Bonnyrigg Rose crushed over decision to crown Kelty as champions

Midlothian club calls for reconstruction after title hopes are nipped in the bud

Bonnyrigg Rose hope the Lowland League will lobby for league reconstruction in Scotland after the Midlothian club’s dreams of promotion to League 2 were ended by the immediate termination of their season.

The Scottish Lowland Football League (SLFL) board yesterday decided to end the 
2019-20 campaign early due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Using a points-per-game metric, Kelty Hearts were crowned champions, with Bonnyrigg finishing second, although Rose were only six points behind Kelty in the standings with a game in hand. Moreover, of the six remaining matches Bonnyrigg were due to play, five were at home – including a visit from Kelty.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Bonnyrigg expressed their “disappointment” at the way the season has concluded and would have preferred a members vote – even if the result was likely to be the same – rather than a decision at board level. The Highland League, which ended its season last month, gave every club the power to make the call.

Rose are now calling for league reconstruction, pointing out in a lengthy statement that, while Partick Thistle, Stranraer and potentially Hearts would be demoted from their respective divisions under the pending resolution, Brechin City – whose chairman, Ken Ferguson, is on the SPFL board – would escape relegation from League 2
and that the champions of both the Lowland and Highland leagues would be denied ascension under current plans.

The statement on Bonnyrigg’s website read: “We understand that our league board has the power under the rules to ‘temporarily suspend, amend or add to the rules as circumstances may dictate from time to time, as it deems appropriate in its reasonable discretion, to facilitate the smooth running of the competition, or in order to ensure the League is capable of meeting any commitments put upon it under the terms of any contracts or agreements with other bodies or sponsors.’

“We are, however, disappointed that we were given no prior indication of this happening at a conference call last week of member clubs, where the expansion of teams within the league was discussed which we fully endorsed.

“There were emails between board members and member clubs post that meeting, where we learned that there was a board meeting scheduled for Monday 13th with members of the SPFL in attendance to discuss a range of matters but at no point was it declared that the option to end the league with immediate effect was an option for discussion. The decision to end the league was received via an email to all clubs at c15:15 yesterday (Monday 13th) and we have made our feelings known to league officials about that.

“The league board, like our own, is run exclusively by volunteers who dedicate a huge amount of their own personal time to ensure that the league is run in an orderly fashion. This is particularly the case this season where they have continued to lobby the SPFL on league reconstruction and the creation of a new league in the West of Scotland which we are all looking forward to see that up and running next season.

“We also recognise that there isn’t an answer to the current situation that would please all clubs and had there been a vote of all member clubs similar to that conducted by the Highland League then the outcome would likely have been the same. We are a league of members and to that end are no different to those above where clubs will vote for their own interests.”

Bonnyrigg’s pain is felt all the greater given their optimism over their chances of overtaking Kelty at the top of the table had the season been played to a 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“While we understand the current situation and the decision made it doesn’t make it any easier to take. We feel no less aggrieved than the teams in second place in the leagues above us,” the statement 

“The players, management team, committee and supporters have dedicated a huge amount of time and effort to get us into the position we were in with only six games remaining and we were optimistic, given five of those six games were at home, of achieving a positive outcome. The SPFL resolution which currently hangs in the balance proposes that Partick, Stranraer and potentially Hearts are relegated from their respective leagues.

“However, the team in bottom place in League 2 strangely gets a reprieve under the current scenario (not so strange when investigations are undertaken as to who the decision makers are on respective boards, but we will leave it to others to speculate about that).

“We hope that both the HL and LL can use this as leverage to continue to lobby for league reconstruction and that as a minimum the declared champions of both are playing league football next season as their exploits this season merit and is the start of a more progressive movement at both ends of our league.

“A quick glance at the current League 2 table will show that the top two sides have been the ones most recently promoted into the league and we would expect both Brora and Kelty to be challenging at the top end of that league next season.

“Reconstruction of course can take many forms and to that end we would also put ourselves forward as a good addition to that league and we will continue to make our case for that.

“The messages we have received from supporters and clubs from across the spectrum of leagues over the past 24 hours has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated by everyone associated with the club. It endorses our own belief that we are doing things the right way and moving in the right direction.

“We would finally ask our own supporters and those of all clubs to take care of yourselves and keep an eye out for those that belong to you that can’t. We hope to see you on the other side of this horrific scenario that we all currently face.”