The summer in Scotland saw its fair share of flash floods. Four seasons in one day Scottish style appeared with scorching hot sunshine giving way to torrential rain seemingly in a matter of minutes. And, while it would be an exaggeration to suggest that a flood of new football teams have arrived on the Scottish football scene, a good few new names have drifted down the river of footballing hope onto Scotland’s fabled grassy pitches.
Amongst the East Juniors new names like Syngenta, Kirkcaldy & Dysart FC, Sauchie CFC and Bo’ness United Juniors have appeared. Syngenta have been around since the 1950’s primarily at juvenile level but they successfully applied to enter the East Juniors set up in 2019. Subsequently they have entered into a ground sharing agreement with EoSFL side Dunipace.
Kirkcaldy & Dysart meanwhile were known as Kirkcaldy YMCA but following a merger partnership with Dysart AFC, Templehall United and Kirkcaldy FC a new Kirkcaldy based club has been established. The club will continue to play at the former home of the YMCA club – Denfield Park with the aim of giving local players who not in scope of the bigger Fife sides the chance to play the game at a semi-professional level. Crucial to the partnership pathway is the involvement of Templehall United a thriving local youth club with numerous teams and young players.
Sauchie Community FC will play games and ground share with EoSFL counterparts Sauchie Juniors and play in East Juniors Premier League during 2019-20 season. Meanwhile Bo’ness United Juniors, who were formally known as Linlithgow Thistle, will ground share with its EoSFL sister side.
But if those names were an eye opener so too is the club name ‘Caledonian Braves’ that emerged a few weeks before the start of the 2019-20 Lowland Scottish Football League season; the 5th tier of Scottish football.
The Caledonian Braves story is however, like those mentioned previously, not a completely new tale. This is because the foundations of the club date back to 2011, with the creation of the Edusport Academy football set up.
Edusport Academy is a football academy set up to provide football coaching and education to young French footballers. The club started out in Motherwell with training held at the Ravenscraig Regional Sports facility. To complement football activities a residential programme for players towards improving English language skills was developed so that players could develop off the field as well as on it.
The big break for the club came in 2014 when Edusport Academy entered the South of Scotland League set up playing home matches at the Hamilton Palace Sports Ground. After a few seasons further advancement was made when the club moved home games to the modern Galabank Stadium and a ground share with SPFL 2 side Annan Athletic.
Winning the South of Scotland league in 2017 gave the club access to the pyramid system within Scottish football as Edusport became the first club in the history of Scottish football to be promoted to the Lowland League set up.
The Braves are an ambitious and innovative club; intent on attracting progressive partners towards attaining its long term goals. The rebranding and renaming strategic change was kicked off via a marketing campaign in the national media – the BBC’s Off The Ball Programme focusing on the idea one Saturday.
Out of this came the launch of the www.ourfootballclub.com project which allowed an online community of supporters to rebrand, mobilise change and make decisions about the Edusport Academy club.
Of course, while Edusport Academy called the project innovative this is not the first time such an online fan project has been embarked upon. Back in 2007 at the height of the growth of the internet it was announced that the website MyFootballClub had entered a deal in principle to take over English lower league side Ebbsfleet United.
Approximately 27,000 MyFootballClub members each paid £35 to provide an approximate £700,000 takeover fund and all owned an equal share in the club. While no profits or dividends were forthcoming, members did have a vote on transfers as well as player selection and all major club decisions.
At Edusport Academy via the ‘Our Football club’ portal over 800 fans from various countries got involved and the main decisioning result was the rebranding of the clubs as the Caledonian Braves football team. In addition, a decision was made to call the new home ground Alliance Park in a hint towards the 13th century cordial between the Kingdom’s of France and Scotland.
Strategically the club see themselves as being a little bit different to most other clubs in that technological innovation is central to the club’s progression on the pitch. To help with this goal the club previously based in Annan undertook some work alongside North Lanarkshire Leisure which upgraded facilities in Strathclyde Country Park creating ‘Alliance Park’ in Bothwellhaugh – the new ‘pop up’ home for the club.
The club have also set up a mobile App which the founders hope will boost and create fan engagement with the football operations side of the club. The club directors hope that the App will give supporters a ‘two-way’ approach with the club rather than simply the ‘one way’ information delivery channel most modern social media channels use. The App puts fans at the heart of club decisions with the club ‘at their finger-tips’.
Alliance Park is now one of the most up to date Lowland League venues with a range of improvements to the playing pitch, two new spectator stands and new LED flood lighting. In addition, there has been a number of pavilion upgrades, including new changing room facilities and a new hospitality area thanks to the partnership with North Lanarkshire Leisure.
Caledonian Braves started the season in fine fashion with a convincing win over Edinburgh University at Peffermill East and a 3-2 home win over Gretna. While the Braves hope that its digital innovations will be a ‘game changer’ for the club the club were brought a little back down to earth thanks to a heavy defeat at home versus title hopefuls Kelty Hearts.
Ultimately though the clubs ambition is to marry technology with fan engagement towards getting results on the park with the aim of getting promotion to the Scottish Premier League by 2025.
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