Brora Rangers manager says clubs are left in limbo
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Brora Rangers’ manager Steven Mackay does not expect the Highland League to return without supporters coming through the gates.
The Cattachs are set for another campaign in the fifth tier of Scottish football’s pyramid after being denied the chance to win promotion to League Two as Highland League champions, but do not have any idea when next season can begin.
Premiership clubs are preparing for an August 1 return to action, while the Championship has voted to aim for October 17 – with League One and League Two expected to follow suit.
The Highland and Lowland Leagues continue to be left in limbo, however, and Mackay thinks the
nature of business at their level makes it more difficult to anticipate when they
will be able to get back playing.
The irony is that if social distancing rules are still in effect at that point, it could well be more practical for Highland Leagues clubs to let fans in.
“I don’t think it is feasible to play without fans,” he said.
“Highland League clubs are heavily reliant on their fan base coming through the gates and paying for hospitality as well. If both of those elements are not allowed, then I can’t see how any of the Highland League clubs can sustain their outgoings if there’s no revenue coming in.
“I just don’t see it working, if the decision is that there’s no fans allowed then they might just look to defer the league and wait. It won’t be sustainable to pay the players’ wages.
“With Highland League football, and the way that the grounds are set up, it’s probably the easiest place to implement social distancing too.
“You could spread fans out quite easily, it’s not as if we’re working with all-seater stadiums. There are lots of areas around the pitch where you could split fans up and segregate.
“If they do look to bring the league back in October, I think the social distancing could be implemented very easily and very efficiently.”
The argument can be made that if it is so much more feasible to bring socially distanced crowds back, the Highland League should be allowed to trial it for the good of the league.
It would potentially allow games to be played earlier and reduce the risk of fixture congestion if a normal number of matches have to be played in less time.
However, Mackay does not expect to be able to try something different, as he suspects the Highland League will be forced to fall in line with the pyramid above them.
“I wouldn’t have thought we’d be allowed to differ,” Mackay said.
“Whatever the Scottish league decides will filter through to us. I don’t think we’ll get to make our own decisions.
“I think we could demonstrate that social distancing could take place, so hopefully the Scottish league will allow a certain amount of fans in. I think it would need to be decided at the top level, and then that would cascade down to the lower leagues.”
Without having played or even trained together since the middle of March, question marks will be in place over the part-time players’ fitness levels.
That could prove more important than ever if there is a squeeze to the calendar, but Mackay would rather avoid an abridged season if at all possible.
“We would rather a full season, even playing Saturday and Wednesday for the remainder of the season. We’re desperate to get back to football,” he said.