CHILDREN in an East Renfrewshire netball team have been left "heartbroken" after being disqualified from the Scottish Youth Cup Final.

The Under 13 Meteors squad from All Stars Junior NetballERs won convincingly against Paisley team St Peter’s in the competition’s semi-final at the end of last month.

Just days later, however, the club’s head coach Anna Beattie was notified that St Peter’s had submitted a complaint.

It suggested that the All Stars, who had previously also had a second under 13s team in the competition, the Comets, who were knocked out early on, had “allowed a player to play who had previously played for a different team, from the same club, in the same competition”.

Barrhead News: The girls were excitedly looking forward to playing in the final after all of their hard workThe girls were excitedly looking forward to playing in the final after all of their hard work (Image: Sourced)

Netball Scotland (NS) reviewed this complaint along with the submitted information and found a breach of the rules had indeed taken place.

The independent Netball Scotland Competitions Advisory Group (CompAG) was convened to review the complaint. No member of the NS staff was part of the review or decision-making process.

It was then decided "in line with Rule 2.6.4", that All Stars needed to forfeit this game and the result of this fixture and the win be awarded to St Peter's.

Anna told the Barrhead News: “My understanding of that rule was that if there’s two teams in the competition then you wouldn’t play a player between both teams.

“At the time that these girls played for the Meteor team, their Comets team had already been put out, so they didn’t have another team in the competition.

“I think it can be seen both ways to be honest, so my argument really is it’s an ambiguous rule.”

Frustratingly for the club, they say their Under 17 team manager on asking in January if they could play a player in their first team, who had previously played in the same competition with their second team, had been told to “just add the player to their first team’s team sheet”.

The Under 13 manager then simply followed suit.

Furthermore, when those deemed ineligible were fielded in the third quarter of the semi-final, the club was already winning, but even this fact did not save their spot in the final which has since between played between St Peter's and Inverleith Swifts at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.

“We definitely never thought we were doing anything wrong, but on top of that, we had information from the governing body telling us that's all we needed to do and that’s what we did,” she explained.

“It's junior netball. You're developing girls and you're giving them opportunities based on how much they've developed. It’s not the World Cup.

“It's disheartening for these girls who've worked really hard and it's a bit sad in some respects for St Peter's because I've questioned the motives of and the thought of their coaches or whoever in the club decided that that was the way they would get themselves into a final.

“It’s just a bad day for netball if that’s how clubs are going to behave.”

The decision has also left those involved with the All Stars out of pocket as they shelled out £700 on kit for the national showdown, including t-shirts and hoodies.

“It's hard for me as an adult to understand how they reached this conclusion, and even more difficult for a child to understand that,” added Anna.

Barrhead News: The club has members from across East RenfrewshireThe club has members from across East Renfrewshire (Image: Sourced)

Gutted at the decision the club also contacted local representatives, including East Renfrewshire MP Kirsten Oswald who said she was “pleased to press their case” but disappointed that “no solution was found to allow them to proceed."

“I know what dedication, commitment and sheer hard work the girls and their coaches have put in, and what brilliant results had taken them to this point,” the politician added.

“Their determination to remain sporting and dignified in the face of such a disappointment is a testament to their great team spirit, and I have no doubt they will achieve great success as they go forward."

A spokesperson for Netball Scotland, meanwhile, responded that “as per Netball Scotland Competition Rules, which the club agreed to adhere to on entering the Scottish Cup Competition, the CompAG decision is final, and no appeal is permitted". 

“Each separate team competing in each separate age group level of the competition must adhere to and apply the rules," they added.

"What may be requested and permitted for one team does not carry across all competing teams within a club.

“We appreciate that this was a disappointing situation for the club and more importantly for the young players.

“However, whether intentional or not, All Stars have unquestionably breached the rules of a National Competition and due process has been followed by Netball Scotland.

“The integrity of the rules and the competition must be upheld, and each competing team has a responsibility to do so also on entering the competition.

“Netball Scotland has communicated clearly with the club on this matter.

"Refunds for tickets purchased by the club were offered, and wellbeing support was offered to the young players through our expert resource and partnerships (SAMH and Breathing Space).

“We consider this matter to have been dealt with appropriately.”

St Peter's was contacted for comment and said that "any enquiries regarding this matter should be directed to Netball Scotland".