Highland League Cup semi-finals to be streamed live online
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HIGHLAND League fans will be able to watch a return to football action on October 17 after all – via live streaming.
It has been confirmed that both Highland League Cup semi-final ties from last term will be played on the date planned for the beginning of the league season.
The matches between Brora Rangers and Buckie Thistle, at Dudgeon Park, and Formartine United and Rothes, at North Lodge Park, will have to be played behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 restrictions currently in place.
League officials have been looking into ways of filming both matches and streaming them online to allow fans to see all the action.
The league said in a statement: "These matches will be played behind closed doors with live streaming via a subscription channel. The same arrangement will hold for the final which will be held at a venue to be announced on October 24.
"More details regarding matches and live stream access will be announced as soon as they are finalised.
"In making this decision, the league management committee took the view that, while the start of season 2020/21 had been paused, there remained an opportunity to complete season 2019/20 in a concise form and within current match guidelines."
On Monday, the Highland League announced that its league programme – scheduled to kick off on October 17 – had been put on pause until November 28 at the earliest.
League secretary Rod Houston said when the October fixtures were unveiled that matches would only take place if spectators were allowed. The increase in positive Covid-19 cases across Scotland prompted the Scottish Government to impose tougher restrictions, including a ban on crowds attending football matches.
As reported earlier this week, the delay to the start of the league campaign was described as “hugely disappointing” by Wick Academy manager Gary Manson. He had been preparing his squad for an opening-day clash with Strathspey Thistle at Harmsworth Park, followed by games against Lossiemouth (away) and Keith (home) over the remaining two weekends in October.
He said he fully accepted that the Highland League had to abide by the government restrictions but added: “I would like someone to sit down and explain the rationale behind the government’s decision.”
Manson added: “Why can’t they say to every club: right, allow 15 per cent of your capacity in, they’ve all got to sanitise their hands, they’ve all got to wear masks? Everybody is outside. I don’t get it myself, but I’m sure there are more qualified people than me making these decisions.”
He said Academy’s pre-season training programme had been geared towards making sure the players were in peak condition by October 17 but now it was “back to square one”, causing frustration for supporters as well as for the club.
In a statement, the league said a decision had been made to pause the start of the 2020/21 season in view of the public health circumstances. “The season will not start before Saturday, November 28, and confirmation of that or an extension of the pause will be considered at a meeting during the week beginning Monday, November 9.”
Meanwhile, ex-Academy goalkeeper Sean McCarthy has completed his move to Rothes. McCarthy (27) made 191 appearances during his six seasons at Harmsworth Park.
Rothes manager Ross Jack said: "It was an area of the park that we had a problem with and I had to rectify that. Sean has been in the league for a few years and proved his worth so we're delighted to have him on board."
- Wick manager Manson says he can't understand logic behind decision to delay Highland League kick-off