The Pyramid

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The Pyramid

Postby Alan McCabe » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:41 am

Some very interesting developments over the past few weeks in regard to the Scottish pyramid system.

While both Kelty Hearts and Bo'ness United appear to making serious noises about the pyramid structure, neither have categorically stated that they would move from the junior ranks. Both appear keen on positioning themselves and attaining the relevant SFA licensing requirements to allow for easy access should change come. The major problem lies with the continued lack of interest shown from the SJFA as almost all of its member clubs do not see a move to the 6th tier (currently only the weak South of S League and struggling East of S League) as a viable option. With no West of S option available it is easy to see why junior clubs from that area have no yearning to embrace the geographically imbalanced pyramid set-up.

Throw into the mix the fact that some Lowland League members have little or no history of playing adult football (BSC Glasgow and Cumbernauld Colts), allied to the fact that some full SFA members have no recognised self-funded ground (the aforementioned pair plus Stirling University and non-LL Glasgow University) and you can understand the juniors' reluctance. Most LL clubs offer little in regard to travelling fan numbers with the isolated spread seeing a number of long journeys undertaken for contests that can regularly attract double-figure crowd numbers.

If this casts serious doubt on the perceived standing of the 5th tier of the senior game, then it's about to get a whole lot worse. It's no secret that few, if any, of the largely amateur South of S League clubs aspire to LL membership. Threave Rovers, the area's best supported side, were seemingly delighted to return to the South League after some forgettable adventures in the LL. Wigtown & Bladnoch appeared to be invincible for most of this current season before a calamitous late collapse saw them lose the title amid all sorts of rumours of strange goings on. While their collapse appears to be down to playing numbers, what is not in doubt is that the club had no intentions at all of moving to the LL since such a promotion would almost certainly have resulted in the club folding. They have neither the finance, playing pool or inclination to ascend the levels yet this is what the SFA's pyramid has created.

To compound matters, the only 'club', and I use that description questionably, to show any interest in moving to LL from the South League is Edusport Academy, they duly overtaking W&B to clinch the league title on Saturday. This is an organisation which operates effectively a football boarding school for young French players with language education offered via two colleges in Glasgow and Edinburgh. They used to play at Hamilton Palace grounds before, hey presto, an agreement to groundshare with Annan Athletic at Galabank saw them attained full SFA membership. They offer nothing tangible to the betterment of Scottish football, have no community base (they are evidently looking to groundshare somewhere further north), no support and, quite frankly, are for all intents and purposes a 'non club'. That Edusport Academy will in all probability be playing at the 5th tier of the senior game next season underlines the current problem with the pyramid.

No wonder the juniors aren't wholeheartedly embracing this concept! Hopefully the interest shown by Kelty and Bo'ness could be the driving force that eventually sees tangible change.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby bluedragon » Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:37 am

The geography of Scotland adds to the complexities of a Pyramid system. The Scottish Junior Football Association cannot afford to sit outside the development of the structure. I don’t know what the answer is but it cannot isolate itself or there is a risk of being left behind.

Perhaps the SJFA should consider the story of the Northern League from the North-East of England. From 1906 it was an amateur league and a very strong competition. On occasions its select team provided an “England” team to play Junior Scotland. Its clubs regularly won the FA Amateur Cup.

The first unofficial steps towards the English Pyramid were taken in 1968 when the Northern Premier League was formed to bring together the best semi-professional clubs from the north of England. The Northern League was amateur and therefore could not provide any clubs to the new league. The only clubs from the North East (Ashington, Gateshead & South Shields) came from the North Regional League (mainly Football League reserve teams). By the time amateur status was abolished in 1974 it was going to be more difficult for the Northern League to find a way in. Today only two former Northern League clubs are playing at the top levels of non-league football but only at Step 3. They are Blyth Spartans and Spennymoor Town (formerly Evenwood Town). Had the Northern League been able to provide clubs to the fledging Northern Premier League in 1968 then I am sure today there would more clubs from Durham, Northumberland and Cumberland playing further up the Pyramid.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby EastJunior » Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:54 am

As has been said, the promotion of Edusport underlines the ham fisted bodge job the SFA made of the Lowland League, and to be fair the Licencing system which allows a "club" like that to play at the 5th tier (and BSC). A club with no ground, no community, no fans.

