ST ANDREWS UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB STATEMENT – CLUB LICENSING
It is with regret that the St Andrews United Committee has to announce that the club’s application for membership of the Scottish Football Association [SFA] combined with a licence to play in next season’s Scottish Cup has been rejected on the grounds that we do not possess operational floodlights.
The St Andrews United Committee took a bold decision to move away from the Scottish Junior Football Association last summer because of the rapidly expanding nature of the Senior leagues in conjunction with the development of a pyramid style structure. The mass exodus of 27 fellow Junior clubs to the East of Scotland League helped persuade interested parties that United’s future lay in the Senior ranks even though facilities at Barnetts Park required upgrading to obtain SFA membership. A licence from the SFA is not required to play in the East of Scotland League but clubs that possess such an award receive additional grants, support, prize-money, sponsorship and promotion opportunities plus entry into the same Scottish Cup as the top teams in the country. The committee consequently decided that St Andrews United could afford to undertake the costly steps to acquire a licence based upon the basic entry level criteria laid down by the SFA last summer. A £2,000 membership fee was then paid to the SFA on the basis we faced a fair chance of completing all necessary improvements to Barnetts Park, working practices and first team facilities.
Unfortunately, the SFA’s decision midway through the 2018/19 season to stipulate the need for floodlights as an additional requirement placed several clubs such as Saints into a compromised position. An incredible amount of work was still undertaken by supporters, volunteers and the chairman to satisfy all other licensing criteria and we hoped for a period of derogation to allow for the installation of floodlights at such short notice. Planning provision and quotes for the cost of such work have since been sought but a short email circulated by SFA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell on Tuesday has derailed our attempts to secure that desired licence.
The email read: "Regarding the above, I am write [sic] to confirm that following consideration by the Board, your application for membership of the Scottish Football Association has been rejected as your club is not complaint [sic] with current Entry Level criteria – specifically provision of floodlighting. I appreciate this is disappointing news however I’m sure you can understand the Scottish FA’s desire to continue to improve standards within our game.”
Since the SFA’s decision to withhold licences from St Andrews United, Bonnyrigg Rose, Camelon, Dundonald Bluebell, Haddington Athletic and Tranent could actually prevent the continued improvement in standards across Scotland, several clubs must now consider whether or not further investment is going to be worthwhile in the long-term. However, the disappointingly prolonged nature of the recent licensing application process may be forgotten if the pyramid continues to evolve and a greater emphasis is placed upon the development of football at grassroots levels. Small community clubs in Scotland such as St Andrews United clearly desire an opportunity to play at an appropriate level within a fair Scottish pyramid system that allows for the type of progression and suitable levels of competition no longer available at Junior level.
The St Andrews United Committee will now meet next week to discuss plans for the club’s future but we are confident that all of the hard work undertaken with a view towards gaining a licence will not go to waste. Should we wish to proceed with plans to obtain a licence plus SFA membership then our £2,000 entry fee is still valid and another application may be made next year once we have installed working floodlights. Further, the player budget has already been discussed for next season and our hopes of winning promotion to the East of Scotland Premier League will not be greatly affected by this week’s disappointing news.
Finally, we must congratulate Blackburn United, Broxburn Athletic, Easthouses Lily, Hill of Beath Hawthorn, Penicuik Athletic and Tynecastle for successfully obtaining membership of the SFA this week – hopefully we will be playing those sides in the 2020/21 Scottish Cup as part of our centenary season celebrations!