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Wick manager Manson says he can't understand logic behind decision to delay Highland League kick-off


By Alan Hendry

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Wick Academy manager Gary Manson described the delay to the Highland League campaign as hugely disappointing. Picture: Mel Roger
Wick Academy manager Gary Manson described the delay to the Highland League campaign as hugely disappointing. Picture: Mel Roger

Wick Academy manager Gary Manson says the decision to delay the start of the Highland League season until the end of November is a huge disappointment – and he admits he can't understand the logic behind it.

Clubs met with the league management committee on Monday night and it was decided to pause the proposed kick-off to the 2020/21 campaign for a minimum of six weeks.

Earlier this month, league secretary Rod Houston issued a fixture list for the first three weeks of the season, which was scheduled to begin on October 17. The league stressed at the time that games would only take place if fans could be in attendance at all grounds.

However, 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.

"It is hugely disappointing," Manson said. “We started pre-season about a month ago with a view to peaking on October 17 for the first game, so we've been gradually building and building and getting closer to proper match sharpness.

"Now we're back to square one, with the start of the season put back six weeks. Our plans are up in the air so we need to have a think and come up with new plans now.

“No-one will be more frustrated than me and the players, but I can imagine the fans are itching to get back to watching football again.

“I just can't understand the logic. I realise the Highland League is just following orders, but I would like someone to sit down and explain the rationale behind the government's decision.

“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.

“When all this first came about, the initial worries were to do with testing the players and the costs of testing for part-time clubs. But that's obviously not a concern any more, because we're allowed to play friendlies without testing all the players, we can train, we can do all the contact stuff.

“The issue now, and I'm guessing here, must be letting fans into the grounds.

"You can go to Tesco in Wick and there might be 200 or 300 people in there at a time, including staff, and it's all indoors – yet we can't have 200 people in Harmsworth Park, all outdoors, all safely distanced. It just doesn't make sense.

"There must be some logic. I would just like someone to explain that to me.”

A spokesman for the league said a decision had been made to pause the start of the 2020/21 season in view of the current 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.

"The league management committee undertook a careful and detailed consideration of the current situation and felt that, all things considered, a pause was the most appropriate course of action."

The fixture list for the first three weeks of the season had handed Wick Academy a home game against Strathspey Thistle on the opening day, followed by a trip to Lossiemouth on October 24 and a clash with Keith at Harmsworth Park the following weekend.



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