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SPFL and SFA give go-ahead to pyramid play-off competition

Brora Rangers will play Kelty Hearts with the winner facing 'Club 42'

SPFL and SFA give go-ahead to pyramid play-off competition SNS Group

The SPFL and SFA have announced that the end-of-season pyramid play-off will go ahead, after the league had raised “several issues” around the competition.

The league governing body had been reviewing concerns surrounding the play-offs, which decide who the 42nd member of the senior leagues would be next season.

Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts were due to play each other last week in the first leg of their play-off to decide who would go on to face the bottom team in the SPFL. But issues were raised over the teams having been awarded their place in the play-offs after being named as league winners despite only having played a fraction of their season,

The SPFL and SFA sought outside legal advice and a review of the rules was carried out. The legal investigation, overseen by a judge, ruled that both Brora and Kelty were entitled to be put forward as representatives from their league.

Dates for the games will be announced in due course.

The play-offs are contested at the end of the regular season, where the winners of a two-legged tie between the Highland League champions and the Lowland League winners then face the bottom side in SPFL League 2 with a place in the league the prize for the victor.

The format was introduced to allow access to the senior league set-up for all clubs in Scottish football’s pyramid.

This season’s competition was complicated by the fact that teams down through the pyramid have been unable to play their full league seasons as normal because of restrictions put in place to combat the pandemic.

As a result, the Highland League named Brora Rangers as their champion despite only having played three games, while Kelty Hearts took the Lowland League title after playing just 12 matches.

Brechin City, currently sitting at the bottom of League Two and likely to be the SPFL’s ‘Club 42’ who would face the play-off winner with their senior status on the line, argued that the pyramid play-off shouldn’t take place because they have endured a busy schedule after the restart, while their opponents would have played very little football in preparation for the all or nothing tie.

Brechin, who also finished bottom of the league structure last season, instead proposed an expanded League Two for next season, with both Brora and Kelty invited to join, alongside ‘Colts’ teams from Celtic and Rangers in a 14-team league.

In a statement released by the footballing authorities confirming the decision, Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell said: “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.”