THE destiny of the Highland League title has been placed firmly back in Buckie Thistle's hands.
The league management committee has decided to "take no further action" over claims they played an ineligible player at Formartine last weekend.
Following a meeting lasting 2hrs and 35 minutes at Lossie FC Social Club on Thursday, April 20, the Jags were cleared of any wrongdoing and no points penalty imposed.
That means Buckie can win the league title if they beat Strathspey Thistle at home on Saturday.
However, any slip up against the bottom-of-the-table Grantown side could still open the door for Cove Rangers or Brora Rangers to win the league.
Buckie Thistle president Garry Farquhar told the Advertiser: "We are satisfied with the outcome and we think it has been a good result for the Highland League and the clubs that were concerned.
"There are three teams who can now win this championship and we are only one of them but at least we are still one of them. We can now concentrate on the final game.
"The positive thing that has come out of this is that the ruling needs to be clarified and it will be."
Raymond Cardno, Buckie's vice-president and also a vice-president of the Highland League added: "The meeting has said the rule will be looked at in depth and will be clarified, and hopefully never happen again."
Farquhar said: "Everybody at the club has been unsettled and there have been a lot of sleepless nights.
"Very little of my personal work has been done because I have been poring through regulations. I am going to go home tonight and sleep."
Buckie had recalled their player Callum Murray from a loan spell with Deveronvale and included him in the squad at Formartine on April 15 to cover for injuries, however, he did not come off the bench.
The Jags were charged with including Murray in contravention of rule 8.9.6 which stated that any player registered with an SPFL or Highland League club whose registration is cancelled with the SFA or is subject to a transfer on or after March 31, cannot play for any other club during the current season.
However, Buckie's interpretation of the rule was that they could recall Murray and were given written and verbal confirmation from the Highland League secretary that they were clear to include him as they were his parent club at the start of the season.
The special meeting at Lossiemouth was chaired by Highland League vice-president George Manson of Turriff Utd, as president Dennis Bridgeford is attached to Brora Rangers and the other vice-president is Raymond Cardno from Buckie.
Formartine faced a similar charge of playing an ineligible player after including Max Berton in their squad against Buckie, having recalled him from a loan spell at Keith after March 31.
Representatives from Buckie, Cove, Brora and Formartine were asked to leave the meeting at 7.45pm and Mr Farquhar and Mr Cardno were called back in at 8.45pm, emerging again just after 9pm.
Formartine's officials were called in at 9.20pm before leaving the room again 10 minutes later.
Following further discussion, the Buckie pair were called back in at 9.49pm and three minutes later all the league representatives re-entered the room and the decision announced just before 10pm.
Mr Manson, in a short statement, said: "The matter in hand was given thorough consideration, including hearing submissions from Buckie Thistle Football Club and from Formartine Utd Football Club and it was decided to take no further action.
"In addition the secretary was instructed to develop re-worded drafts towards clarifying the terms of the rule for application in future seasons."
League president Dennis Bridgeford said it was fantastic that three teams could still win the league on the final day, although his own club Brora, who are two points clear, have completed their fixtures and must rely on Cove and Buckie failing to win their games to be crowned champions.
He said: "The league management committee are the people charged with running the league and I had no input obviously as my host club could possibly have benefitted.
"We go forward to Saturday and I will be there and delighted to present the trophy to the winning team."