Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 14:03 UK

Pitch battle for league newcomers

Strathspey Thistle
Strathspey Thistle are hoping to take their place in the 116-year-old league

Highland League newcomers Strathspey Thistle could be kicked out of the competition before they play their first match, the club has warned.

Officials said they would be forced out if Highland councillors turn down plans to improve their ground.

The work is a condition of the club's entry, but planners have recommended refusal on the basis that improvements will impact on neighbouring properties.

The club said that if they lose their place there may be no way back in.

Grantown-based Strathspey Thistle were accepted into an expanded 18-team Highland League for the 2009/2010 season last February, along with Formartine United and Turriff United.

In March, the club applied for permanent permission for an existing hospitality block and floodlights, along with two additional lights, a fence and two stands.

If the planning application goes against us on Tuesday then they're going to kick us out
Donly MacLeod
Club chairman

Councillors on the local planning committee are set to consider the application next Tuesday, but officials have reported that "the proposed development would result in a loss of general public access to a significant proportion of the Seafield Park".

Strathspey Thistle chairman and manager Donly MacLeod told BBC Scotland it was a worrying time after a lot of work to get the club where it is today.

He said: "The Highland League had a meeting yesterday afternoon with their major office bearers; they're saying to us that they want a decision made on Tuesday.

"It's only fair to them because they've got other clubs to think about and obviously the league fixture list is out as well."

Mr MacLeod said he was angry that the recreation ground has been there for decades for the purpose of football and any objections came from only a handful of people.

He added: "Obviously there comes at time when they've got to make a decision and the league did that yesterday afternoon and if the planning application goes against us on Tuesday then they're going to kick us out."

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