THE new Border League fixture list has yet to be finalised, but the popular tournament will kick off in an ebullient mood, writes Atholl Innes.
And with a new man at the helm.
Peebles rugby stalwart, Bob Hogarth, is the new president and his first job will be to finalise the fixtures.
Hogarth was elected at the league’s annual meeting at Melrose last Wednesday – and in a season, which will see major changes to the tournament.
For the first time, the world’s oldest cup/league competition, which started in 1901-02, will be contested in conjunction with the national cup competition.
“We had hoped to have the fixtures ready to send out, but they have not yet been finalised,” said secretary John Thorburn.
The new set-up will allow the league to be completed without the hassle of the previous season, when the date of the final had to be changed to accommodate clubs which had been unable to complete their fixtures due to the weather and struggled to complete league matches.
But Hogarth, who has given a lifetime of service to the Peebles club as a player and committee man, has given up his directorship of rugby at The Gytes to devote more time to his position and his job. And he is relishing the new challenge.
He told us: “I am delighted to be elected and this is a high honour for me and the Peebles club. I hope that, with the changes to the league, I can help to bring more stability to the competition.
“The new format should allow us to complete the fixtures and make the league even more appetising to clubs.”
Hogarth takes over from John Reed, of Melrose, whose club won the title in April with a win over holders Selkirk at Peebles.
But that was only after some controversy when Kelso conceded its cup defeat by Selkirk to allow the Souters into the final.
“I hope that we do not have a repeat and it is important that the league is not only completed correctly, but is given a higher profile than in the past,” said Hogarth.
“This is a big change and we are looking forward to the future.”
There have been calls to form a district competition, also involving Caledonia, Edinburgh and Glasgow. But this is as close that rugby has come to gel such a tournament.
The president is elected by rota – which means that Eric Forster, of Selkirk, is the new vice-president. He also takes over as president of Selkirk next week, when Donald Macleod ends his two-year term of office.