Date: 6th April 2021
The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:
The lower leagues can sometimes be an afterthought.
As grassroots football is resuming across the country, the changes that have been made to try and democratise the leagues and bring back in the types of fertile ground that sees the Ashfield’s, the Pollok’s and the Brora Rangers mentioned can be hard to find in the daily pages of our sporting media outlets.
The fact is that they do not sell papers or heighten the click bait.
What they do, is support the progress of players from the sofa to the pitch. They work tirelessly in the community at making sure that we have a product with depth. For every Andy Robertson, able to show progress from Queen’s Park to European Champion, there are thousands of other players who get an opportunity with a small time team, take it and progress to the level they wish. Parading their wares on a fortnightly basis to smaller crowds their support of the game is the life blood of football. For the fan standing in the cold October rain with the hope they can see their team, this year, manage a half decent season, they dine out on cup runs and hope to progress to the league above; for some of us, there is always a league above!
In many communities all over Scotland there are thousands who support Barcelona as their second team whilst their local team has their true heart.
And so recently the announcement came that the Lower League champs are Kelty Hearts and the Highland champions are Brora Rangers. Their season was 3 games long.
They go head to head against each other for the opportunity to play the lowest placed team at the foot of League Two.
Or do they?
Both Highland and Lowland Leagues, well aware that the validity of the pyramid system was at stake, took the selfless decision to vote through their representatives as winners of a hardly even begun league.
There was no announcement, however, from the SPFL, that the winner of this two leg playoff would get to meet the lowest placed SPFL team in the final. You are left wondering if this is just a ploy rather than a realistic attempt to keep the pyramid structure relevant.
Aside from a run in the Scottish Cup – ironically, Kelty Hearts’ conquerors were drawn against Brora Rangers in the next round of the cup and dismissed the Highland League side to progress – neither side shall play a league game before the play off. Then they may or they may not play Brechin City or Albion Rovers or Cowdenbeath or Annan Athletic or none of them.
The League Two season has resumed. If there and is no opportunity for either Kelty hearts nor Brora Rangers to pit themselves against a League Two side, then along with no trophy, there is little glory and with no fans for the winner of the two league play off, you have to ask the point.
At present they are even unable to fully train!
It would be another farcical element in an already strange couple of years if this semi-final, did not lead to a final. I have great sympathy for the fans of Brechin City whose fall from the Championship to the foot of the SPFL is tragic, but if we truly believe that this type of grassroots football is valuable we need to value it properly and not with token gestures which are going to devalue the supporter who supports their local team. I cannot see much in the diaries of the lower leagues for the weekends after the second leg of the play off. Perhaps the SPFL should fill it in now with confirmation of the final match being actually played. Why not even make it Hampden – after all, they don’t need a crowd!
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