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Robert James

North Caledonian League Expansion

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On referees, they use a number of refs that are not on the senior list, but it could be down to a lack of officials up there as much as anything. The EOS and SOS are always able to grab other refs from higher categories if required (Lloyd Wilson is one of the higher category refs the SOS gets).

Refs in league games this year (in order of games): 

Cat 4: Graham John, John Nicolson, Stephen McDade, Molly Alexander.

Off list: Chris MacLeod, Gordon Seago, Gavin Leask, Ivan Leslie, Gordon Morrison.

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On 28/12/2017 at 07:51, Craig the Hunter said:

HJ, I had a feeling you'd be the one with the answers. So Yeah, it's just a weird anomaly. Will be interesting if any of the club's ever feel like going for a licence.

Thurso FC was mooted as a club seeking to obtain a licence, but at that time was unable to secure a long term lease on The Dammies. With a town population broadly equivalent to Wick (and larger than many existing Highland clubs), it could theoretically sustain an HFL club. However its geographical position on the north coast, would make travelling a logistical and financial nightmare.

If Orkney FC wins its final NCL match next week, it will be  NCL champions for 2017/18 (having beaten Golspie 3-2 today).  The SFA doesn't allow  the NCL champion club to enter the Scottish Cup  unless it is licensed, whereas in the SoSL and EoSL, unlicensed champion clubs are invited to participate. This is unfair, although I can imagine that other SFA member clubs would not want an away Scottish Cup draw on the Orkney Islands.    

NCL clubs are NOT members of the Scottish Amateur FA, so don't participate in that Cup Competition either.

Is this an historical anomaly, or a reluctance to recognise a league whose clubs, with a few exceptions, are further north than those in the HFL ?

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Really, in practical terms, their senior status means very little? Just SFA handle suspensions, and from this season referees. In all likelihood were the league being established today there'd be no thought of it being "senior" - it'd probably be an Amateur league or Junior district. They don't get SFA votes, representation, or money; they don't get any Scottish Cup qualifying slots (and notably never seem to have lobbied for any!); they're not part of the pyramid.

What other connections exist are fairly slight - Golspie alone are SFA members; Alness alone play in the North of Scotland U20s league; a few clubs are invited to enter the North of Scotland Cup each season (but notably only a selection and apparently with no suggestion of becoming NSFA members).

By the same token: after getting near to going defunct, the return of several clubs plus the new horizon of Orkney - also the improved facilities at Halkirk and Thurso - are clear signs of an up-lift.

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On 09/04/2018 at 00:07, HibeeJibee said:

Really, in practical terms, their senior status means very little? Just SFA handle suspensions, and from this season referees. In all likelihood were the league being established today there'd be no thought of it being "senior" - it'd probably be an Amateur league or Junior district. They don't get SFA votes, representation, or money; they don't get any Scottish Cup qualifying slots (and notably never seem to have lobbied for any!); they're not part of the pyramid.

What other connections exist are fairly slight - Golspie alone are SFA members; Alness alone play in the North of Scotland U20s league; a few clubs are invited to enter the North of Scotland Cup each season (but notably only a selection and apparently with no suggestion of becoming NSFA members).

By the same token: after getting near to going defunct, the return of several clubs plus the new horizon of Orkney - also the improved facilities at Halkirk and Thurso - are clear signs of an up-lift.

Any update on Balintore rejoining in 2018/19 ?

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Any update on Balintore rejoining in 2018/19 ?

I think it depends on if they can get a reasonably committed squad together. It's such a small catchment area with talent spread thin in the Far North. It'd be good for them to be back, even if you do have to face the trip to the Seaboard Villages...

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Any chance of Shetland following in Orkney’s footsteps? What a derby I imagine that would be!

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4 hours ago, Enigma said:

Any chance of Shetland following in Orkney’s footsteps? What a derby I imagine that would be!

