New Highland League president George Manson believes the introduction of a relegation play-off will be a historic change for the division.
The Turriff United chairman has succeeded Raymond Cardno as president of the Highland League, with a relegation play-off set to be brought in during his first season in the post.
Talks have been ongoing between the league and the Scottish Junior FA to create a link between tiers five and six of the pyramid in the north of Scotland.
The play-off is set to be introduced from next season, which would mean the side which finishes bottom of the Highland League could find themselves up against either the North Super League champions, the East Super League champions or the North Caledonian League champions.
Looking ahead at what he hopes can be achieved during his time as president, Manson said: “We’re close to getting something sorted out with the tier below us.
“Which would give us the option to go up and down.
“We are almost ready with that and, if we can do that, we have moved on in terms of the pyramid and having something below us.
“We’ve had some stick over the years about it, but there wasn’t anything below us.
“We’ve helped to create it after being asked by the SFA to look after the pyramid in the north and if we can achieve it that will be good.
“It would be a historic change really.
“I would also like to see another team from the Highland League progressing up the way during my spell and, personally, if it was Turriff United that would be fantastic.
“As it stands at the moment we’re a fair bit away from that, but everyone in the league has ambition.”
Hoping for more normality next season
It has been a tricky period for the Highland League.
The coronavirus pandemic meant the 2020-21 campaign didn’t start until November, before being suspended by the SFA in January.
The season was then declared over – with Brora Rangers named as champions – in March because the clubs could not commit to carrying PCR coronavirus testing to complete the campaign.
With next term scheduled to start on July 24, Manson hopes it can be a more normal campaign with supporters back inside grounds.
He added: “I think the league is ready to come out and take a full part in things again.
“The help we’ve had from the secretariat of Rod Houston and Graham Wilson, who have done all the protocols and guided all the clubs, has meant we’ve all got a similar template for protocols both with and without spectators.
“That means everybody knows what happens wherever you go and everything has been taken care of.
“We’re just ready for the green light now. We’ve got a start date for the league, but we await the decisions about spectators and about dressing rooms.
“Dressing rooms are restricted at the moment and there’s no showers, which isn’t particularly user friendly.
“The Highland League is a social league and I’m hoping things will relax as we go along and get back towards what it used to be.
“The Highland League is all about boardrooms, hospitality and spectators and, without all three of these, it’s nothing like the same.”
A first for Turriff
Manson is the first person from Turriff United to become president of the Highland League.
He has sat on the division’s league management committee meeting since the Haughs club joined the league in 2009 and hopes to put that experience to good use.
He said: “It’s an honour to have been elected president, it’s an honour for Turriff United as well, because we’ve only been in the league for 12 years.
“Since we joined, I’ve been the league management committee rep for Turriff.
“I’ve had 12 years of experience and seeing how it works and I’ve learned a lot from the people who have gone before me in the job.
“I’m hoping to draw on that experience and make a positive contribution as president.”