KELTY HEARTS are “urgently” seeking permission to resume training ahead of the “biggest games in our club’s history”.

The New Central Park outfit are hoping to be given a professional sport exemption from the Scottish Football Association that would allow them to prepare ahead of their pyramid play-off matches with Brora Rangers - the winners of which would face SPFL League Two's bottom side for the right to play SPFL football next season.

Last Tuesday (March 30), Barry Ferguson’s team were declared champions of the Lowland League for a second successive year via a points per game (PPG) average, after being top when the league was suspended in January.

READ MORE: Kelty Hearts declared Lowland League champions

At that time, all football beneath the SPFL Championship was suspended and, although League One and League Two, the Scottish Cup and the Scottish Women’s Premier League One were allowed to return last month – on the basis they undertook weekly testing – the Lowland League remained sidelined.

Following a vote, nine clubs supported the move to declare the season using points per game, which saw Kelty finish top with an average of 2.77. That allowed the Lowland League to put them forward as their representative in the pyramid play-offs against the Highland League winners, which were declared last week as Brora Rangers.  However, with adult contact sport not due to resume until May 17, Kelty are seeking the exemption from the SFA that will allow them to train as normal before the tie, which will be played over two legs on April 24 and May 1.

Dunfermline Press:

Barry Ferguson's team are set to meet Brora Rangers in the pyramid play-offs. Photo: Jim Payne.

The winners will play the team that finishes bottom of League Two, also over two games, with the victor then taking their place in that division for next season.

In a statement released last Friday, Kelty said: “The decision to declare a champion on PPG, rather than a null and void season, was necessary to ensure a club from the Lowland League would go forward to the pyramid play-off. This decision sees Kelty Hearts declared as champions and we would like to place on record our appreciation of how difficult this decision would be for the league and its member clubs. We would also like to acknowledge the efforts all member clubs and the board had made to ensure the successful safe return to Lowland League football earlier in the season.

“We now face a two legged play-off against Brora Rangers, a fixture that has been approved and confirmed by the SFA.

“With current Covid restrictions only allowing non-contact training for adult teams, and also travel restrictions remaining in place, we and the league board are urgently seeking a professional sport exemption from the SFA which will allow the squad to return fully to training.

“This exemption is necessary to allow the squad to prepare fully for the biggest games in our club’s history. We are fully aware that a return to training will require full Covid testing, and we are currently in discussions to have this in place on the go ahead from the relevant authorities to return to training.”

“With the play-offs only three weeks away, the urgency of receiving this exemption can’t be emphasised enough so our management team and squad can prepare as best they can.”

However, yesterday (Wednesday), the club provided a further update, which stated they had not received a response to an email sent to SFA chief executive, Ian Maxwell, and that "any further delay will be grossly unfair on the players involved, with sufficient preparation time required to prevent injury as much as possible having been out the game since the beginning of January, 3 months".

They said: "After receiving numerous enquiries, the board of Kelty Hearts FC release the following update to keep the club’s supporters aware of the current situation as we look forward to the pyramid play-off fixtures between Brora Rangers and ourselves.

"It is now over a week since the SLFL declared Kelty Hearts as their champion club, and subsequently as the SLFL representative in the pyramid play-off ties against the SHFL champions, with SFA approval of the SLFL v SHFL ties being reported in the press on April 2nd .

"As detailed in the club’s previous release a professional sports exemption is required to allow us to bring the squad back to full training, due to current Scottish Government legislation presently allowing only non contact training for adult teams and the current national travel restrictions.

"However, despite repeated attempts by club officials and by SLFL officials we are yet to receive confirmation from the Scottish FA or Government that a professional sports exemption is being granted to allow the squad to return to training in order to fully prepare for these games.

"An email from the club to the Scottish FA Chief Executive on Monday 5th April is still awaiting reply, SLFL officials are also hastening with the governing bodies daily on our behalf.

"The exemption that the club requires is identical to that previously granted to SHFL clubs to enable their participation in the 2nd and 3rd Rounds of the Scottish Cup, an exemption now also required by Brora Rangers following their exit from the Scottish Cup.

"The first leg of the play-off ties is scheduled to be played on Saturday 24th April. With the requirement for full testing to be in place to allow a return to training, in the interests of player wellbeing we call on Government representatives and Scottish FA officials to grant the required exemption as a matter of urgency.

"With little over two weeks until the scheduled 1st leg any further delay will be grossly unfair on the players involved, with sufficient preparation time required to prevent injury as much as possible having been out the game since the beginning of January, 3 months.

"We would like to assure supporters, management and players that the club are doing everything in our power to ensure this exemption is received as soon as possible, and we would like to give our continued thanks to the SLFL for their ongoing efforts on our club’s behalf."

Dunfermline Press:

The club have described the Brora ties as the biggest games in the club's history. Photo: Dave Wardle.

Last season, the pyramid play-offs – which would also have featured Kelty and Brora – were controversially scrapped when league seasons across the country were called due to the outbreak of the pandemic.

Ferguson’s team last played on January 9 in the Scottish Cup, where they lost 3-2 to Stranraer, who knocked out Brora after extra time in round three on Saturday.

Press Sport has approached the SFA and Scottish Government for comment.