Coleraine Chairman welcomes Scottish Challenge Cup invite plans

Coleraine F.C. Chairman Colin McKendry.    �Derek Simpson
Coleraine F.C. Chairman Colin McKendry. �Derek Simpson

Coleraine FC Chairman, Colin McKendry, has welcomed ambitious plans, which could see Irish League clubs take on their Scottish counterparts.

Times Sport revealed last week 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.

The managing director of NIFL, Andrew Johnston, attended 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.

Times Sport spoke with McKendry to guage his views on the exciting proposals.

“I think it’s a fabulous and exciting proposal,” he told Times Sport.

“I was at Murray Park over the weekend and it came up in conversation with a few Scottish club representatives and they were very positive about the news too.

“It’s their belief that the Scottish league outside of the Premier League need a bit of reviving.

“They have been discussing a number of proposals about how to do this.

“Things like this can only be good for the game on both sides of the water and would help to raise the profile of the leagues.

“Obviously the league representatives and clubs will have to discuss the details further and iron out the finer points so that it will be workable and worthwhile for every team involved.”

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.

At this stage it looks like the teams who will be involved will be thsoe who have no European commitments.

McKendry feels this is a big boost to the teams in the league.

“From what I’ve been told the places will go to teams who don’t qualify for Europe,” he said.

“This will boost other teams who have missed out on the financial reward of European football and maybe even level the playing field a bit.

“Certainly for us as a club we would love to get into Europe, but if that doesn’t happen then this would be a great alternative, especially as the games wouldn’t involve a lot of travel.

“So if it all works out like it is sounding it will be a very positive move forward for the league.”