Border League takes on new look

AS WE revealed a few weeks ago, Berwick and Langholm are not taking part in the Border League next season despite remaining members of the League, writes Stuart Cameron.

There was no appetite for either club to be on the receiving end of big defeats by the top clubs in the area – something which did nobody any good at all.

And, in an announcement by the Border League this week, it was confirmed that Hawick YM will replace Haddington in the new eight-team Border League, with a second tier competition being set up with the seven Borders clubs ranked below YM all competing in the RBS Border Shield next season, with three home and away games each.

Berwick and Langholm will be joined by Duns, Earlston, Hawick Quins, Hawick Linden and Gala YM. Border League officials stated that it is not a Border League Division Two as there is no promotion and relegation, but are not ruling out the possibility of this becoming a reality in the future.

The door is open for Berwick and Langholm to rejoin the Border League competition if they return to the Top 40 in Scotland.

Unlike the Border League, the Shield will see all clubs play each other, so the winner of the Shield will truly be worthy of representing the Borders in the National Shield semi-final.

The innovative new structure is being seen as an exciting step forward by all concerned and while the Border League has stopped short of creating two divisions, this new mini league will be observed with a great deal of interest, and if it proves successful, the clubs ranked below the eight leading Borders clubs will surely have an appetite for developing the idea in the future.

Maximising exposure will be key to attracting sponsorship for the clubs involved and for the Shield competition itself and, in turn, there will be opportunities for the organisers to take advantage of this by sensible and careful programming of fixtures.

One idea would be to schedule games one or two weeks before the main season starts in mid August when the senior clubs are playing friendlies.

Sharing his views on the announcement this week, Langholm president Jake Little said: “Some of our results in the Border League this season, and indeed in the past few years, haven’t helped help us as a club, our opponents or the league itself. We feel this is the right solution at this time.”

And former Berwick president Colin Frame added: “Berwick remains committed to Borders rugby and are pleased that a sensible solution has been found to accommodate all clubs. The new format sees competitive rugby with plenty of local interest to keep the players and fans happy and interested.”