Relegation play-offs look set to be introduced to the Highland League

Talks have been ongoing between the Highland League and the Scottish Junior FA to create a formal link between tiers five and six of the Scottish football pyramid for the 2021-22 season.

From next season the team finishing bottom of the Highland League could find themselves in a play-off against the champions of either the North Super League, the East Super League or the North Caledonian League.

Highland League secretary Rod Houston said: “Talks have been going on for some time to extend tier six across the north half of the country.

“The North Caledonian FA have agreed and are ready to roll in August this year.

“The North Region Junior FA are all but there and in recent weeks the East Region Junior FA were in touch with us with regard to their Tayside clubs.

“The talks have been constructive and hopefully we will be able to conclude them soon.

“We just have some heads of agreement to finalise.”

Clubs who would be able to participate in the play-offs to win promotion to the Highland League would have to meet qualifying criteria.

If the proposal is approved, qualifying clubs from tier six would play-off for the right to face the team that finished bottom of the Highland League for the chance to climb the Scottish footballing pyramid.

Houston said: “This would complete an aspiration that the pyramid working group at the Scottish FA have had for a while which is to have complete coverage of the country at tier six.

“There would be a play-off system but for one of the teams in tier six to play in the play-offs they would have to meet the criteria for membership of the Highland League.

“They would have to have a full licence of the Scottish FA and with all that entails.

“At present the only clubs who are members of the Scottish FA are Golspie Sutherland and Banks o’ Dee.

“If they were to win their respective championships they would be play-off candidates.

“It wouldn’t stop clubs developing themselves and their structure to become members of the Scottish FA.

“The whole point is to give clubs who aspire to that the opportunity.”

Scottish Junior FA chief operating officer Alex McDowall said in a statement: “The Scottish Junior FA and East Region SJFA have formally submitted our commitment and agreement to the Highland League board.

“We accept the Highland League’s invitation to create a link between the Midlands League and the Highland League.

“Following an application to the Scottish FA board being ratified at their AGM in June 2021, the aim and expectation would then be for the Midlands League to be established for season 2021-2022 at tier six of the Scottish football pyramid.

“The Scottish Junior FA and East Region SJFA would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Highland League board members and the Scottish FA pyramid working group for their understanding and help on this matter. We look forward to further developing our relationship.”

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