THE reigning champions of a Sunday amateur football league have pulled out of a competition decider in disgust after it clashed with this month’s Scottish Cup final.
Spartans had been due to play Redhall in the Edinburgh and Districts Sunday Amateur Football Association cup final on May 26 – the same day Hibs attempt to break a 111-year Scottish Cup drought.
Many of the Spartans players have booked their seats for the Hampden showdown and attempts to have their own final rescheduled have fallen on deaf ears.
They had suggested it be played on the Friday before, or an alternative Sunday, so the team’s dedicated Hibs fans could watch the club’s shot at history against Celtic.
As a result of the switch refusal they have decided not to honour their remaining league fixtures this season and forego a chance to retain their title.
Manager Dean Philp claimed league management’s decision to not reschedule the final was a case of “sour grapes”, with Spartans having already decided to move to another association for next season.
The amateur team applied in February to shift from EADSAFA to the rival Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur Football Association.
Spartans pulled out of the competition a fortnight ago after learning of the association’s stance. They had won five matches to reach their own cup final.
Mr Philp said: “We asked for them to have a bit of common sense. We’ve got 15 players from our team who are Hibs fans. Some of them are season ticket holders. Every one of them went to the semi-final.
“We’ve done well to get to the association final. We’ve paid a lot of money in league fees and the guys have given up a lot of their own time. We just feel we’ve been treated a bit unfairly.”
Hibs are seeking to end one of the sport’s longest-running hoodoos, having not won the Scottish Cup since 1902. They scraped through to the final after a thrilling 4-3 win over Falkirk last month secured with a superb extra-time strike by Leigh Griffiths.
Mr Philp said of having to choose between Hibs and their own final: “Our players are gutted. They have worked hard all season. They have put a good pre-season in and turned up every Wednesday and every Sunday, paying their money.
“To be cheated and not given the opportunity to play in a cup final, they just feel really down.”
Spartans, who play at Ainslie Park, went through their amateur premier league undefeated last season.
Mr Philp is a key organiser of the annual Rivals4Charity match, which pits supporters from Hibs and Hearts against one another at either Tynecastle or Easter Road.
Association secretary Len Blackie said he was not in a position to comment, with league management still hoping to work out the issue with Spartans.
But he stressed the fixture clash had not been intentional, with the date for the association final locked in last year before the Scottish Cup dates were announced.
Mr Blackie said: “The clash was just [bad luck].
“A special meeting’s got to be done to get the date changed. It’s not just something we can do off the cuff.”