Brora Rangers will compete in the pyramid play-offs after the SPFL confirmed the games against Kelty Hearts will go ahead.
Brora, declared Highland League champions after just three games were possible, had been waiting on an outcome from an SPFL board meeting held on April 19, on whether that play-off and the subsequent two-legged tie against ‘Club 42’ would be played.
The league’s governing body have now declared the matches will take place, giving the Cattachs the opportunity to contest for a place in League Two next season.
A draw has been made which will mean Brora have home advantage for the first leg against Kelty, although dates have yet to be set for the matches.
Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive: “The principle of the Scottish football pyramid is of huge importance to the integrity of open competition. It was vital, given the implications for all three clubs, that the respective organisations took all practicable steps to ensure that the play-offs could take place.
“We are delighted that the decision by the judge corresponded with the view of the Scottish FA and provides the necessary clarity to the league bodies and certainty to those clubs affected.”
Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive of the SPFL, said: “Like so many aspects of our sport, both the clubs and the SPFL have been in uncharted territory as a result of the disruption caused by COVID-19. We are 100% committed to the principle of the sporting pyramid but were understandably keen to ensure that any decisions reached were both fair and in accordance with the rules and agreements of all four organisations.
“We therefore worked with the Scottish FA to conduct an arbitration in front of a senior judge and are very pleased that the position has been definitively clarified, and that this season’s Pyramid Play-Off Matches will proceed as normal.”
Both Brora and Kelty had been testing their players and training for the games against each other, all the while waiting on a belated decision from the SPFL.
Cattachs chairman William Powrie had expressed hope they would receive the go-ahead and stated all the criteria for them joining the SPFL had been met.
Brechin City, the club currently bottom of League Two and in-line to be ‘Club 42’, had challenged the play-offs going ahead. They said it was “fundamentally unfair” for the games to go ahead this season, citing Brora and Kelty playing significantly less games than whoever finished bottom of League Two.
Also included in the statement was backing for the pyramid play-off system – but that it should not take place this season. Brechin had also proposed an expanded League Two to 12 teams, to enable Brora and Kelty to be promoted.
Brechin chairman Ken Ferguson resigned from the SPFL board ahead of the meeting. His side will be confirmed in 10th place if they fail to beat Annan Athletic tonight.
The SPFL were believed to be seeking a second legal opinion on the matter last week, despite the Scottish FA telling Highland League secretary Rod Houston the legal advice they had received was sound.
Cowdenbeath chairman Donald Findlay had said earlier this week he did not believe the play-offs should go ahead on the basis of “sporting integrity”. The Blue Brazil, after their loss to Brechin on Tuesday night, can still mathematically finish bottom of League Two.
The first leg of Brora’s play-off against Kelty was due to take place last weekend, with the second leg slated for Saturday.
Brora and Kelty had both been declared winners of the Highland and Lowland Leagues last year, before the season was curtailed early due to the coronavirus pandemic.