Cup tie farce is not good enough - opinion

Anton Dowds netted the winner for East Fife against Queen of the South to book East Fife's quarter final place - but when will the game be played?
Anton Dowds netted the winner for East Fife against Queen of the South to book East Fife's quarter final place - but when will the game be played?

The on-going uncertainty over a date for East Fife’s Irn-Bru Cup quarter final at Bohemians shows no sign of being resolved.

Towards the end of last week the SPFL released a statement saying the tie, scheduled originally for November 17, was now “likely” to be played early in 2019.

The problem has stemmed from Bohemians, a League of Ireland side, completing their domestic campaign this Friday night.

Contracts will expire shortly after the final whistle and players will start their pre-season break, making a cup quarter final some weeks in the future an impossibility.

Seems pretty straight forward.

There was always a chance Bohemians could make the quarter finals and the date their season ended was known well in advance, so surely when the club was invited into the competition there was a contingency plan put into place for this happening, right?

Right?

It would appear not, and instead of Fife fans planning their weekend break to Dublin to watch their side, the only thing certain is more uncertainty.

It’s not good enough.

I’ve tried hard not to labour this point since the draw was made, and maybe I’m not seeing something staring me straight in the face, but why were a League of Ireland side allowed into the competition if their season had concluded before the quarter final stages?

Am I missing something here?

Doing our jobs as best we can, we’ve asked that question to the competition’s organisers and have been met with radio silence.

No statement would be forthcoming.

Not good enough.

It’s believed the clubs had agreed on a date of November 3 to get the game played, the League of Ireland doing what it could behind the scenes to help their club out and East Fife number crunching to work out the costs involved to get players, staff and kit over there.

Despite it not being confirmed, some fans booked travel and accommodation for Dublin.

But that cash, time and effort has now been wasted.

You can’t blame supporters for jumping the gun.

Fans of clubs like East Fife are rarely given such an opportunity to book up for a ‘European trip’, and their excitement is understandable.

But they, like us, have been let down by an organising body which clearly doesn’t know what to do next and somehow had failed to prepare for this happening.

The Challenge Cup used to be a great competition, giving fans of lower league sides the opportunity to see their teams play in the latter stages of tournaments.

Over the past couple of years, though, it’s been treated like a play thing, moulded into some deformed model of what it used to be.

There are some merits to the changes made, inviting colt teams and those from other countries, but those decisions aren’t without their critics.

Those critics are loud and vocal, and to counter that you need to make your plans bulletproof.

Those changes have failed and the holes in the current format are gaping.

What happens now is anyone’s guess and it appears those at the top still don’t really know how to solve this problem.

It should have been decided before a ball was kicked but instead we’ve been left with an absolutely farcical situation which makes a laughing stock of the competition.

Not good enough.