The number of senior shinty matches not being fulfilled due to team-raising difficulties is on the increase.
In what will be seen as a worrying trend for the sport’s governing body, 31 senior matches failed to go ahead last year — a rise of eight from the 2013 figure. The figures are detailed in the Camanachd Association’s annual report, ahead of the governing body’s annual general meeting in Fort William tomorrow night (Friday).
Most of the games relate to the lower leagues, though a number of higher-profile fixtures were also affected over the course of the season.
In April Skye were handed a walkover in the opening round of the Balliemore Cup — the game’s intermediate cup competition — after opponents Strachur were unable to muster enough players willing to travel north.
In the Premier League a late-season match between Kinlochshiel and Kyles Athletic was never played — the sides eventually agreed to share the points, though an earlier attempt to play it had been called off as the Tighnabruaich side were unable to travel.
The Sutherland Cup also had two ties called off for the same reason, while in the National Division — a new league created with a view to raising standards and increasing competition levels — Bute were unable to send a team to play their match with Fort William on 15th March.
One potential measure to help alleviate the problem might be to regionalise the early rounds of some cup tournaments, a decision which will rest with the competitions committee over the close season.
Elsewhere in the annual report, the association broadly met its financial targets for the year, with sponsorship showing an increase to offset a slight drop in income from grant funding. The association’s turnover for the year was just short of £575,000.
The report noted that youth membership levels had increased, and that almost 3,500 Highland primary school children had played shinty over the course of the year.
As in previous years, the recruitment of match officials remains a challenge for the sport. In 2014 the number of association referees had fallen from 38 to 36, of whom only 31 were available throughout the season.
The report also makes note of the partnership between Skye charity Lucky2bHere and Heartstart Camanachd, which has provided defibrillators, first aid kits and training to a number of clubs throughout the sport.
Archie Robertson, who this week will formally hand over the presidency of the Camanchd Association to Jim Barr, said in the report that season 2014 “was on the whole another good year for shinty”.
He added: “While the new 2014 competition structure attracted much debate and some criticism the association has, as intended, monitored the outcomes and allowed review to ensure we have the structure best suited to our game at this time.”
At tomorrow night’s AGM club delegates will be given the opportunity to vote on a league reconstruction plan which, if approved, will restore a 10-team Premier League.