Grampian to downsize teams 
in bid to keep sport thriving

Ballater based StrathDee being coached by Cornhill's Davie McKenzie with Cornhill (yellow) and Elgin (red) waiting for the next round at Tomintoul Games in the 725kg Grampian games, Trinity International league.
Ballater based StrathDee being coached by Cornhill's Davie McKenzie with Cornhill (yellow) and Elgin (red) waiting for the next round at Tomintoul Games in the 725kg Grampian games, Trinity International league.

The Grampian Games Association has voted to reduce the size of tug of war teams at a public meeting on the future of the sport at Highland Games.

There has been concern that eight-man teams are threatening the future of the sport as there not enough teams to cover all the events.

Pulling under the traditional rules, teams such as Ballater-based StrathDee, Cornhill, Elgin, Strathardle and Moffat Builders were struggling to attend all the games in the Trinity International League and the games in the rest of Scotland as well.

It has been proposed that a reduction to a team of six and a combined weight of 520kg may free up team members from the teams that exist presently and also encourage more teams to get involved.

It will hopefully attract new teams and teams from Young Farmers and amateur clubs used to competing with smaller teams and at lighter weights who would be keen to try the more crowd-pleasing north-east style of pulling. The sport’s future in Grampian is now looking encouraging.

Following the meeting on Sunday at the Boat Inn Aboyne, Scott Fraser, a Grampian Games Association representative of the Scottish Highland Games Association, said: “The six-person 520kg competition will be trialed in the league in season 2020.

“But there will be games across Scotland which will possibly continue with eight-person 725kg and open weight competitions as well as Scottish STOWA competitions too, which the north-east teams will try to continue to support.

“Scottish Highland Games Association championships already awarded for next season include the eight-person 110st Scottish at Ballater and the eight-person 725kg Scottish for Crieff’s 150th year.”

Most of the teams that compete come from the north-east although there are a few others throughout Scotland. There are 12 Highland Games in the Grampian Games Association area which all hold various tug of war competitions as do many Highland Games throughout Scotland either under the north-east traditional/professional Scottish Highland Games Association rules or the amateur Scottish Tug of War Association rules.

For the nine league games, with the traditional eight-person 725kg, a well weighed-in team with plenty members may manage to come in on the button but others may struggle to make that weight.

“There is a misconception that tug of war is two teams of burly blokes pulling on a rope,” Scott added. “There is a lot of training and technique needed but it is a lot of fun and has a lot of rewards.”