A steering group has been set up with a representative from each wing of Lewis and Harris football with the aim of working together to identify the future direction and strategies of football in Lewis and Harris.
A lengthy two-hour debate took place at an open meeting in Stornoway last week where football association members, supporters, club officials, members of the Western Isles Island Games Association, junior league officals and senior league players were each present.
The meeting was called following a misconception that players returning from the NatWest Island Games in Jersey had been critical of the Lewis and Harris FC regime with a post on social media, which ultimately led to the resignation of manager Billy Flower and his team of Dano Macdonald and Tanky Macdonald.
But the player who made the post insisted his intention in writing the post was to reflect on a memorable week with WIIGA rather than taking a shot at anyone.
Regardless, the meeting brought the entire Lewis and Harris football family together for an eye-opening meeting.
Lewis and Harris FA Chairman Kenny Maciver chaired the meeting and opened by explaining that the purpose of the meeting was to determine where football in Lewis and Harris should be going by obtaining the views of all present from all corners of the game
Also high on the agenda was idenifying a replacement for Flower as manager of Lewis and Harris with fast approaching ties against Orkney (Saturday, August 29) and their defence of the North Caledonian Cup which is due to begin on September 12.
Kenny ‘Bugsy’ Smith and Gordon Greenhowe were subsequently appointed as managers for the short-term at least.
Among the most vocal on the night was senior player Domhnall Mackay who weighed in on all topics from the development of junior players, the possibility of playing all year around and the Island Games.
He said: “We have to strive to get better and play all year round. Having played in both the North Caley Cup and the Island Games there is no contest that the Games are a far higher standard.
“Perhaps use the North Caley as a development system for under-23 or under-25 year olds to give the Select pool more depth?”
On the subject of the Island Games, fellow player Robert Mackenzie echoed Mackay’s sentiments: “It is the ultimate level for players on the island, which is not a criticism of the Lewis and Harris Select or our league at all. We just have to all work together.”
WIIGA football team manager Eric Macleod commented: “We need games which we were unable to do in the run-up to Jersey. The Island Games is the level the players want to aspire to. The standard is dropping in local football and we have to work together. There must be a pathway for the elite players and the Island Games are the pinnacle for players from the Western Isles. We need to have better preparation and we have need to play better teams in order to improve and we have made contact with clubs from the Highland League where there is a good window in January and February to play them.”
Euan Macleod chimed in: “It’s a bit of a conundrum where people have to find the balance and decide between entering a competition where you have a good chance of winning a trophy, or entering against teams better than you where you are unlikely to win anything but you will improve. It’s finding that balance but the goal should be to improve the players.”
Taking a leaf out of the book of the Communities League, who play once a week, yet all year round with three different competitions, 11-a-side grass, astro turf sevens and astro turf 11s, was another popular suggestion - one Robert Mackenzie was fully supportive of.
He said: “Less congestion and games in a short period of time would mean more time to train with the representative squads as well as our own. Personally, I also pick up a lot of injuries and I don’t feel I have enough time to recover between games. One league game a week would be better with the cups spread apart and perhaps some played over the winter.”
Pathways to work with the schools was also discussed with Keith Bray of the Junior FA explaining contact has already been made with the intention to attend trials in the future to provide children, particularly those who are unaffiliated to clubs with information of all the football clubs on the island.
The suggestion of not having a Lewis and Harris Select was dismissed by all in attendance who recognise the importance of a team representing the association.
The new steering group will meet soon with further plans and suggestions revealed in due course.