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Brora chairman still confident of U-turn over reconstruction

By Andrew Henderson

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Celebrations for Brora Rangers after the North of Scotland Cup final victory over Caley Thistle last October. Picture: Callum Mackay
Celebrations for Brora Rangers after the North of Scotland Cup final victory over Caley Thistle last October. Picture: Callum Mackay

Brora chairman William Powrie is still confident that a U-turn on Scottish league reconstruction can be made – giving the Sutherland club a shot at playing in the SPFL next season.

After a vote to end the Championship, League One and League Two seasons as well as the pyramid play-offs, reconstruction seemed to be the Cattachs' only hope of winning promotion from the Highland League after being crowned as champions.

However, last Friday talks were unceremoniously brought to an end after half of the Premiership said they were not interested in reconstruction.

That would mean relegation from the Premiership, Championship and League One, but Brora and their Lowland League counterparts Kelty Hearts have seen their target of moving up a tier dashed for now.

Mr Powrie has already spoken out against the Premiership clubs' decisions, but holds out hope that in a fast-moving environment public pressure will force them to revise their stance.

"We refuse to believe that's the end of the matter," he said ahead of Tuesday's SPFL extraordinary general meeting.

"I'm a great believer that public opinion will ultimately be the arbiter of this," Mr Powrie said.

"There is so much public opinion behind a reorganisation in the Scottish game that the Premiership clubs, I believe, will take a more conciliatory view on those clubs that are further down the food chain.

"Their thoughts are focused on how they're going to be generating their funds and their liquidity for the rest of the year. We're not forgotten about, but I certainly don't think we're on their priority radar.

"We just need to ensure that we keep digging away and bringing our case to the fore. Clearly, with allies like Hearts, Partick Thistle, Stranraer, Inverness and Falkirk, there's a critical mass of clubs there now that are certainly talking along the same lines as we are.

"I hope that will come to the attention of the Premiership clubs, and I remain confident that we will get our chance at the SPFL – at the very least a play-off against Kelty and Brechin."

Brora, sitting 13 points clear of their nearest challengers, were awarded the Highland League title in March after a unanimous vote.

The aim all season had been to win the league, and give themselves the best possible chance of promotion to League Two.

While a loss in one of those play-off matches would be tough to take, Mr Powrie believes not even getting that chance and being forced to stay in the Highland League would have a big impact on the club and surrounding areas.

"While we have had a very long, handsome and successful association with the Highland League, we very much had set our agendas this season on going up," he said.

"The whole investment around the club has been based on the fact that we would make a good fist of our attempt to get up. If we find ourselves playing back in the Highland League, we're going to have to sharpen our pencil in terms of budgets going forward.

"It's very difficult to plan at the moment, because we don't know where we're going to be playing, and we don't know when the season is going to be starting.

"We don't know what sort of revenue we will be getting through sponsorships or hospitality, and all of the related merchandise and commercial activities that we undertake.

"That's an exercise that's going to be quite difficult to do with any accuracy, but it's fairly sure to say that, if we didn't get promoted, things would be an awful lot more difficult.

"It's great uncertainty, and we've felt that if we went into a new league we could play new opposition, higher-profile opposition. Brora Rangers would be on the UK national football results week in, week out.

"That would help the village of Brora, that would help the wider community of Sutherland and Caithness. There are lots of socio-economic benefits that would have been brought to the area by Brora's ascension into the national league.

"All these things need to be factored in, so it's important the right decision is made quickly. The right decision is better than a quick, wrong decision."

Highland League secretary Rod Houston is frustrated that reconstruction plans were not allowed to be considered by all 42 SPFL clubs.

The SPFL Reconstruction Task Force was disbanded last week after Premiership clubs failed to support the league system being changed next season to accommodate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Proposals included a 14-team Premiership and 16-division League One which would have seen Highland League champions Brora Rangers and Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts both promoted.

It was reported by Falkirk chairman Gary Deans that six Premiership clubs failed to give their support to league reconstruction, which means the existing league system of 12-10-10-10 will remain next season.

Last month, 81 per cent of SPFL clubs voted to end the season early for the Championship, League One and League Two.

As part of the end-of-season vote, the SPFL said it would be willing to hold talks into possible league reconstruction.

But Mr Houston, from Golspie, who was part of the task force led by Hearts chairwoman Ann Budge, was disappointed they were not able to present their plans to all 42 SPFL clubs and that only teams in the Premiership determined the outcome.

“I am disappointed and frustrated,” he said. “I am angry that the reconstruction task force was not able to finalise its proposal for a presentation to the whole of the SPFL.

“I find it difficult to get my head around that a subgroup of a subgroup of a main group can ditch a project that was established in response to a resolution agreed by 81 per cent of the main group.

“The subgroup is the group of clubs in the Premiership, the second group is the Premiership and the main group is the SPFL.

“That leaves it wide open to the conspiracy theorists as to why reconstruction was mentioned in the original resolution, but that is not for me to speculate.”

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