Highland League play-offs could be introduced next season
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NAIRN St Ninian have welcomed talks to establish the chance for junior and amateur clubs to gain promotion to the Highland League next season.
Talks have taken place between the Highland League, North Caledonian League and the Scottish Junior FA to create a tier six in the north, which would see relegation play-offs being introduced in the SHFL.
At the end of next season, any club who finishes bottom of the Highland League might face a play-off against champions from the North Caledonian League, North Super League or East Super League.
However, any club that wants to qualify for promotion to the SHFL must have full SFA membership.
At present, only North Caledonian League club Golspie Sutherland and North Super League outfit Banks O’Dee, meet that criteria.
Nairn St Ninian treasurer James Wallace says the club have welcomed the announcement saying the North Super League outfit have the ambition to play at a higher level.
He says while nothing is confirmed at present, talks look promising to allow amateur and junior clubs the opportunity to make the step up.
“We support the pyramid being opened,” said Wallace.
“That is important as there has been no opportunity for clubs with ambition to progress out of the juniors.
“There has been no avenue to do that unless you are invited by the Highland League.
“What is being done now is formalising it which is a good thing.
“It will shake up teams in the Highland League, but also shake up teams at junior and North Caledonian League level if they want to put the infrastructure in place.
“The incentive to put in all the hard work to become a Highland League club is there for them now.”
He added: “It has taken time to get to this point, but it is the right thing for clubs that have that ambition.
“Cove Rangers started in the juniors, but were invited into the Highland League. They have been the poster boys who have set a goal and worked their way up to where they are now.”
Wallace says Nairn St Ninian have the ambition to join the Highland League, but admitted a lot of work would need to be done to make them eligible for promotion.
“It would be quite far into the future due to the facilities we have,” said Wallace.
“We would require to install floodlights at the ground.
“But it is an ambition of the club, not in the near future, but in the future to have that opportunity.
“Clubs have been stymied as there are ambitious junior teams. The opening up of the Highland League will be significant to clubs based in the north.”