BY IAIN COLLIN –[email protected]_sport
THE revamped Challenge Cup – sponsored by IRN-BRU – can help address fan ‘boredom’ and even improve the national team’s chances of future success, according to Raith Rovers chief executive Eric Drysdale.
The Stark’s Park outfit have wholeheartedly backed the new format for the coming season, which will introduce under-20s sides from Premiership clubs and teams from Northern Ireland and Wales to the competition.
There has been criticism from some quarters for the changes to a tournament that has allowed clubs from outside the top-flight to taste cup success since it was introduced to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Scottish Football League in 1990.
However, Drysdale, whose club won the competition two years ago, believes the SPFL should be praised for coming up with an innovative new look for the newly-named IRN-BRU Cup.
He said: “We welcome the announcement of the groundbreaking changes to the Challenge Cup format for next season.
“As previous winners of this competition in 2014, we have a strong interest in its continuing success and so we greatly appreciate the work done by the SPFL Competitions Working Group and board to give the tournament a fresh lease of life.
“In the wake of the recent lack of success by our international teams, a key factor in turning things around on the international stage will be accelerated development and increased experience of the next generation of players.
“The Challenge Cup will play its part by giving the top young players in Premiership development sides more experience against established professionals.
“The introduction of leading Welsh and Northern Irish teams, as well as Highland and Lowland league representatives, into the equation will add another interesting dimension.
“Supporters often bemoan the ‘boredom’ associated with playing the same teams so often. This change will help address that.
“Raith Rovers FC look forward to competing in – and perhaps even winning – this invigorated competition.”