08/06/2007 : Cup changes welcomed


HENRY McClelland, the chairman of East Premier League champions Annan Athletic is hoping that the Scottish Cup shakeup is just the forerunner of big changes in the country's football structure.

The Annan Athletic chairman is 'over-the-moon' about the changes which mean his side go straight into the 2nd round of the Scottish Cup,   courtesy of their East Premier League title win last season.

And McClelland is now looking for a further change which will see a pyramid system brought in with teams like Annan in with a chance of Scottish League football in the near future.

At Friday's meeting the shape of the Scottish Cup was changed after clubs approved a new set of Cup competition rules was put forward by the SFA to its members to change the face of the national cup competition.

The ground-breaking area of the plan is the introduction of four clubs from the Scottish Junior FA, including the winners of the Scottish Junior Cup and the winners of the three Junior Super Leagues and the
scrapping of the North and South Qualifying Cups.

They have been scrapped in favour of an all-in draw, so the Scottish Cup will be played over eight rounds, with the SPL sides entering at the last 32 stage. Semi-final replays have also been scrapped and matches at that stage will be played to a finish.

At present teams such as Annan Athletic, Threave Rovers, Dalbeattie Star, Newton Stewart and Wigtown have to qualify by reaching the semi-final stage of the Qualifying Cup.

"We're all absolutely delighted with the way things have turned out and it means that we are into the 2nd round of the Scottish Cup this season.

The reward for winning the Premier League is a 2nd round place along with the Division 3 clubs.

"Unfortunately there is no other reward or incentive and we are now hoping that restructuring of the leagues will take place in the near  future," he said.

The Annan chairman added: "In the SFA's annual report there is mention of the pyramid system and we are hoping that the cup changes are the forerunner to this system. We see this as the way forward and we want to be part of it.

"The first step is absolutely brilliant for us for in the past it could take as many as six or seven games to get to the stage we are at this year.

When you really look at it we are just two games away from going into the draw with the SPL sides such as Rangers, Celtic and Hibs. It is a daunting prospect but also one that any club would savour."

Henry said that the pyramid system  was something that would come and that the SFA was currently working on club licensing from the SPL down to Division 3 and there were indications at the annual meeting on Friday that after that was finished they would start with the Highland, East and South of
Scotland sides.

"We believe our ground is not far away from the standard that is required and we already have permission for floodlights.

"The present moves have taken a while but it is a massive step forward and I would hope that the next step doesn't take so long and the pyramid system could be in place in two or three years," he added.