The most obvious step forward is to split the Lowland League into East and West Divisions. This would cut travelling involved, and be the carrot that clubs in the West Region Juniors would need to get serious. Auchinleck Talbot want a Licence but understandably are not interested in moving to the SoSFL or the current LL to comply with it's requirements. I suspect they would be very interested in a LL West Division.

Kelty and Bo'ness want Licences as well and to be involved in the Pyramid, but I get the impression they would rather only do so as part of an organised integration with most/all Junior clubs on board. A move to the EoSFL is a risky proposition, that league has been losing clubs to the East Region Juniors in the last two seasons and is pretty weak. I think their motives are more to do with getting the issue on the table, get the blazers at the SJFA taking it seriously.

Interesting times, I think we are closer than ever to seeing a true Pyramid involving all non-league clubs, although given this is Scotland and the SFA / SJFA are involved it won't go smoothly.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby bluedragon » Thu Apr 27, 2017 10:06 am

Alan McCabe wrote:It's no secret that few, if any, of the largely amateur South of S League clubs aspire to LL membership. Threave Rovers, the area's best supported side, were seemingly delighted to return to the South League after some forgettable adventures in the LL. Wigtown & Bladnoch appeared to be invincible for most of this current season before a calamitous late collapse saw them lose the title amid all sorts of rumours of strange goings on. While their collapse appears to be down to playing numbers, what is not in doubt is that the club had no intentions at all of moving to the LL since such a promotion would almost certainly have resulted in the club folding. They have neither the finance, playing pool or inclination to ascend the levels yet this is what the SFA's pyramid has created.



The English Pyramid is a more mature model and recognises this conflict between a club wanting to win its league but not, as a result, being forced into an unwanted promotion.

At Step 5 in their Pyramid clubs who want promotion have to advise the administrators in November to allow time for an assessment to be carried out that they meet ground requirements for the next step up. If they pass and finish as champions up they go. If they either fail or have not made an application but finish as champions then the promotion chance falls to the runner-up using the same process and then in turn to the 3rd place club but no further.

Using the previous example of the Northern League then Bishop Auckland FC and South Shields FC are the only clubs from that league to make a promotion application by November 2016. South Shields will be promoted but Bishop Auckland finished in 8th place.

The learning point is that in England they seem to have found the level where promotion is optional and recognise the financial cost of clubs competing in a new league with a wider catchment area at a higher standard. If a Northern League were promoted then they would have moved from playing in the North East to playing in Lancashire and Yorkshire, North Wales and Derbyshire and with no local derby(ies).

The geography and demographics may be different but the challenge is the same.
Last edited by bluedragon on Wed May 03, 2017 9:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby EastJunior » Thu Apr 27, 2017 12:58 pm

The view of many of the top Junior clubs (rightly or wrongly) is that they have little or no interest at playing at a national level ie SPFL2, against clubs that really aren’t any bigger than themselves. There are a few exceptions of course.

My opinion is that involvement in the Lowland League could change that opinion IF the Lowland League is reformed to better reflect the demographics of Scotland and in turn attract Junior clubs. There are far more people living in the central belt, and far more clubs as a result, therefore a single division Lowland League mirroring the Highland League just doesn’t work. The three region Junior system is a perfect fit for Tier 5.

There is also an opinion that having 42 clubs playing nationally is far too many, and that SPFL2 should be absorbed into a regional set-up. That is probably a step too far for Scottish fitba at the moment, we don’t do radical change very often.

I’m not sure that refusing promotion is really relevant to Scotland, and you don’t really want to encourage clubs to refuse promotion into the SPFL, that would make a bit of a mockery of it.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby bluedragon » Fri Apr 28, 2017 8:58 am

EastJunior wrote:I’m not sure that refusing promotion is really relevant to Scotland, and you don’t really want to encourage clubs to refuse promotion into the SPFL, that would make a bit of a mockery of it.


