Spartans face being kicked out of Cup over player’s registration

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Spartans’ dream draw of a home tie against Partick Thistle in the third round of the William Hill Scottish Cup could become a nightmare as they face being kicked out of the competition.

The Capital club were informed yesterday that they may have fielded an ineligible player in their 2-0 victory against Culter in the previous round last Saturday.

The player in question appears to be long-serving striker and their leading goalscorer, Keith McLeod, who, allegedly, has not been registered by Spartans for this season and, ostensibly, is ineligible to play in any cup ties.

The Scottish Football Association have issued a statement which reads: “A Notice of Complaint has been issued by the Compliance Officer to Spartans FC in relation to an alleged breach of Cup Competition Disciplinary Rules during the William Hill Scottish Cup match between Culter FC and Spartans FC on Saturday, October 22, 2011.”

The Disciplinary Rule(s) allegedly breached are Rule 305 which states that: “All players in the Competition must be eligible to play in the relevant match having regard in particular (but without prejudice to the generality) to the Registration Procedures and the Disciplinary Procedures.”

Rule 308 also further states that: “A player may not take part in the Competition without having been registered prior to such tie, with the Scottish FA, for the club for which he is to play. Each participating club is responsible for ensuring that all of its players who take part in the Competition are eligible to do so.”

Ironically, Spartans were the first name drawn out of the hat by former Aberdeen and Celtic player Mark McGhee at Musselburgh Racecourse yesterday and a plum home tie against Partick Thistle possibly awaits the Ainslie Park outfit if they are allowed to continue their participation in the competition. However, for co-manager Mike Lawson there was no elation when he said: “I have absolutely no thoughts on the draw against Partick Thistle whatsoever. Sam Lynch [co-manager] and myself, in our best faith, fielded a team against Culter to hopefully win a cup tie which we managed to achieve.

“At the moment, the third-round draw is irrelevant and the management and coaching staff of Spartans are as low as we could possibly be and we are devastated at the possibility of not playing against Partick Thistle in the next round.”

Craig Graham, the Spartans chairman, added: “We are aware that the SFA are investigating whether we fielded an ineligible player in our Scottish Cup game against Culter last week. We are awaiting to be advised on the next steps. Naturally, we cannot comment further until we hear more from the SFA.”

The SFA are holding a Principal Hearing on Thursday, November 10, at which the complaint will be discussed.

In December 2008, Spartans had a marathon tie with Elgin which courted much controversy.

The first staging of the game was called off just a few hours before kick-off due to the weather and when it was re-staged, the Capital side went down 2-1. It then emerged that Elgin keeper Joe Malin’s loan deal from Ross County was not in keeping with the rules and the match was initially ordered to be replayed. In a further twist, Spartans were then informed that defender Dean Hoskins had not been correctly registered for the game as well. In the end, the SFA opted for a replay which Spartans won, but they were fined £2,500.

It was a fortunate escape for the club as earlier that year Brechin City were thrown out of the tournament for fielding two ineligible players, when Hamilton Accies were reinstated.

Meanwhile, size matters for Bo’ness boss Paul Ronald, so the bigger the better as far as he’s concerned in this season’s Cup. Ronald is delighted to have landed a third-round tie at home against Colin Cameron’s Cowdenbeath.

With the Blue Brazil flying high at the top of the Second Division, it will be a tough task for the Super League champions, who lost at the same stage to Buckie Thistle last season.

But Ronald believes his side have a decent chance of going into the hat for the fourth-round draw along with the SPL big guns.

“Getting a tie against a team like Cowdenbeath already means we are in with the big boys,” said the Bo’ness manager.

“But it would be fantastic for everyone connected to the club, as well as their families, if we could be in with the bigger boys in the fourth round.”

Bo’ness won at Fort William in the opening round before beating Whitehill Welfare 2-1 last Saturday.

Confidence is high in the camp and Ronald reckons his side will be relishing the visit of the Central Park men.

“First and foremost it’s good that we came out of the hat with a home tie – that’s important,” he added.

“We’ll need to do our homework on Cowdenbeath but they’re doing well in the league so Colin Cameron is obviously doing a good job.

“They’ve got quality in their team but, at the same time, I don’t think there is any chance of them taking us lightly.”

Vale of Leithen were also handed a tough tie when they were paired with top Ayrshire Junior outfit, Auchinleck Talbot, away from home.

Robbie Horn, the Vale manager, said: “It could have been a better draw although it could also have been a whole lot worse! We are playing another non-league side and we have to be confident of causing an upset.”