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Fort William FC fans are reeling from the news that all of their club’s Highland League and cup fixtures will have to be played away from home for season 2021-22.
The bombshell came after an emergency meeting was held on Sunday night of the Highland League’s league management committee.
This followed a meeting between league officials and the club on the Friday and an inspection of the club’s Claggan Park the previous day.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the league explained: ‘Early this week the league was contacted by a member of the public to express concern regarding the condition of Claggan Park, Fort William.
‘In view of that description, it was decided that the league should undertake a ground inspection as a matter of urgency.
‘Claggan Park was inspected on Thursday July 22 and the results of that inspection was reported to the league’s office bearers that evening.
‘The office bearers formed the view that the verbal and photographic evidence indicated that Fort William FC was in breach of League Rule 7.6.1 and that a meeting with Fort William FC be arranged at the earliest possible moment.
‘That meeting took place on Friday July 23 when the club accepted without reservation that it was in breach of Rule 7.6.1 which places a requirement on clubs to a ensure that their pitch is in good condition and provided with an efficient and effective drainage system.
‘The ensuing discussion between the club and the office bearers included explanation of the circumstances that have led to the situation at Claggan Park and consideration of the options available to Fort William FC.
‘It was explained to the club that, given the severity of the problem, the matter would be referred to an emergency meeting of the League Management Committee.
‘That meeting took place on Sunday July 25 2021 when the above agreement for season 2021-22 was reached with Fort William FC.
‘This means that all Highland League and Cup fixtures will take place at Fort William’s scheduled opponents’ grounds.’
In coming to its determination, the League Management Committee said it had considered the information provided by the ground inspection and the submission provided by the club.
It also said took into account that the club had not contacted the league to inform it of the state of Claggan Park.
And the league concluded: ‘Furthermore, historically, there have been a high number of match postponements due to the condition of the park, a matter which has previously been the subject of correspondence between the league and the club, most recently in March 2020.’
In a statement, club vice-chairman, Colin Wood, told us: ‘The condition of Claggan Park has long been a talking point in the Highland League. Work was undertaken to put better drainage in, but the Strathspey call-off identified that more work had to be
done. In the meantime damage had been done to the pitch through trials bikes, petty vandalism etc.
‘Claggan is an open park and any remedial work has been hampered in the extreme through vandalism to our tractor, wrecking the sprinkler system etc. The remedial work was unfortunately not going to be finished in time and we found ourselves in the unenviable position of not being able to fulfil our first set of home games.
‘The HL office bearers and other clubs have been as accommodating as possible, we were offered the option of taking a year out or playing our fixtures away. We obviously asked for more time but the way the fixtures are set out and with the league now under way, the best option available was to play our fixtures away.
‘May I pass on our thanks to the member clubs for there patience, guidance and generosity; each member club have offered to pass on the travel costs that they would normally accrue.
‘Ashley Hollyer [first team manager] and his team have done tremendous work to get the team to this point and travelling away is a real blow obviously. The challenge that was in front of us has just got a lot harder but we will endure and overcome.
‘We have some exciting players this year and if you have the chance to catch them at a ground near you, you will not be disappointed. FWFC will continue on our journey
and I invite all fans to come and follow us.’