Irish League sides could be set for Scottish challenge

Rangers boss Mark Warburton, whose side play Peterhead in this year's final at Hampden on April 10, has welcomed the proposals. Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
Rangers boss Mark Warburton, whose side play Peterhead in this year's final at Hampden on April 10, has welcomed the proposals. Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

Irish League teams could be taking on their Scottish counterparts if exciting new plans are agreed.

It has been revealed today Scottish Professional Football League officials want at least two Irish League sides, and two from Wales, to participate in a new look Scottish Challenge Cup competition as early as next summer.

We’re excited at the prospect of joining up in a new competition. It’s a concept that is very interesting to us.

Adrian Teer, NIFL chairman

The managing director of NIFL, Andrew Johnston, will attend a meeting in Glasgow on Friday to hear more about the proposal.

UEFA have been briefed on the ambitious plans which would see Irish League and Welsh teams join clubs from the Scottish Championship, Scottish League One and Scottish League Two as well as Under-20 sides from the Scottish Premier League in the competition.

The plans were discussed at the meeting of all 42 SPFL clubs at Hampden earlier this week and have been greeted positively by the majority of chairmen and chief executives.

If the proposals are financially feasible, Danske Bank Premiership sides would respond positively and Johnston said: “It’s something in which we are taking a keen interest.”

If an attractive sponsorship package and television coverage can be secured, Irish League sides would seem certain to come on board.

At the moment, BBC Alba pay around £100,000 a year to televise the Challenge Cup tournament but SPFL chiefs hope to raise similar sums from Welsh broadcasters and BBC Northern Ireland.

Glenavon and NIFL chairman Adrian Teer said: “We’re excited at the prospect of joining up in a new competition. It’s a concept that is very interesting to us.”

Rangers manager Mark Warburton also welcomed the plans.

He said: “You are always looking to provide a quality of challenge. If any new measures and innovative ideas bring about an increase in the quality of challenge then I’ll always support it.

“I’m sure there are a lot of hurdles to overcome and different permissions to be granted but anything that raises the quality of competition, I’ll always be supportive of.”

Times Sport understands however clubs from the Irish League who qualify for Europe will not be eligible to take part.