Merger hailed for raising standards in amateur game

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The chief of the biggest amateur football set-up in the Lothians has hailed the impact of a recent merger of associations and praised the influence of the teams who have helped strengthen the game in and around the Capital.

Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur FA (LEAFA) joined forces with Edinburgh Sunday Amateur FA in the summer to form the largest organisation of its type, and the only other aside from the Edinburgh and District Sunday Amateur FA, in the local area.

Charles Gallacher, President of LEAFA, welcomed the added competition offered by 15 former ESAFA teams, who have fitted into a new-look pyramid that comprises more than 100 teams across its Saturday and Sunday sections.

“Everything’s gone really smoothly,” said Gallacher. “As president, I’m delighted with the contribution that all the new teams have made to the association. They have recognised and understood the standards we expect and have matched them and surpassed them. They have raised the quality of our playing members, and have raised the bar in the association.”

Gallacher said that due to an increase in the number of teams participating within a single association, member clubs are benefiting from being able to “find their level” more easily, leading to closer matches and heightened competitiveness.

“In amateur football, there are a lot of different standards, and it’s our goal to allow people to find their standard and give them an opportunity to win a cup or league at that standard,” said Gallacher. “I think all of the teams in the association are benefiting from the incoming clubs – we’ve managed to achieve [creating leagues with] more teams at their own standard.”

One success story for LEAFA has come in the form of LBC, the Lochend club currently vying with The Jolly for first place in (Sunday) Premier Division 1.

Manager Gary Amos saw his side emerge from 4-2 down with a quarter of an hour to play on Sunday to triumph in their Scottish Cup tie at Coatbridge against Centre Point. Success in the national tourney is the priority for Amos and Co., and the boss thinks his side can only grow stronger by being part of a larger league association with an emphasis on positive discipline.

“There are better teams and it’s more competitive now,” said Amos. “Sometimes [in the ESAFA league] teams wouldn’t turn up, but now they would be deducted points – you can’t get away with anything.

“If you’ve got a single association, you’ve got stronger teams. Everybody’s got their level, some just want to play football, others want to take it seriously.”

Mayfield & Easthouses, former stable mates of LBC in the now-defunct ESAFA league, made the unique move of flitting from Sunday to Saturday football when changing association. The switch has paid off for the Midlothian side, whose manager Robert Hogg mirrored the thoughts of his counterpart Amos by citing the standard of discipline as a major draw of LEAFA.

“It’s our first season in the LEAFA set-up and it’s well-run by [Administration Secretary] David Ramage and Charles Gallacher,” said Hogg. “We’re adapting well, starting in the bottom tier and off to a great start. We have to improve to step up the leagues and hopefully it’s looking good for us with the end of the season in mind. We’ve got to set them certain targets from now until the end of the season.

“The Sunday league when we first started in 2006 was good, but they had problems with discipline in recent seasons. The guys running the league did their best – and I’m not decrying them. I must admit I was a bit sceptical of joining LEAFA at first, but the standard of refereeing is good. We respect what the referees do – without them we would not have a game.”