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Ending the SPFL season without pyramid play-offs would create "significant disappointment" in Scottish football, say the Highland League

By Craig Christie

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A PROPOSAL to end the Scottish football season without play-off matches could deny Highland League champions Brora Rangers an opportunity to gain promotion to League 2.

Brora were unveiled as Highland League champions but could be denied the chance to go up to League 2. Photo: Derek Lowe
Brora were unveiled as Highland League champions but could be denied the chance to go up to League 2. Photo: Derek Lowe

And the Highland League has stated that any outcome blocking passage through the Scottish pyramid system would create "significant disappointment" in the game.

SPFL clubs have until tomorrow at 5pm to vote on a league resolution to finish the Championship, League 1 and League 2 campaign now.

The proposal, if passed, would see Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers promoted as leaders of their respective divisions, while bottom sides Partick Thistle and Stranraer would be relegated.

Second, third and fourth placed clubs in the three lower tiers would not have the opportunity to gain promotion through the play-offs, and League 2 bottom side Brechin City would escape possible relegation to the Highland League.

The SPFL resolution for finishing the season early
The SPFL resolution for finishing the season early

The SPFL also state:

"If the resolution is approved, the SPFL has also committed to consulting with Clubs over the possibility of League restructuring ahead of Season 2020/21."

Although the resolution also suggests that all clubs would be consulted on possible league reconstruction for next season, the door appears to be closing on an opportunity for the Highland and Lowland League winners to play for a place in League 2 next term.

Brora were made champions when the SHFL (Scottish Highland Football League) became the first Scottish league to officially end their season last month in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Sutherland side had six games still to play but were 13 points clear of their nearest rivals and destined to become winners in their own right.

They were expecting to play-off over two legs against Barry Ferguson's Kelty Hearts side who were six points clear at the top of the Lowland League. The winners of that tie would then have played off against the League 2 bottom side, which looked likely to be Brechin.

All play-offs could now be scrapped, closing off an "integral part" of the Scottish football pyramid system according to the Highland League.

An SHFL spokesperson said: "It almost goes without saying that the SPFL is faced with a nigh impossible task in seeking to fully satisfy all the issues currently faced by football clubs and football organisations.

"Adoption of the proposals brought forward today (April 8) is indeed for SPFL member clubs to determine and the SHFL does not seek to offer a view on how SPFL clubs should vote.

"There is, however, significant disappointment that the proposals include cancellation of the play-offs, an integral part of the Scottish football pyramid.

"The Highland League’s continued and acknowledged contribution to the development of the Scottish football pyramid would appear to be set aside in the search for a solution to the conundrums facing the SPFL. This is disappointing.

"When the Highland League unanimously declared Brora Rangers the 2019-20 Highland League champions, it also decided to offer continued support for the champion club to be given the opportunity to progress up the pyramid.

"The proposal to deny Brora Rangers that opportunity for progression is disappointing and, doubtless, there will be similar feelings among members of the Lowland League."

The Highland League statement called for the SPFL to come up with some "imaginative decision-making" if their resolution to end the season now is accepted and league reconstruction for next season can still be explored.

That could include increasing the number of clubs in the SPFL next term to accommodate the Highland and Lowland champs.

"Notwithstanding the recommended cancellation of play-offs, the Highland League does acknowledge that the SPFL proposal carries a reference to some form of restructuring for season 2020-21.

"That might offer the champion club of both Highland and Lowland Leagues some comfort and a route for progression.

"Be it some form of play-off or some form of restructuring which allows for a small increase in SPFL membership, the credibility of the Scottish Football Pyramid can but be enhanced by some imaginative decision-making and the Highland League stands ready to take part in that process."

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