Badenoch rivals call for return to 10-team premier league

Skye Camanachd’s impending promotion play-off against Ballachulish could yet become meaningless — should the green light be given to proposals for another reconstruction of shinty’s league system.

Badenoch duo Newtonmore and Kingussie are currently lobbying other member clubs as they seek to gain support for a bid to re-establish a 10-team premier league.

The knock-on effect of a return to a 10-team top flight — under the plans mooted by the Speyside giants — would see both Fort William and Oban Camanachd promoted from the national division. In turn both Skye and Ballachulish would go up to to take their place in the eight-team second tier.

Ironically, the only outstanding issues still to be resolved in shinty this season surround promotion to the premier and national leagues — and both have been mired in some controversy.

Skye, as winners of the north first division, are due to meet south winners Ballachulish for the right to go up to the national division. The play-off — originally pencilled in for 27th September — was called off at short notice following protests from Ballachulish, and an admission from the sport’s governing body that they should not have scheduled the game before the respective league programmes had been completed.

Oban Camanachd and Fort William, meanwhile, must replay their title decider which was called off last week after an injury to the match referee.

The new proposals now add another twist — and one which cannot be resolved until after these matches take place. On 28th November the sport’s governing body holds its annual general meeting, at which the Kingussie and Newtonmore plan will come under scrutiny.

This week the Camanachd Association’s chief operating officer Torquil MacLeod said the changes could come into force for the 2015 season — although much will rest on the approach taken by the association’s board. The nine-member executive has the power to effectively veto any reconstruction plans put forward by individual clubs. But should the board accept the new plans are worth exploring they may decide to put it to a vote at the AGM, in which case a simple majority of clubs would be required to push it through.

The joint plan would hand reprieves to Lochaber, set to be relegated from the top flight, and Bute, due to make the drop from the national division.

Below the national structure the plan suggests two north divisions of 10 and 11 teams respectively, and two south leagues containing eight and seven teams.