Scottish Junior Football Association

Scottish Junior Football Association

The Scottish Junior Football Association ("SJFA" for short) is the governing body for the junior grade of football in Scotland. It is affiliated to the Scottish Football Association, the governing body of football in Scotland. Junior-grade football is commonly mistaken for a level at which boys' football is played, but the term "junior" refers not to the age of the players but the level of football played. Football for youngsters is generally known as "youth" (up to Under-19) or "juvenile" (which is to Under-21 level) football. The closest equivalent to the "junior" terminology would be the non-league football in England, the difference being that junior Scottish football is not integrated in the Scottish league pyramid.

The SJFA is headquartered at Hampden Park, Glasgow, which is Scotland's national stadium.

History

Junior football, as distinguished from senior football, has existed since the early 1880s. [ [http://www.scottishfa.co.uk/scottish_football.cfm?curpageid=410 Scottish Football Association Museum - History of Junior Football] ] However, the SJFA, the national body under which the local Junior associations existed, wasn't formed until 1886. This association acted as an umbrella for the many local Junior associations that had began to appear across Scotland, as well as running the Scottish Junior Cup, its national cup competition.

The local associations continued to run their leagues until 1968, when the SJFA instituted major reforms, running all the leagues itself, removing the need for the many local associations, replacing them instead with six district committees. These six regions - Ayrshire, Central, East, Fife, Tayside and North - still exist to a certain extent, as divisions in the national league structure and as operators of many cup competitions.

The last major league reform took place in 2002, with the six districts "merging" to create a three-pronged league setup (see "Organisation and regions").

A further reform took place in June 2007. The Scottish Cup, run by the Scottish Football Association, welcomed four Junior teams from the 2007-08 season onwards. All four will join the competition in the First Round. The four teams are the three Superleague winners (two West, one East) and the Scottish Junior Cup winners, all from the previous season. Although potentially four junior teams can enter the Scottish cup its first season saw only three do so as Linlithgow Rose qualified on two counts. All three entrants from junior ranks won their first round Scottish Cup matches on 29 September 2007 and progressed to the second round.

Season 2008/09 will see four Junior Clubs (Bathgate Thistle, Pollok, Banks o' Dee and Lochee United) participate on the first round of the SFA Cup.

Why "Junior"?

The "senior" (professional) grade of football in Scotland is played in the Scottish Premier League, the Scottish Football League, as well as the three senior non-leagues, the Highland Football League, the East of Scotland Football League and the South of Scotland Football League. The distinction between the two grades "senior" and "junior" is basically that the two types of club do not regularly play each other in competitive games. The term "junior" is not used based on the age of players, a common misunderstanding outwith the grade.

Despite the lesser media coverage the juniors get, many of the club sides are fairly popular, and some of the bigger games between clubs (such as the local derbies between Arthurlie and Pollok, and Cumnock Juniors vs. Auchinleck Talbot) can attract attendances in the thousands, although crowds were far bigger in the past (76,000 for the Junior Cup Final in 1951, with nearly 90,000 watching the semi finals (including a replay)) compared to the level of support attracted now. Although mocked by many followers of the professional game, many consider that the best junior clubs would be very able to compete at least at the third-division level of the Scottish Football League.Fact|date=July 2008 This was shown to be the case with the run in the Scottish FA Cup by Linlithgow Rose. They eventually lost out to the runners up Queen of the South.

Organisation and regions

The main league structure is organised on a geographical basis, with the 162 member clubs being split into three regions:

*West Region (61 clubs)
*East Region (63 clubs)
*North Region (38 clubs)

Each region contains several divisions, the East and West regions also being split into further geographical sections in the lower divisions. This is a remnant of the pre-2002 system in which there were six district committee setups that comprised the leagues. Pressure to create more competitive leagues and a higher number of "big games" caused the rationalisation to three main district leagues.

Cup and international competitions

As well as the local leagues, there are a number of local cup competitions competed for; however, the biggest competition is the Scottish Junior Cup, which every junior club competes for annually, with the final generally held each May. This cup was established in 1886. Highlights of the advanced stages of the competition are broadcast on national television, with the final match usually being broadcast live. The cup's sponsor for 18 years, until the start of the 2006-07 season, was the OVD Demerara Rum company, replaced at the semi final stage of the 2006-07 competition by Scottish coach operator Citylink.

The juniors also play internationally, with the best players being picked to play for the Scottish Junior International team against other countries' non-league select teams. The international tournament takes place every two years, and is competed against teams from Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. The tournament is hosted in turn by each country, with matches taking place at the larger junior grounds in the host country, such as Dunterlie Park, Pollok's Newlandsfield, and Petershill Park when the tournament was last held in Scotland, in 2005.

References

External links

* [http://www.footballcentral.org/sfa/index.cfm?88377DFE-0081-EDB4-B6C3-4EC4CA92C450 Official site]
* [http://www.ultrasoft.hostinguk.com/Arniston2/Pink.asp Not the... Pink News]
* [http://www.scottishjuniornews.co.uk Scottish Junior News]


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