'Stunned' Buckie ineligible for play-off as East Kilbride progress

Saturday's Pyramid Play-Off tie between Buckie Thistle and East Kilbride has been cancelled, leaving the Highland League champions "stunned and devastated" by the claim that they failed to meet Scottish FA licensing requirements.

It means Lowland League champions East Kilbride progress straight to the final against whoever finishes bottom of Scottish League 2 for a place in the Scottish Professional Football League next season.

Buckie were crowned Highland League champions for the 12th time on a dramatic final day last weekend as their 1-0 win over Keith meant they edged out Brechin City, who beat Brora Rangers 2-1, on goal difference.

But Buckie failed to obtain the required bronze-level club licence at an SFA licensing committee meeting on Wednesday.

"The Scottish FA regrets to announce that Buckie Thistle FC will not be eligible to participate in the Pyramid Play-Off tie," the governing body has stated.

"East Kilbride FC, who were granted a bronze licence by the committee, will proceed."

An SFA spokesperson pointed out that all Highland and Lowland League clubs were told in December they would have to meet the SPFL’s updated membership criteria requirements.

"The Scottish FA’s club licensing department has been in regular dialogue with Buckie Thistle since then to notify the club of, and provide ample time to address, issues highlighted in their club licensing report," said the spokesperson.

“Unfortunately, these issues were not addressed by the club prior to yesterday’s licensing committee decision.”

An SPFL spokesperson added that Buckie had "failed to respond to any of the three subsequent follow-up letters sent in October, February and March".

The club had also "failed to apply for a period of grace by the 31 March 2024 deadline".

The spokesperson added: "The SPFL board has huge sympathy for Buckie and their fans but has no option but to enforce our rules."

However, Buckie claim they asked for a period of grace for four items on 23 April and "we were granted derogations for three items - floodlights, safety officer and diversity and inclusion".

"One item - medical – has been deferred until the 15th of May, but the club has committed to resolving the matter by 10th May," they say.

"It goes without saying that everyone at the club is stunned and devastated by the timing of this decision.

"It’s particularly harsh on the players and management, who put so much hard work into winning the Highland League title."

Meanwhile, East Kilbride boss Mick Kennedy said that, while delighted to be through to the next round, it was "not the way I would have wanted to progress" and that he feels "sorry for everyone connected to Buckie Thistle".

Currently, Clyde are the side most likely to face his side in the play-off as they are one point behind Stranraer and three adrift of Bonnyrigg Rose at the foot of League 2 with two games remaining.

The play-off will be over two legs on 11 and 18 May.