I have not really thought this through in any great detail but I was thinking that if the Lowland League was split into west and east as you suggested then the Juniors and the East and South of Scotland Leagues could feed in to these two leagues but giving clubs the option on promotion and if they opted for it would have to have passed ground licencing licence requirements to move up. Once they are in the Lowland League then they must take a promotion into the SPFL. So the option to refuse promotion is further down.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby EastJunior » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:17 am

Yes fair enough, if the West and East Junior Superleagues “plugged into” a new Lowland League West and East, then at that point you require a Licence to progress into the LL. If you have a Licence then you are obliged to go up, if you don’t have a Licence in the first place you won’t go up anyway. So I guess the mechanism is already there for refusing promotion by simply not having a Licence. The same would apply I guess to HL/North Junior Superleague.

We’re a long way from that though, eg there is no functioning pyramid in the North. Banks O’Dee are licenced and want HL membership, but for whatever reason are being refused. Not sure what the SFA’s views are on that, or if they actually care enough to recognise that the pyramid isn’t really functioning as a pyramid below Tier 5.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby Rob R » Sun Apr 30, 2017 2:19 am

With the exeption of the Highland League, the East and West Junior set ups are far stronger than their senior counterparts, so I would suggest that those senior clubs with the relevant enclosed grounds join their regional juniors clubs and that they become the East & West set ups.The North regional juniors with the proper facilities could become the 2nd Division of the Highland League . South of Scotland League would join with the West juniors and the EoS League with the East Juniors. Then we could have a play off of the three regional winners involved with the bottom SPFL club in a Semi Final draw. As I've stated before in a previous thread I would like to see the Scottish Junior Cup also involving all senior non League clubs and this being used as a Scottish FA Cup qualifier for the season after with say the last 16 or 8 clubs in the Junior Cup getting a first round place in the Senior competition. My preference for a Scottish Cup draw would be 28 SPFL Clubs & 8 Non League clubs (From season befores Junior Cup ) 36 teams = 18 ties and the 2nd round 14 SPFL teams plus 1he 18 survivors from the first round giving us 32 teams = 16 games ,nice easy figures to work with. I would also like the SPFL to go back to a 3 division set up of 14 clubs each ( that ties in nicely with the number of teams that come into the Cup at the 2nd round ) Having a split after 26 games and a 12 game Championship/Promotion group and likewise a relegation group giving you 38 games in total(same number we have now ) where you play your oppostion the same number of times home and away unlike the present play off's inadequate system.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby gogsy1968 » Sat May 06, 2017 5:37 pm

If I was a betting man, I would be putting money on Kelty being in East of Scotland league next season
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby BMCCOLL » Sat May 06, 2017 10:00 pm

The play-offs/pyramid has certainly livened things up at the foot of the league 2/ Third Division, whatever it's called now. For years it was a closed shop, now that some young turks want to move up makes things that much more interesting! EK are firing on all cylinders and have been working up to this point, good luck to them.
http://scottish-football-historical-archive.co.uk
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby EastJunior » Mon May 08, 2017 10:14 am

gogsy1968 wrote:If I was a betting man, I would be putting money on Kelty being in East of Scotland league next season

I'm not convinced, but if it does happen then it would certainly send a few ripples through Junior fitba. Likely East Region Champions jumping ship to the struggling East of Scotland League. However I recall Lothian Thistle HV beating Kelty Hearts in the Scottish Cup a couple of seasons back, it wouldn’t be a stroll towards the LL that they perhaps think it may be.

That said, if this did happen it would prompt maybe Bo’ness to follow suit the season after given they want a Licence and in turn maybe tempt Linlithgow who are already Licenced, I don’t think it would take too much for the East Region to agree to “plug in” below the LL if that happens (leading to a merger with the EoS), however that does not resolve the issue of what the West Region do, the LL is not the right format to be the top of the tree for both of these Regions.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby Alan McCabe » Wed May 10, 2017 9:00 am

