Banks o’ Dee chairman Brian Winton says his club has no interest in joining the Highland League.
The Spain Park club has been tipped as a possible replacement should a Highland League title-winning team making it successfully through the SPFL play-offs.
The uncertainty over Fort William’s future could also open up a potential spot in the Highland League but Winton says his club is keen to focus on youth development rather than trying to climb the pyramid. The Aberdeen juniors boast a 100% record in the North Region Superleague and reached the final of the Aberdeenshire Shield with a 7-0 thumping of Deveronvale on Wednesday.
Dee also made it to the third round of the Scottish Cup with home victories against Linlithgow Rose, Selkirk and Huntly before losing 6-2 at home to Ayr United, after twice leading the League 1 side.
Winton said: “My view is that I am trying to build a club that is going to be sustainable for years.
“Getting all the infrastructure in place and creating a stable base is our focus. If we went into the Highland League we would need to increase our budget.
“That would make it difficult to carry out the upgrades we want to our facilities as we would have to spend more money on wages and buses.
“My own view is that the Highland League is made up of a mixture of amateur teams, junior teams and Highland League teams and I don’t see the attraction of going into that league.
“I’m not sure that the Highland League in its current format is going to be sustainable.
“If Cove Rangers are promoted to the SPFL through the pyramid system that will leave another gap because they are one of the top teams, so over time the strength of the division is being diluted.”
Winton has also noticed a difficulty in attracting young players to his club.
He said: “My worry is that we are the only club doing development with youngsters from five upwards.
“We don’t have the same volume of youngsters coming through and there is definitely not the same interest in kids playing football.
“They seem to prefer to play computer games instead.
“We are already beginning to see Highland League clubs such as Deveronvale, Buckie Thistle, Huntly and Turriff United all struggling to attract players from Aberdeen because there is just not the volume of players there used to be.”