A SMALL Highland League football team faces a massive bill after a centuries-old heraldic court ordered it to change its Lion Rampant logo or face legal action - despite having used the emblem for 50 years.
Formartine United in Aberdeenshire have been reported to the Court of the Lord Lyon for using the Royal Flag of Scotland and the Saltire in their coat of arms without permission.
The court is the heraldic authority for Scotland and deals with all matters relating to its heraldry and coats of arms and maintains the Scottish Public Registers of Arms and Genealogies.
A letter sent by Aberdeen's procurator-fiscal ordered the team to remove the image immediately from their website and all other material, including their strips.
While they initially believed it was a prank, the team soon discovered that it was far from a joke and had serious financial implications.
The club can now either pay thousands of pounds to record their badge on the Public Register of Arms or pay to completely re-brand the team.
If they refuse to do either, they face prosecution and every item bearing the club badge could be forcibly confiscated.
Club chairman Atholl Cadger said: "This is just a ludicrous situation, and there are ramifications for other sports clubs across Scotland that use the Saltire and lion rampant.
• 'What's the big deal? I can't believe people would object'
"Either way this is going to be very expensive for us. Re-branding the club would cost about 15,000 and could not just be done overnight.
"I recently spent 2,500 on branded club cutlery to use it in our hospitality, which would all have to be replaced. It is a ridiculous situation."
However, Formartine are not alone in their unintentional offending.
According to heraldic expert Mark Dennis, who holds the title of Ormond Pursuivant of Arms of the Court of the Lord Lyon, there were numerous examples of people creating their own coats of arms, unaware of the legal implications.
"People like to use heraldic elements because it looks dignified and has status," he said.
"I'm certain there are quite a few teams, pubs and people who have done this.
"Nobody gets particularly upset about it, but it's just a question of doing it right."
Mr Dennis said there was no heraldic police squad "snooping around" and Formartine would have been brought to the court's attention through a complaint.
According to Mr Dennis, the problem was not simply through the use of the Lion Rampant or the Saltire on its own, but as heraldic elements on a shield.
"There is nothing wrong with the Lion Rampant or a Saltire," he said. "It's the setting. The problems arise when people put things on a shield and its used as a coat of arms. Then there is a tax on it."
Alexander Green, the procurator-fiscal to the Court of the Lord Lyon, said: "In the past ten years there has been no prosecution in cases like this."I have dealt with clubs from the SPL down to amateur ranks and they have always been resolved.
"If we come to the right sort of agreement, then I will allow Formartine to exhaust the stocks of merchandise which they already have.
"Just because they have been using the emblem for a certain length of time does not excuse them from the fact they have been breaking the law."