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FOOTBALL: SPL throw out Falkirk's Murrayfield plea.

FALKIRK last night failed in their bid to land an SPL spot next season - despite a dramatic last-ditch move to play their games at Murrayfield.

The 10 SPL clubs voted unanimously to rule them out of the race to join the top flight until they have a ground which meets their regulations and is a 10,000 covered all seater.

It will be the first time in Scottish football history a club has been denied promotion for a reason outwith their results.

The SPL had set a deadline of yesterday for clubs to have their grounds finished and Dunfermline, Raith Rovers, St Mirren, Livingston and Airdrie all had their stadia approved as meeting the criteria.

But despite their plans, Falkirk still haven't finalised the sale of Brockville and don't have planning permission for their proposed new ground.

Not all the SPL clubs were satisfied with their plans to use Murrayfield.

And some of the Top10 felt it was not certain Falkirk would From Back Page

even have a new ground by the season after next.

With Falkirk looking likely at least to finish in the top three of the First Division, it seems only two teams will move up to the SPL and no teams will be relegated from the top flight.

The news was not unexpected but Falkirk were naturally disappointed by the outcome.

Team manager Alex Totten said: "This is very disappointing. It is now three times we have been denied promotion.

"I don't understand why Celtic were allowed to go to Hampden while Parkhead was re-built but we can't go to Murrayfield, or why AC Milan and Inter Milan can groundshare but no one in Scotland can.

"The rules apparently say you have to 'own' your own ground but I understand that the local councils own some of the grounds which have been approved.

"This has made me and the players all the more determined to lift the First Division trophy. Without question we are one of the top 12 teams in Scotland.

"I want to win that trophy for the fans and for my grandson, Alexander."

Falkirk vice-chairman Colin Liddell said the club now had to look to the future.

Liddell said: "We presented a very strong case and are naturally very disappointed by the result. But life must go on.

"In the last two years the new board have done a lot of hard work to turn the club around and there is a lot more to do.

"We are very close to concluding the sale of Brockville which should just about meet the cost of building the new ground and we have put in a planning application. All being well we will have a new ground by March 31, 2001."

But Liddell is adamant that Murrayfield was a viable choice despite the fact it has never played host to a football match.

He added: "Some of the Premier League grounds take rugby so we believe that the interchange is quite clear.

"If the SRU had any doubts, they wouldn't have entertained the proposal but they are keen to have football at Murrayfield.

"Now you have got the strange situation of a team getting to the top of the First Division on merit, a stadium in Edinburgh lying empty for most of the year and, possibly, a ground at Airdrie empty for the rest of next season as well.

The SPL should have rejected the Murrayfield bid for being too late but tried to give Falkirk leeway by hearing it.

SPL chairman Lex Gold insisted he had sympathy for the Brockville club but that they could not make an exception for them.

Gold said: "The board of Falkirk FC are working hard and doing a good job in moving the club forward.

"But we announced publicly two and a half years ago all clubs seeking to join the SPL would require to own 10,000 all-seated stadia.

"We appreciate this decision will be a disappointment to them and to their supporters but we have a duty to operate in a fair and consistent way in the application of the stadia rules.

"Five clubs - St Mirren, Dunfermline, Livingston, Raith Rovers and Airdrie - have been confirmed as satisfying the criteria."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Sinclair, Paul
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 1, 2000
Words:703
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