With Edusport Academy having been confirmed as being promoted to the LL as Preston Athletic's replacement for next season, I think it aptly demonstrates one of the major flaws in the SFA licensing criteria.
While finance, youth development, accessibility and all sorts of requirements are listed, surely the need to have a stipulated home city / town / village should be a necessity. I'm fairly sure the FA introduced a 5 mile radius rule to clubs relocating, this coming in the aftermath of Wimbledon's decanting to distant Milton Keynes. Our 5th tier seniors and SFA members have no such regulations to acknowledge since the SFA appear content to let clubs effectively hock their way around whichever desperate clubs are happy to take them.
Wherever Edusport ends up playing their £16,000 per annum French students has yet to be confirmed but it is fairly certain it won't be at Galabank. Broomhill SC from Glasgow's west end has already moved to play home LL games at Alloa, 40 miles away, while Stirling University play home games 11 miles from home at Falkirk. While not LL members, SFA affiliated Glasgow University play at Airdrie to satisfy licensing requirements as Garscube cannot possibly meet the new criteria.
Call me a traditionalist, but these nomadic shenanigans cannot possibly be in keeping with the ethos of SFA licensing. Surely clubs require to put down roots somewhere appropriate that involves some kind of community involvement. There are numerous 5th tier and lower clubs which have spent and borrowed considerably to upgrade THEIR OWN facilities. It cannot be right that clubs like Edusport Academy can effectively jump the queue with no tangible asset outlay.
On a side note, and possibly of little surprise to anyone who's read this entire thread, I fail to see what Edusport Academy brings to the Scottish game and find it utterly embarrassing that they will be competing one level below SFL grade next season.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby bluedragon » Wed May 10, 2017 10:29 am

Alan McCabe wrote: I'm fairly sure the FA introduced a 5 mile radius rule to clubs relocating, this coming in the aftermath of Wimbledon's decanting to distant Milton Keynes.


All leagues in England sanctioned by the FA have to adopt some standard rules. This is the one on giving consent to the location of a ground:

In consideration whether to give such consent the Board shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case and shall not grant consent unless it is reasonably satisfied that such consent:-
1) would be consistent with the objectives of the Competition as set out in the Memorandum of Association;
2) would be appropriate having in mind the relationship (if any) between the locality with which by its name or otherwise the applicant Club is traditionally associated and that in which such Club proposes to establish its Ground;
3) would not adversely affect such Club’s Officials, Players, supporters, shareholders, sponsors and others having an interest in its activities;
4) would not have an adverse effect on visiting Clubs;
5) would not adversely affect Clubs having their registered Grounds in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location, and
6) would enhance the reputation of the Competition and promote the game of association football generally.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby bluedragon » Thu May 11, 2017 10:04 am

I am comparing these issues with English arrangements once again as their pyramid structure is mature and has been through many of the issues facing the Scottish structure today.

Team Bath FC from the University of Bath worked their way up the non-league Pyramid to Step 2 (Conference South). However, in the 2008/09 season the Football Conference (now the National League) determined that the club’s constitution did not meet its regulations. At around this time there was also press interest to try and establish how the club was funded in its relationship with the University. As a result of the ruling by the Football Conference, the club was barred from further promotion unless it reformed its constitution. The aim of the club was to achieve a place in the Football League. With a club decision then taken not to change arrangements advancement to the Football League was now closed to them and the club resigned from the Football Conference.

The current rules for the English National League System states:

Teams from Higher Education or Further Education establishments are not permitted to compete above Step 5. This does not prevent any such establishment forming a Club which complies with all entry criteria and which is separate from the establishment itself.


So in England the football club has to be seen to be operating in a sufficiently arm’s length arrangement from the educational establishment.

So in Scotland you can see how say Edinburgh University AFC operates clearly within the spirit of the English requirements. It is more difficult to understand how the English administrators would interpret a club where the education and football elements are so closely inter-twined.
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Re: The Pyramid

Postby bluedragon » Sat Jun 10, 2017 9:24 am

gogsy1968 wrote:If I was a betting man, I would be putting money on Kelty being in East of Scotland league next season


Pity you did not make a small investment! Kelty Hearts will be in the East of Scotland Football League next season following the decision to approve their application at the East of Scotland FA AGM on Thursday. They have made it clear that their long-term ambition is entry into the SPFL.
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