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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Gretna are league newcomers
Gretna have won a place in the Scottish Football League for the first time
The Gretna staff celebrate their league status
Gretna have become the newest members of the Scottish Football League, joining the senior Scottish set-up for the first time since their foundation in 1947.

The 27 current member clubs voted the club into the Scottish Third Division on Tuesday after hearing presentations from seven clubs.

Gretna received 16 votes in a second ballot after the first round of voting failed to produce a conclusive result.

Newly-formed Airdrie United had been favourites to fill the gap in the league left by the now defunct Airdrieonians.

But the Unibond League club beat off all competition to take their place in the league at the third time of asking.


Airdrie had more to offer Scottish football than our rivals
Jim Ballantyne
Airdrie Utd chairman
Gretna will kick off the new season back in their homeland with a home match with Morton on 3 August, a homecoming for manager Rowan Alexander who played for the Cappielow club.

SFL secretary Peter Donald said: "I am delighted to say Gretna are with us and the community of Scottish football has expanded to the edge of the country."

Donald admitted that Airdrie's recent past had not helped the cause of Airdrie United.

"I think the potential precedent that may have been set may have been a major factor," he added.

"There was certainly concern about that and I think it was certainly one element that went towards it."

Gretna secretary Ron MacGregor added: "It is a great day for Gretna Football Club. We can now come back to Scotland."

Many at the club feel the Unibond League is stronger than the Third Division.

Sandy Stewart and Jim Ballantyne leave Hampden
Airdrie's representatives were devastated
They play at Raydale Park, which has a 1,500-seater stand, but they play in front of an average crowd of only 100.

Nevertheless, the club has achieved its lifetime ambition of making it into the Scottish Football League.

Airdrie United chairman Jim Ballantyne admitted afterwards that he was desperately disappointed at the decision, both for himself and the people of Airdrie.

"They wanted to continue the town's 124-year association with senior football, and the whole community - people in the street, politicians and businesses - were 100% behind us," he said in a statement.

"I am adamant that Airdrie had more to offer Scottish football than our rivals, but the Scottish League chairmen thought otherwise, and I have to accept that.

"Yes, it's hurting, but I do congratulate Gretna on their victory and I genuinely wish them well in the Bell's Third Division."

Ballantyne admitted he did not know what the future now held for Airdrie.

Gala Fairydean, Preston Athletic, Cove Rangers, Huntly and Edinburgh City were the other disappointed candidates.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Gretna manager Rowan Alexander
"A lot of hard work has gone into what we've done"
Airdrie Utd chairman Jim Ballantyne
"We knew we had no God-given right to get in"
See also:

17 Jun 02 | Scotland
14 Jun 02 | Scotland
31 May 02 | Scotland
25 May 02 | Scotland
Links to more Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.


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