Lowland League chairman George Fraser is adamant the pyramid playoffs must go ahead — and has called on the SPFL to provide clarity to Kelty Hearts and Brora Rangers amid spiralling Covid-19 testing costs.
There is continued uncertainty surrounding whether Kelty and their Highland League counter-parts, Brora, will be given a crack at the team which finishes at the foot of League 2.
Brechin City, who finished bottom of the 42 when last season was curtailed due to the pandemic, again occupy that perilous position.
There was a twist in the tale on Tuesday when reports emerged of a counter-proposal from Glebe Park chiefs; a reconstruction plan which would see Kelty and Brora ascend into an expanded 12-team bottom tier this summer.
There is nothing “fundamentally unfair” years ago clubs voted for a pyramid. We even voted for it 😬 We were the 1st club 42 and took our medicine, embraced the Lowland League and rallied @OfficialBRFC did the same. Dry your eyes @BrechinCityFC you are bottom for a reason. @spfl https://t.co/oFcCKjoQwF
— East Stirlingshire FC (@TheShireFC) April 20, 2021
The following year, the champions of the Lowland and Highland Leagues would again be promoted, with Celtic and Rangers Colts teams also invited to join a 16-team division.
But Fraser said: “We firmly believe that the pyramid playoffs should take place.
“We have legitimately provided a champion club and from that point of view, nothing has changed our position on that.
“Brechin are doing what they feel they have to do in order to maintain their SPFL membership and that is their prerogative. The SPFL are a members’ organisation so they are entitled to do so.
“I can’t speak to how much support that will garner among other clubs.
“We, as a league, are in the same boat as Kelty Hearts, which is waiting for the SPFL to give us some indication when the playoff games will take place and their position. We are at the mercy of them — and there is a need for a swift decision.”
That imperative is due to the fact both Kelty and Brora — declared champions after 13 and three league games, respectively — are following costly Covid-19 protocols.
They have already been given Scottish FA dispensation to face each other in the playoff semi-final, with the first leg set for this Saturday. The winners, in principle, get a shot at promotion to League 2.
“Time is marching on and both clubs, Kelty and Brora Rangers, are spending in excess of £2,000 per week on testing in preparation of this tie,” continued Fraser.
“They need assurances and they need a schedule to prepare for. We need the SPFL to clarify things for us.”
There is an inescapable sense of deja vu after the pyramid playoffs were scrapped last year — Kelty and Brora also won their respective titles last term — only to be followed by months of wrangling and reconstruction talks.
However, Fraser says football finds itself in a very different situation and, as such, insists there should be a different outcome.
“There were no games being played last year and the options were limited by that,” added Fraser. “There was a total ban on football.
“This year, football is being played — the clubs are back in training under testing conditions — so that makes it a different scenario. It is clear that games are able to take place and, as such, I would expect the playoffs to happen.”