When the call came in from the Highland League, Huntly were happy to answer.
The Highland League Cup was switched to Christie Park tomorrow after last weekend’s original date at Kynoch Park in Keith was washed out by the weather.
The proximity for both Buckie Thistle and Rothes to travel was a helpful factor in the venue switch, which has been made easier by assistance from the Highland League.
“The league have been very supportive – they had plans in place for Keith so it just about adapting them to our ground,” said Alix Turner, Huntly secretary.
Christie Park has hosted cup finals before; the Aberdeenshire Shield in 2014 and 2016, the 2015 Aberdeenshire Cup and the League Cup in 2008 all had their finals at Huntly.
A visit from league officials on Tuesday determined what space could be utilised, with Buckie Thistle using both changing rooms and Rothes allocated the social club, which is currently closed.
“It’s handy to see, if we start hosting league games, that we can use those spaces for dressing rooms,” added Turner.
Temperature checks will be in place at the ground and zones designated into green, amber and red, which has been commonplace at Scottish football grounds since its resumption in the summer.
The key factor missing from this final, which is the 2019-20 competition being played to a conclusion, is supporters.
Owing to health restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government, stadia remain closed to paying customers and the new tiered system, introduced this week, muddies the water further.
Various options and dates were under consideration but involved too many imponderables in these challenging times. Kynoch Park was due to host the match yesterday but is unavailable next weekend the Highland League is grateful to Huntly FC for offering to stage the match.
— The Highland League (@ScottishHFL) October 25, 2020
One half of the league will be in tier 2, encompassing Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, which does not permit spectators in grounds. However the Highlands and Moray are in tier 1, where restricted numbers of spectators are allowed.
“We really do feel for the supporters – it’s really what the Highland League is about,” said Turner. “It’s such a day out for them and cup finals are about atmosphere.”
A livestream of the final will be available for £10, with the semi-finals on October 17 also being shown online to accommodate supporters not being able to attend.
Following the game there will be a pause of at least four weeks before the Highland League is due to start. However, the November 28 start date depends on whether spectators can get into games, with the league resolving not to start until they were able to do so.
“Our fanbase is probably slightly older and while you can sit and watch football on TV, the Highland League means a day out with your friends,” said Turner. “With the restrictions just now you feel for them, in not being able to do that.
“The friendlies were quite handy, to get our protocols in place and get ready for fans coming in. We’re raring to go – we’re just waiting on the green light from the government.”