Buckie Jags cleared of wrongdoing in Highland League row

MORAY HIGHLAND LEAGUE side Buckie Thistle will face no further action over a rules breach that threatened to ruin their chances of winning the league title this week.

At a tense meeting in Lossiemouth last night, the league’s management board decided to take no further action over a breach of their own rules relating to recalling one of their players from a loan transfer after March 31.

The rule, originally put in place to stop clubs strengthening their squads towards the closing stages of a season, will now be revisited by the league and “clarified” for future seasons.

Buckie will now go into their final league match at home to Strathspey Thistle on Saturday knowing that a win will clinch the title.

The tense end of season stand-off that resulted in Thursday’s two and a half hour special meeting of the league management committee centred around rule 8.9.6, which stated that no player subject to a transfer after March 31 could be listed in a league match. Both Buckie and Formartine did just that on Saturday, Buckie having recalled Callum Murray from Deveronvale and Formartine facing the same charge having listed Max Berton.

However, Buckie contested the charge having received written approval from the Highland League secretary prior to the game last Saturday.

Revealing the decision of the league to take no action against either club, League vice-president George Manson said: “The matter in hand was given thorough consideration, including hearing submissions from Buckie Thistle Football Club and from Formartine United Football Club, and it was decided to take no action.

“In addition, the secretary was instructed to develop reworded drafts towards clarifying the terms of the rule for application in future seasons.”

What Happened?

The row developed following Buckie’s penultimate game at the weekend, prior to which they had recalled the loan of Murray from Deveronvale. That caused a social media storm when rule 8.9.6 was highlighted, which states:

“8.9.6 Any player registered with a Scottish Professional Football League or a Scottish Highland Football League Club whose registration is cancelled with the Scottish F A or who is subject of a transfer between any combination of the aforementioned Clubs on or after 31st March cannot play for any other Club during the current season.

“Additionally, any player who is registered by a national association out with Scotland and who is the subject of an International clearance application submitted on or after 31st March cannot be played in League competitions in the current season.

“8.9.7 It is the duty of a member Club or the Secretary to report any contravention of Rule 8.8.1 to 8.8.6 to the League Management Committee

“8.9.8 In the event of a Club being found guilty of a breach of Rule 8.8.1 to 8.8.6 a fine (subject to a maximum of Five Hundred Pounds [£500]) and a mandatory three (3) point deduction will be imposed for each game in which an infringement occurred.

“Neither the League Management Committee nor the Judicial Panel nor the Secretary shall be entitled to waive or modify the application of this Rule in any circumstances.”

In giving Buckie Thistle clearance to play Murray after his recall from Deveronvale, the League Secretary appeared not to take full account or held a different interpretation to league rule 8.9.6.

The Highland League management committee, however, accepted that the rule, as worded, appeared to leave some doubt over player registrations under loan arrangements.