Pitch perfect? Not according to Highland League

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Fort William Football Club’s Claggan Park pitch will hear the pitter patter of booted feet for the first time in more than four months when amateur league side South Lochaber Thistle visit for a friendly on Saturday December 1.

But the club is still being denied home league and cup games after the Highland Football League management committee decided not to reverse the decision at its last meeting on October 14.

Fort William Football Club chairman John Trew is at a loss as to how league members came to that conclusion.

He told the Lochaber Times: ‘It belies belief that after all the hard work that has gone into improving our playing surface, not to mention the money spent, we are still being told we can’t play our league games at home.

‘We weren’t even given a reason why. Marie Macmillan and Matthew MacDonald went up to represent the club at the meeting which was held in a hotel in Keith, but they were asked to leave the room when the issue came up.

‘We will have to wait until the minutes come out before we find out the reasoning behind it. In the meantime we have a perfectly good pitch which is in far better condition than many of the grounds we have played at recently.’

When asked by the Lochaber Times for the reason behind this latest decision, Highland League secretary Rod Houston sent the following statement:

‘Having given the matter some consideration and following a submission by Fort William FC, the meeting decided to uphold the decision of July 25 and that’s where matters currently stand.’

Thanks mainly to donations from supporters, the club has spent around £40,000 on ground improvements including the installation of draining tubes. A spectator rail will be built around the pitch once permission is granted by Highland Council and a new clubhouse, hopefully to be completed by the start of next season, will be funded by a grant, donations and a directors’ loan.

The current timber frame clubhouse will be demolished following the friendly against South Lochaber Thistle in December.

Mr Trew added that the club faces a loss in revenue of around £25,000 through not being allowed to play home games.

The next Highland League management meeting is in mid-December when the minutes from the October meeting, currently in draft form, can be approved and shared.