Neil Doncaster: SPFL chief says Scotland 'well-positioned' for cross-border football

Dundee United lift the Irn-Bru Cup
Dundee United are the Irn-Bru Cup holders, after beating St Mirren in this year's final

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster says Scotland is "well-positioned" to accommodate more cross-border football.

Teams from the Republic of Ireland will join existing counterparts from Northern Ireland and Wales in competing for next season's Irn-Bru Cup.

Doncaster believes cross-border tournaments could become more prevalent across Europe in the coming years.

"That is absolutely the direction of travel [across Europe]," he said.

"A number of territories have looked at cross-border competition, and Uefa are clearly open-minded about where that might lead in future.

"The fact we are able to include teams from Republic of Ireland, Wales and Northern Ireland positions us very well for the future, whatever that may hold."

In addition to the non-Scots, Scottish Premiership clubs also entered colt teams to this season's Irn-Bru Cup for the first time, alongside teams from the Highland and Lowland leagues.

When asked whether league competitions, as well as knockout tournaments, could become cross-border in future, Doncaster stressed the need for objectivity.

"The whole concept of cross-border is something we have to keep an open mind to," he continued. "Uefa have kindly allowed the expansion of the Irn-Bru Cup in the coming season - whether there is an expansion into cross-border leagues in the future remains to be seen.

The New Saints are beaten by St Mirren in the 2016-17 Irn-Bru Cup
Welsh side The New Saints reached this season's Irn-Bru Cup semi-finals

"I think absolutely [today's announcement] positions us well in the discussions that undoubtedly lie ahead.

"I'd be cautious not to put any time limit on it. It's always dangerous to set expectations. We have to be in a constant dialogue, to be open to innovation and with the Irn-Bru Cup, we've been able to respond to that demand."

'New horizons'

Bray Wanderers and Sligo Rovers are the latest non-Scots to join the Irn-Bru Cup, and Football Association of Ireland director Fran Gavin says the clubs are relishing the opportunity.

"It's hugely positive for us, it gives our teams new horizons, and it's a good challenge to the coaching staff of those teams," Gavin said. "They're full-time professional squads, with very talented young players."

The FAI director of competitions said that Bray and Sligo were looking forward to meeting new opponents and "will be looking to advance as far as possible in the competition".

"The Football Association of Ireland were delighted to receive the invitation for two teams to take part," added Gavin.

"We have watched the competition grow with the inclusion of clubs from Wales and Northern Ireland last season and we are delighted to be participating."

The first-round draw for the 2017/18 Irn-Bru Cup, which will be competed for by 56 teams, will take place on Tuesday 27 June.

Top Stories