Houston says delay will not force Highland League cancellation or change of format
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Highland League secretary Rod Houston says he remains hopeful that the full calendar for the new campaign will be played out.
Confirmation came this week that fans would not be allowed to return to stadia in early October, as previously anticipated, and this has a knock-on effect on Highland League clubs.
The opening three rounds of fixtures were released recently , but they were contingent on spectators being allowed to return to matches.
As that is highly unlikely to be permitted by the scheduled start date of October 17, Houston has said the league’s return will likely be pushed back.
However, league officials are not in a situation where they will be forced to reconsider the format, or indeed the entire viability, of the 2020/21 season just yet.
“The central thing here is that the league decided to play single fixtures between each club,” Houston explained.
“That maximises the amount of scope we have. If the start has to be pushed back, we can still play that programme.
“We’ve given ourselves that opportunity at the planning stage.
“That’s all we can hope for at this moment in time, but I would still anticipate finding 17 dates in the calendar for league fixtures.
“We would have to go quite far through November, possibly even into December, before there would be a worry about that.
“We’re disappointed that it looks like we’re not going to get away on time, but at the minute I’m not quite into a counsel of despair."
It will be a blow to everyone involved if the middle of next month does come and go without any Highland League football.
The circumstances are out of sport’s control, though, and Houston is trying to keep things in perspective for the time being.
“In a month’s time, it might be more difficult altogether – we’re just going to have to be ready to deal with whatever the change in circumstance is,” he added.
“The league decided to go to single fixtures only because they didn’t want to play behind closed doors.
“That still allows us the scope to hold a league championship if public health conditions allow.
“We have to be quite candid here. We’re in the middle of a pandemic –there are more important things.
“We have to look at it in that sense, but we are working with the clubs to make all the preparations so that if things fall our way, it wouldn’t take long to get going again.”