Forres Mechanics will not take part in the Highland League season after opting to take a sabbatical for the 2020-21 campaign out of concern for the well-being of their players.
The Highland League voted on Wednesday to restart the season on November 28 but the Mosset Park side have opted to take a year out.
A club statement said the decision was made for the “health, well-being and safety of our players, staff and their immediate families along with the football club as a whole and equally as important, the wider community of Forres and Moray”.
Can-Cans boss Charlie Rowley, whose side finished eighth last season, said: “It wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly.
“The club looked at all the permutations and the board members decided it was in everybody’s best interests not to play this season out of concern for the health and well-being of the players.
“Categorically, it was not a financial decision. With limited crowds, the wages would have been difficult but we had an agreement in place with the players that they would take expenses only for the season.
“It was a decision based purely on the health and well-being of the players. While there are guidelines in place, we felt it was too much of a risk for everyone involved.
“A lot of the players are self-employed and in a worst-case scenario someone could pick up the virus while playing football and have to deal with those consequences. There was a lot to consider, it was not just about turning up for 90 minutes on a Saturday.
“There has been a mixed response from the players but generally they respect the club’s decision. It would be very difficult not to respect it given the global pandemic we are in.
“I would be astonished if there weren’t other Highland League clubs thinking along the same lines in terms of the health and well-being of everyone involved.”
Highland League secretary Rod Houston said he was disappointed by Forres’ decision but stressed: “In the current circumstances of a global pandemic it is entirely understandable.
“Clubs must have the scope to make their own decisions and do what they feel is in their best interests for their own sustainability. We completely respect that.
“There are no penalties that will be applied for clubs in the event of them choosing not to take part in competitions next season because of these circumstances.
“That was made clear at Wednesday night’s meeting when it was decided to commence the Highland League season on November 28.
“Forres were one of the founding members of the league so this is a notable decision on their part but one we completely respect and we look forward to welcoming them back in league competition as soon as is possible.”