Changes to Challenge Cup have improved the competition

Changes to Challenge Cup have improved the competition

By Cammy Anderson

Just like Irn Bru’s recipe the Scottish Challenge Cup, which is sponsored by Scotland’s favourite beverage, has undergone some recent changes. This season, in addition to the involvement of Northern Irish, Irish and Welsh clubs, teams from England’s fifth tier Vanarama National League were invited to take part in the competition.


Traditionally, it was sides in the Championship, League One and League Two that battled it out for the trophy, but in the past few seasons the competition has been expanded. Now it includes Colt teams from all 12 Premier League sides, four clubs from both Highland and Lowland Leagues and eight clubs from outside the SPFL system.


The inclusion of clubs outside of Scotland is a controversial matter for some with many believing it demeans the Scottish game because other clubs must be called upon. Conversely, others are fully embracing the chance to travel elsewhere and take on clubs they would not otherwise typically meet.


Boreham Wood FC and Sutton United were the two clubs invited from the National League for this season and were drawn at home to Dunfermline Athletic and away to Airdrieonians respectively.


I was among the 500 plus Dunfermline Athletic fans to make the 830-mile round-trip over the weekend to take in the match at Meadow Park, situated roughly 14 miles away from the centre of London.



While I opted to travel by plane, many other fans travelled by train, car or bus to reach the second-round encounter at a considerable cost for a rather drab affair in truth. The game ended 0-0 and was decided on penalties with the Pars winning 6-5.


Progressing to the next round obviously made my trip more worthwhile but I don’t think I would have said that had we been put out, as all the craic before and after the game made the trip rather than the game itself.


Fans were not the only ones reaching into their pockets to be there as clubs also had to fund most of their way. Only a few thousand pounds was given to help them get where they needed to be from the SPFL. As a result, many clubs who face a tie abroad lose money, but Pars chairman Ross McArthur remained upbeat about it all and welcomed the changes.


“When the draw was made we knew we would lose money from the tie, however, we were determined to remain philosophical about it. We embraced the chance to play a club from another country as it was clear from an early stage that the fans welcomed this fresh opportunity too.


“Although naturally important, football is not all about finances, it is about providing supporters with an opportunity to follow their team with genuine pride and create their own memories of a unique trip.”


While certainly not perfect and in need of some fine-tuning, particularly in terms of funding from the SPFL, the Irn Bru Cup in my opinion now constitutes a decent tournament and is no longer the ‘diddy cup’ that is was previously known as.



Other observations


– Dundee United need to learn how to hold on to a lead. Their 1-1 draw with Alloa at the weekend (which the Wasps won on penalties) was the fifth time already this season that the Arabs have dropped points having scored the opening goal in a match.


– Ray McKinnon got off to a losing start as Falkirk boss. The Bairns were eliminated from the Irn Bru Cup by Welsh Premier League side Connah’s Quay.


Stephen Dobbie has now hit the 20-goal mark for the season following a two-goal performance in Queen of the South’s 4-3 win over Crusaders. The 35-year-old is now on a six-game scoring streak where he has chalked up no less than 13 goals in the process.

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