Scrapping the Highland Amateur Cup for another year was inevitable, admits Wick Groats boss
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Wick Groats manager Kevin Anderson says he is disappointed that the organisers of the Highland Amateur Cup have decided to scrap the tournament for the second summer in a row – but accepts that the move was inevitable.
Its means Groats will have to wait one more season before getting the chance to retain the prestigious trophy, having won it in 2019 for the fourth time in seven years.
Clubs from amateur football organisations across the Highlands and Islands were unanimous in agreeing not to stage the tournament this season amid continuing uncertainty over the return of grassroots football.
Anderson said: “As disappointing as it is, to be honest we kind of knew it wasn't going to happen this season. The draw is normally done around March or early April.
“It is a pity because it's the biggest competition in amateur football. Obviously each team wants to win their league, but that's the big one.
“Hopefully next year we can get back to playing everything and get back to normal."
He added: “The whole town and the whole county ends up buzzing on Highland Amateur Cup days. It's a good social event and obviously you're in it to win it.”
The tournament – which features amateur teams from across the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles – was axed last summer for the first time in its 42-year history.
Thurso-based competition secretary Bob Gunn confirmed that all clubs agreed the tournament could not return in 2021.
“We held a meeting with the Scottish Amateur Football Association [SAFA] and it was agreed to not hold the Highland Amateur Cup this season," he said.
“We consulted with all our member associations so we all had a voice. It was unanimous on all fronts that, if there is football to go ahead this year, we are better containing it to a local level and starting afresh with the Highland Amateur Cup next year.
“The decision has been rubber-stamped by the executive and finance committee at the SAFA.”
The North Caledonian League will resume its season on May 29 and aims to complete it by June 26. It is not known what impact this will have on the summer football season.
Caithness clubs have dominated the Highland Amateur Cup, winning five of the last seven tournaments.
Wick Groats beat Avoch in the 2019 final. Pentland United won the competition in 2018, with Staxigoe United finishing runners-up in 2017, and Groats won three of the four finals prior to that.
Gunn said: “The implications on teams to travel from Uist and Barra and Shetland seem pointless at this stage of the pandemic. Teams just want to get back to playing football but appreciate there are guidelines.
“Rules such as sharing dressing rooms and using shower facilities have huge implications on the Highland Amateur Cup.
“Teams travelling from Caithness to places like Durness, Lochinver or Inverness need to use these facilities. Highland weather doesn’t dictate we are going to get sunny days between now and August.
“We have done the right thing asking each individual association for their opinion on this season’s tournament and everyone came back and said no.
“They want to concentrate on their own leagues, in whatever form they take, and start preparations for the Highland Amateur Cup next year.”