The start of the Highland League season is likely to be delayed if fans can’t return next month.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned yesterday that it was “unlikely” changes to Scotland’s coronavirus routemap scheduled for October 5 – of which fans returning to stadiums is one – would happen.
The Highland League has been planning for the 2020-21 campaign to begin on October 17 with the first three rounds of fixtures released at the weekend.
However, that plan was been based on clubs being allowed to let supporters come through the turnstiles.
If that can’t happen a delay to the new season appears inevitable.
Highland League secretary Rod Houston said: “The significant statement with regard football was that the phased return of fans from October 5 is ‘unlikely.’
“That worries us because the whole basis of the Highland League season starting was predicated on the country being in phase four with fans coming back into grounds.
“The league has been clearly of the opinion they wanted the competitions to be played with fans.
“We’ll need to try to obtain clarity, which will come from the Scottish FA in due course, but we are wondering what we’ll do.
“We need to get a wee bit more of a steer as to how unlikely is unlikely, because if unlikely means no chance (of fans being allowed into grounds) then we’ll adjust our plans accordingly.”
If the Highland League can’t start next month, then Houston says the division would re-evaluate when the season could begin based on the available information.
He added: “If there’s no chances of fans being back from October 5, we then take it step by step.
“We find out what trends and patterns are and see when there is a chance of things changing and we then make judgement calls based on that information.
“What we can’t afford to forget is that there’s a pandemic on. As much as we’re all desperate to get back to football, we can’t lose sight of the fact there is a global pandemic going on.”
Earlier this month two test events with 300 supporters at Premiership fixtures took place.
Test events have been shelved for the time being, but Houston said the Highland League would be willing to host test events when allowed, to show clubs in the division could safely accommodate supporters.
He said: “The Scottish FA know we would be prepared to do some test events, but that’s obviously once test events are allowed.
“But at the minute that’s unlikely and October 5 is a week on Monday. It’s not far away and it’s hard to see how things will change dramatically between now and then.
“But they know we would be prepared to carry out test events if that’s what they wanted.”