Would imagine distances make it harder - the Orkney lads can get the ferry over to the mainland on a Saturday morning for away games (a slightly early kickoff for ferry times, distances to travel dependent), with all home games being timetabled to tie in with ferries, 12.30pm vs 2pm elsewhere. The logistics of teams getting to and from Shetland - even if it is just the islanders themselves - would make regular matches a nightmare (IMO).

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On 26/04/2018 at 02:45, Enigma said:

Any chance of Shetland following in Orkney’s footsteps? What a derby I imagine that would be!

Or Lewis & Harris FC who have performed strongly in NCL cup matches ?

Fort William is holding a meeting next week to decide whether or not the club can continue in the Highland League. A club statement in the Press & Journal says the club is considering applying to (re)join the NCL for next season. If so, it would retain its SFA Licence.

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At least away games are doable for Lewis & Harris if the ferry runs (depart 7am from Stornoway and 7pm from Ullapool). An issue for away teams coming over to Lewid though is the tight ferry turnaround on a Saturday - boat arrives at 1pm and last departure is 3.30pm. You'd need a new Calmac timetable on a Saturday. It would seem a bit pointless a Lewis & Harris side coming in only to have to play every game say in Ullapool.

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On 26/04/2018 at 02:45, Enigma said:

Any chance of Shetland following in Orkney’s footsteps? What a derby I imagine that would be!

I was at a Shetland-Orkney game back in the day. Not sure whether it's still an annual event. 

2 hours ago, cmontheloknow said:

At least away games are doable for Lewis & Harris if the ferry runs (depart 7am from Stornoway and 7pm from Ullapool). An issue for away teams coming over to Lewid though is the tight ferry turnaround on a Saturday - boat arrives at 1pm and last departure is 3.30pm. You'd need a new Calmac timetable on a Saturday. It would seem a bit pointless a Lewis & Harris side coming in only to have to play every game say in Ullapool.

When the Lewis & Harris clubs play clubs from Caithness etc in the Highland Amateur Cup it's not unusual for the game to be at places like Dingwall. Also when clubs are depending on ferry times it's also common for the visiting club to forgo the hospitality but be provided with sandwiches for the ferry.

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8 minutes ago, The Mantis said:

When the Lewis & Harris clubs play clubs from Caithness etc in the Highland Amateur Cup it's not unusual for the game to be at places like Dingwall. Also when clubs are depending on ferry times it's also common for the visiting club to forgo the hospitality but be provided with sandwiches for the ferry.

Games also get moved for Orkney too in the NCL.

In Lewis & Harris FC's case, there's just now way though that teams can dock at Stornoway at 1pm, get off the boat, drive up to Goathill Park, warm up, play 90 mins of football (with h/t thrown in for good measure), jump back on the bus and check in for the ferry 30 mins before sailing at 3.30pm. They'd struggle to get an hour's game of 5s in. Certainly L&H can play every game away as the times are more convenient (about 9.5 hrs between crossings) but that would be a little pointless - the odd cup tie of course as you say happens in the HAC but every single game? (and that's looking at a summer timetable - there seems to be a smaller gap in winter).

Edited by cmontheloknow

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3 hours ago, cmontheloknow said:

Games also get moved for Orkney too in the NCL.

In Lewis & Harris FC's case, there's just now way though that teams can dock at Stornoway at 1pm, get off the boat, drive up to Goathill Park, warm up, play 90 mins of football (with h/t thrown in for good measure), jump back on the bus and check in for the ferry 30 mins before sailing at 3.30pm. They'd struggle to get an hour's game of 5s in. Certainly L&H can play every game away as the times are more convenient (about 9.5 hrs between crossings) but that would be a little pointless - the odd cup tie of course as you say happens in the HAC but every single game? (and that's looking at a summer timetable - there seems to be a smaller gap in winter).

Aye a lot of the instances I'm thinking about are involving Lewis teams v teams from the Southern Isles rather than the mainland, but overall I don't think any involvement of Lewis & Harris (or Shetland) teams in the NCL is at all viable despite the fact that it gets brought up often enough on this forum, especially by people who have little experience of the area..

