The Centenary Cup of season 1990/91 was the forerunner of what is today more commonly known as the Scottish Challenge Cup. It was so named as it was introduced as a one-off competition to commemorate one hundred years of league football in Scotland.
Initially only open to Scottish League clubs outwith the top division, the Centenary Cup proved so popular with fans and clubs alike that it has expanded and continues to this day under various guises reflecting the identity of the sponsor of the time.
IRN-BRU this season enters its third term as the title sponsor, and this year’s IRN-BRU Cup promises to be the biggest and best yet.
The SPFL, as the tournament organiser, has in previous seasons extended an invitation to Highland League representatives to compete. The success of that move meant that they were soon joined by counterparts from the Lowland League.
For the 2016/17 season, the 12 Scottish Premiership clubs were represented in the competition for the first time through their Colt sides (under 20’s).
Continuing in this innovative vein, the same season saw the addition of invited Welsh and Northern Irish clubs. Two teams from the Republic of Ireland followed suit last season, and this year will also see full UK representation as English sides now enter the fray for the first time.
The new additions to this year’s competition from south of the border are the two highest ranked (non-promoted) sides from the Vanarama National League – the fifth tier of the English football pyramid – Sutton United and Boreham Wood. They will join the other non-Scottish clubs; Coleraine, Crusaders, The New Saints, Connah’s Quay Nomads, Bohemians, and Bray Wanderers at the second round stage of the competition.
IRN-BRU is no stranger to supporting Scottish football through sponsorship, and this continuing partnership through the IRN-BRU Cup follows that proud tradition. The Challenge Cup has gone through spells of having no sponsor in the past, so the continued support of Scotland’s ‘other’ national drink is a significant boost, both in terms of finance and also profile.
The iconic drink, “made in Scotland from girders” has previously lent its name to the lower leagues in Scotland as well as being a prominent sponsor of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
In 2015, IRN-BRU became the official soft drink partner of the English Football League as well in a seven-figure deal, described at the time by Adrian Troy, AG Barr’s Head of Marketing, as the company’s “biggest ever.”
Speaking to the Daily Record in 2015, Mr.Troy went on, “IRN-BRU has always been a big supporter of football but this landmark deal signals our biggest season yet.”
The Football League comprises the Championship, League One and League Two in England, and includes the Championship Play-off; widely referred to as “the richest game in football” and estimated by Deloitte to be worth in the region of £160 million to the winning side who earn promotion to the Premier League.
Scottish football may not be able to compete with those sorts of figures, but it remains hugely popular, boasting per capita attendance figures amongst the highest in Europe.
As well as the obvious financial support, having IRN-BRU as a sponsor guarantees some fun and games. The company’s past marketing campaigns are notorious for their irreverent humour and satirical take on the prevailing marketing environment.
The social media team wasted no time in coming up with an unusual way of presenting the participating clubs ahead of Tuesday’s first round draw which was held at The People’s Palace in Glasgow.
Pure Fitbaw was there to see Scotland great Billy Dodds conduct the draw along with Ross Leighton, frontman of Kilmarnock based alt. rock band Fatherson who will be appearing at the TRNSMT festival just outside Tuesday’s draw venue, on Glasgow Green, this weekend.
The full draw has been reproduced below, but by far the standout tie was holders Inverness Caledonian Thistle drawn to fellow Championship outfit Dunfermline Athletic.
An all-Lowland League tie between East Kilbride and Spartans ensures one of those will progress to the second round. There were also two-all-Colts ties with Kilmarnock Colts to play Premiership new boys St.Mirren’s Colts, while Dundee Colts will face Hibs Colts. Similarly, this means that at least two Premiership youth sides will also get another crack at glory in the next stage.
As I conclude, South Korea have just shocked the world by sending World Champions Germany crashing out of the World Cup in Russia. Always on the ball, within seconds of the final whistle, IRN-BRU was tweeting this:
We can all look forward to more of this as the drama of the 2018/19 IRN-BRU Cup unfolds!
First round draw in full. Ties to be played Tues./Wed 14/15 August, 2018
Livingston Colts v Forfar Athletic
Dundee Colts v Hibs Colts
Peterhead v Brechin City
Inverurie Loco Works or Fraserburgh v Formartine United
Hearts Colts v Ross County
Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Dunfermline Athletic
Dundee United v St.Johnstone Colts
Alloa Athletic v Stirling Albion
Elgin City v Arbroath
Cowdenbeath v East Fife
Raith Rovers v Aberdeen Colts
Cove Rangers v Montrose
Queen’s Park v Ayr United
Hamilton Academical Colts v Clyde
East Kilbride v Spartans
BSC Glasgow or East Stirlingshire v Motherwell Colts
Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers
Stenhousemuir v Queen of the South
Dumbarton v Morton
Kilmarnock Colts v St.Mirren Colts
Rangers Colts v Falkirk
Annan Athletic v Celtic Colts
Stranraer v Partick Thistle
Berwick Rangers v Airdrieonians