Arab money hits the Highland League as Formartine United get set to splash the cash

Formartine United, Notts County and Manchester City, all of the three clubs have the same thing in common, that is that they are being bankrolled by people from the Middle East. Now I'd never heard of Formartine United either when I noticed this story but I have now, the club apparently based in the tiny town of Pitmedden, 18 miles north of Aberdeen, the team itself taking its name from the Formartine district of Aberdeenshire.

The figures certainly aren't the same as those mindboggling ones at Notts County and Manchester City but a 100,000 sponsorship over three years is certainly a lot of money for a club that has only just joined the Highland League this season. Formartine having previously played in the catchily titled Scottish Junior Football North Division One before they put in an application earlier this year to play at a higher level in an expanded Highland League.

Formartine being voted in alongside Turriff United and Strathspey Thistle after the 15 current league teams voted to add them to their ranks. The clubs all given the opportunity to signify the three clubs they wished to add to the league - with no preferential order noted - in a secret ballot. Turriff receiving 15 votes, Strathspey 14 votes and Formartine 11 votes. The unlucky losers being Aberdeen side Banks O'Dee who received just five votes.

The chairman of Formartine United has high hopes for his side in the future too on the back of his and other investors' cash. Atholl Cadger, Managing Director of Rollstud, an Aberdeen-based firm that makes pipe fittings being the man who is looking to make waves in the Highland League. The club having previously survived on attendances of around 100 seeing a bumper 751 spectators turn up for their first home game in a new division, although it did end up in a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Cove Rangers.

It was in late July that Formartine received their big boost when Kaddas Oilfield Services and Trading Company (Kostco) agreed to pay the club 33,333 a year in exchange for advertising space at their grounds over a three year deal. The Kostco website telling us that the company was established in 1977 in Abu Dhabi to cater to the needs of the Oil and Petrochemical industry in the United Arab Emirates, Kostco supplying bulk piping and materials to the industry.

Formartine secretary Martin Johnston has promised not to go wild with the Arab investment though as he told the Ellon Times : "We are running the club in a very business-like manner and that applies to spending as well as bringing money in. There will be no spending spree. We will be as prudent as ever before and there is no reason for clubs to think that they can move the decimal point a few places to the right during player negotiations. That would be very naive and short-sighted."

Johnston also explaining the reasons behind Kostco coming on board with the North Lodge Park outfit are down to chairman Atholl Cadger's business contacts in the United Arab Emirates and the surrounding area : "Atholl's company Rollstud sponsors youth football in the Middle East so this is a reciprocal effort. The two companies work closely and they are looking to break into new markets in new countries, so it's nice to see them continuing the relationship in their outside interests as well."

The first plans in place for spending some sponsorship cash are to extend the seated capacity of North Lodge Park from 300 to 500, as well as build an indoor training facility at the club. Other improvements planned being a hospitality suite that will cater for up to 60 people, a new perimeter wall around the ground and a replacement crush barrier. Those final two things then allowing them to gain the all important SFA accreditation that would see them able to compete in the Scottish FA Cup.

Johnston commenting on the efforts of the club to become affiliated members of the Scottish Football Association, and the need to satisfy current club licensing requirements as far as structure, accounts and facilities are concerned : "We have to tick all the boxes and unfortunately some of those boxes have a pound sign next to them. If we take all that into account, suddenly this huge pot of cash is put into perspective."

So it looks like being an interesting road ahead for Formartine although an instant injection of cash hasn't turned into results yet at this early stage, United having won one and lost two of their three Highland League games to date. Fellow new boys Turriff United doing better with two victories and a defeat, while Strathspey are finding life particularly difficult, Thistle losing their opening three matches 8-1, 3-0 and 6-0.