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Barry Ferguson’s Kelty Hearts crowned Scottish Lowland League champions

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Kelty Hearts have been crowned Scottish Lowland League champions.

The Lowland League has followed its equivalent in the Scottish football pyramid, the Highland League, in announcing an end to the campaign. Brora Rangers were declared Highland champions on March 21.

Both leagues’ champions would normally be due to play each other over two legs for the right to face the bottom club of Ladbrokes League Two, currently Brechin, for a place in the Scottish Professional Football League.

As it stands there are no plans for any play-offs but there have been calls to temporarily extend the SPFL by two clubs for next season to let both champions in.

Barry Ferguson’s Kelty side sit six points clear of Bonnyrigg Rose, who had a game in hand and were due to face the leaders in one of their final six matches.

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A statement from the league read: “The board of the SLFL have today decided to end the league competition with immediate effect.

“The board took into account the points per game average based on the standings at the cessation of football on the 13th March, and as such have declared that Kelty Hearts are this season’s champion club.

“Furthermore, the board would like to make it clear that it feels that no member club should be disadvantaged by the current health crisis we face, and as such there will be no relegation from the SLFL in season 2019/20.”

The league added it was “aware of the implications” for the East of Scotland and South of Scotland leagues, which feed into the Lowland League, and would announce “contingency plans to cover this in due course”. A West of Scotland League is due to start next season with 68 applications submitted.

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The decision comes as the SPFL waits for Dundee to make their casting vote on whether the Ladbrokes Championship and Leagues One and Two should be called as they stand, and possibly the Premiership to follow.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster was due to attend the Lowland League board meeting.

A statement from Kelty read: “Absolutely not the way anyone at the club would have wanted to finish and football really does pale into insignificance of what battles we are all facing in life just now, most notably the NHS, people and families affected by this terrible virus.

“The manager Barry Ferguson, his staff and most of all the players have put in tremendous effort, skill and sacrifices since May last year and throughout the season, they have performed at a consistent level over the season played and have been top of the Lowland League for the majority.

“On that basis we accept the board’s call in being crowned the Lowland League champion club for 19/20.”

The SPFL board is expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss the impasse over a decision on the league season and the controversy surrounding the vote process.

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Edinburgh City voted for the SPFL resolution but the League Two club have now expressed some discomfort over the plans, while calling for Kelty and Brora to be promoted.

City claimed they voted on the basis that no clubs should suffer financially and because promotion and relegation should not be abandoned.

They added: “We strongly advocate league reconstruction featuring an increased Premiership with promotion from each division, including the winners of the Highland and Lowland leagues joining the SPFL.

“This would be a solution which creates only winners and no losers.

“It is also our view that there is no clear reason why prize money – or at least a large percentage of it – could not be paid out immediately given these exceptional circumstances.”