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INVITATIONS to two Welsh Premier sides, plus two from Northern Ireland, are a negative move.

So says Scottish Daily Record football reporter Callum Carson, who believes the move 'has completely devalued a competition that wasn't valued particularly highly by fans anyway'.

"I grew up in Wales and closely follow the Welsh Premier League," Carson writes. "During my youth, I either played with or against a lot of the guys currently at TNS and Bala Town, Wales' two representatives in the Challenge Cup this season.

"I'd love nothing more than a wee trip back home to meet old friends. Oswestry and Bala are both lovely little towns I know well. So you'd think I'd be for the changes to the Challenge Cup, right? Wrong."

Carson says the reaction from Wales has been positive and he can understand it from their point of view.

But he continued: "It gives their top teams the chance to challenge themselves at a higher level. Make no mistake about it, even SPFL League One is a higher standard than the Welsh top flight - and attendances are healthier up here, too. Crowds often fail to top the 200 mark in Wales' top flight.

"There is nothing positive about bringing Welsh teams into the competition. They offer nothing on or off the field and I don't want to contemplate what the attendance would be for a Bala Town v Elgin City clash.

"The decision to introduce Northern Irish and Welsh clubs, along with top-flight youth teams, has completely devalued a competition that wasn't valued particularly highly by fans anyway.

"Yes, it's the only realistic chance a so-called 'diddy' team has of winning a national cup competition, but nobody really cares about it until they reach the last-eight and suddenly realise they're two games away from a cup final.

"Fans constantly moan about having to travel to the likes of Elgin or Annan. How about throwing in a trip to Wales at the start of the season? We're lucky that both teams this year are northern outfits. It's an extra 100 miles from Oswestry, the home of TNS, to Carmarthen, for example.

"Look, the clubs are clearly in favour of these changes, otherwise they wouldn't have been approved - and there certainly hasn't been any major public dissent. But hey, it wouldn't exactly be the first time that clubs voted for changes the fans didn't want, would it?"

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