I know Orkney have been playing rugby for years, and the football experiment seems to be working, but it must take an astonishing amount of will (and sponsorship) to make it work. I used to travel up and down the A9 to watch Caley, and for years I had a season ticket at ICT, but the travelling eventually wears you down, and the nutters who slag off ICT's (and Ross County's) poor, but very loyal, travelling support don't really know what they're talking about.

BTW the boys from my local school played the Nicolson a few years back and they travelled up one day, stayed over in the Nicolson boys' homes, then played the next morning. Just this January on the ferry I met a guy I knew, an ex-player of  WWFC who is now teaching at Cults in Aberdeen. They were spending the night in a hostel in Stornoway then playing at 10.30 the next day. Still wondering what the score was :lol:

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The geography of the Highlands, coupled with the transport links to the islands makes it difficult for island teams to play regularly in a league. I'd say it's pretty much impossible for Shetland and the Western Isles. Orkney manage on goodwill and a relatively short ferry journey, but it still means tying kick off times to ferries and they only play teams along the A9! The Orkney rugby team plays nationally, but player registration is different in rugby and they often used to make up the numbers with players drafted in from the mainland. 

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On 03/12/2017 at 18:10, Cyclizine said:


Caithness can't really support more than one team at HFL level. Most HFL players are Aberdeen or Inverness based which is why the Shire teams are generally stronger. Brora just have cash to entice players... Wick have mostly local players out of necessity, but as I said, Caithness is a small catchment area.

"Small catchment area"  ?

The town populations for the following Caithness clubs (excluding the wider 'catchment' areas,) according to Wikipedia are.........Wick (HFL)  7,333,  Thurso  (NCL) 7,933.  Also,  Kirkwall (Orkney FC: NCL champions) has a town population of  9,293.  These are higher than, or equivalent to,  many of the  town populations of existing HFL clubs (excluding Inverness : Clachnacuddin, and Aberdeen : Cove Rangers).

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1 hour ago, Robert James said:

"Small catchment area"  ?

The town populations for the following Caithness clubs (excluding the wider 'catchment' areas,) according to Wikipedia are.........Wick (HFL)  7,333,  Thurso  (NCL) 7,933.  Also,  Kirkwall (Orkney FC: NCL champions) has a town population of  9,293.  These are higher than, or equivalent to,  many of the  town populations of existing HFL clubs (excluding Inverness : Clachnacuddin, and Aberdeen : Cove Rangers).

How many players of Highland League quality do you reckon Caithness will produce? Wick are the de facto Caithness senior side and are well supported by the whole county.

You're missing the point that in semi-professional leagues like the HFL, most players aren't based in the town they represent. Wick have a big local squad for geographical reasons; Fraserburgh as well as that's their club policy - but the rest of the players are based mostly in the Shire (and mostly around Aberdeen) with a few more around Inverness. Often they train together around the cities as well and just travel for games.

I'd welcome the possibility of Thurso etc being able to step up to the HFL, but it will undoubtedly dilute the relative quality of player available in Caithness. The town itself may sustain a club in the HFL, but realistically it's not going to have a particularly strong squad.

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3 hours ago, Robert James said:

"Small catchment area"  ?

The town populations for the following Caithness clubs (excluding the wider 'catchment' areas,) according to Wikipedia are.........Wick (HFL)  7,333,  Thurso  (NCL) 7,933.  Also,  Kirkwall (Orkney FC: NCL champions) has a town population of  9,293.  These are higher than, or equivalent to,  many of the  town populations of existing HFL clubs (excluding Inverness : Clachnacuddin, and Aberdeen : Cove Rangers).

This is misleading. The fact is, outside of these centres of population, there are miles and miles of nothing at all. Caithness has a population density of c14/sq km. Admittedly better than Sutherland at c2. The only saving grace of these communities is that people often turn out on summer evenings to watch football because there's literally nothing else happening: see my blogs on Carloway and the Faroe islands.

You're fond of comparing us to England. I defy you to find counties in England with such a sparse hinterland.

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