enough to convince clubs to stay in the Juniors, but I don’t now what else we could have done. I went out and met the clubs and talked with them. Even up until the rest of the clubs started pulling out, we had conviction from them that they would continue. People changed their mind at the last minute, so I don’t know how we would have been expected to cater or cope with that.”