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North Caledonian clubs decide to keep playing despite record Covid levels

By Andrew Henderson

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Halkirk United and Thurso will play on in the NCL after the decision was taken not to stop in the face of Covid.
Halkirk United and Thurso will play on in the NCL after the decision was taken not to stop in the face of Covid.

The North Caledonian League has decided to continue over the coming weeks despite Covid cases hitting record high levels.

With the Scottish Premiership electing to bring forward its winter break after new restrictions were brought in to limit the number of supporters permitted in stadia, other levels of the game began to contemplate whether they should continue.

By and large, they have, and after a North Caledonian FA meeting on Wednesday night it was confirmed that the majority wanted to play on where possible.

There may still be the occasional match forced off because of cases within a squad, and at this time of the year weather will always be a factor in getting matches played, but there will be no official pause put on the campaign.

"They're just going to try and play the games," president Iain Whitehead said. "They've all got pretty large squads.

"They're going to try and get through the next few weeks and see what games they can get played, because the weather will probably halt a few games anyway."

In the past, the league has been cautious about handling Covid – ending the 2019/20 campaign early and splitting last season into two divisions to minimise the number of contacts involved and games to be played.

This season, though, has run about as smoothly as could be expected, and Whitehead felt players and teams wanted to maintain the status quo.

"If they paused just now, it's not going to be any different in two or three weeks' time," he said.

"There are probably going to be people with cases – it's something that's probably going to affect us all the time right through until the end of the season, so they will just try and field teams as best they can.

"I think they just want to get back to some form of normality, so they're going to battle on through the weather and Covid and see how it goes."

Whitehead pointed out that clubs who may be slightly less comfortable with the decision still have options to make games as safe as possible.

"If they want to socially distance, use their own cars, it's up to them," he said.

"They can risk-assess their own pitch, their own changing rooms and play on. They're happy to do it, so games will be on this Saturday, weather permitting."

Halkirk United have a home game against Invergordon on Saturday, while Thurso return to action with a trip to Bonar Bridge.

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