A no-brainer, says Wick chairman as clubs end Highland League season
Ending the Highland League season was "a no-brainer", according to Wick Academy chairman Pat Miller.
Clubs in the league met at the weekend to discuss the future of the current campaign in light of the coronavirus crisis.
The options that were to be discussed were either to resume the season when all restrictions on sport are lifted – regardless of what time of year that may be – or to end the season here and now.
From the opening of the meeting, a proposal to end the season was quickly brought to the table and seconded.
Within minutes, the 2019/20 Highland League was brought to a close and current leaders Brora Rangers were declared champions.
Brora will now wait for the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) and the Lowland League to make their decisions on their own seasons before finding out if and when they can compete in the end-of-season play-offs to determine who will start next season in SPFL League Two.
Academy end the season with a 10th-place finish.
Miller said: "For our own club, as we were mid-table with no danger of finishing bottom or being in the title race, the decision to end the season was a no-brainer.
"Our only regret is that we won't be able to give Sam Mackay a final farewell in the last home game of the season before he retires from Highland League football.
"Maybe next season when the coronavirus situation is over we can do something for Sam to say goodbye to the fans.
"As for the meeting itself, the only grumble came from Inverurie Locos but the decision to end the season took no time at all.
"Obviously ourselves and other clubs will be hit financially by this in terms of losing out on match-day sponsorship and revenue.
"For Wick Academy, we are a few grand down but thankfully the loss does not put us into the red.
"Regarding how the new season will be arranged – which includes knowing when to start our pre-season – we've had no guidance from the SFA.
"They're still having to decide on what happens to the four divisions within the SPFL.
"We just have to ride the storm and try to get back to normality once this is over."
The meeting was clear in its view that issues much more important than football currently predominate.
A statement from the Highland League with regard to the decision made by clubs to end the current season said: "Scottish Highland Football League clubs met to consider options during the current public health emergency. The clubs are concerned to provide all involved and interested in the Highland League with as much clarity as possible.
"The following decisions were made by the meeting:
"That the 2019/20 season be deemed to have concluded on the date that football activity in Scotland was suspended – Friday, March 13, 2020.
"That Brora Rangers FC be declared Breedon Highland League champions for 2019/20.
"That the latter stages of the Utilita Highland League Cup 2019/20 (semi-finals and final) be held over and played early in the 2020/21 season.
"That there be no further matches in the Highland League Youth Development Initiative for the foreseeable future.
"The league therefore goes into a form of hibernation until such time as football resumes after the Covid-19 pandemic passes. At that time, the possibilities for creating meaningful competitions in season 2020/21 will be considered and that, in turn, will depend on when resumption takes place.
"Clubs also recognised the valuable support given to its competitions by the Breedon Group and Utilita and wished to place on record their appreciation thereof.
"In such a difficult time for all, the meeting was clear in its view that issues much more important than football currently predominate, with health and livelihoods being far more significant.
"The meeting heard of a number of instances of clubs putting their shoulder to the resilience wheel and of club staff being very understanding of the financial challenges being faced. This was uplifting and can only be beneficial to the health and wellbeing of all concerned.
"The final message from the league to club members, staff, volunteers and supporters is to stay safe and healthy and we all look forward to getting back to football when the time is right."