Keith chairman Andy Troup believes the Highland League can be proud with how they have led from the front over the last 12 months.
The league was the first to call an end to the 2019-20 season due to the pandemic, declaring champions in Brora Rangers and pushing the back the start of its next season to allow some supporters to be present.
League reconstruction talks had to be factored in as well, with Highland League secretary Rod Houston part of the working group which could have seen Brora promoted to the SPFL.
Troup – Keith’s representative on the league’s management committee – believes clubs should take pride in how they have conducted themselves in the last year.
“I think we’ve been at the forefront of all the decisions moving forward for a lot of football,” said Troup. “The Highland League was the first league to say ‘look, we’re putting a stop to this’ and we declared champions right away.
— Keith Football Club (@KeithFC) December 26, 2020
“A lot of huge decisions were made by the league management committee, way ahead of other leagues, and I think the Highland League should be very proud of how it’s conducted itself over the last year, as a body.
“I’m hoping we’ll be able to get back to socialising with the visiting committees, because that’s a big part of the Highland League. That’s what the league is all about and I think it’s important we get back to it.
“I hope the league will come out of it stronger than ever before. We should come out of it very proud with how we’ve dealt with things.”
Keith were one of the few clubs who were allowed fans into their ground, due to them being in Moray and being in a lower level of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 restrictions at the time.
They had a Scottish Cup tie with Fort William and an Aberdeenshire Cup match with Huntly played at Kynoch Park in front of supporters.
The pandemic, however, has stretched resources at clubs where volunteers are pivotal to day-to-day operation.
Troup added: “All the clubs are run by volunteers – the clubs wouldn’t be here without them. To keep those people motivated without football is difficult; they go and find different things to do on a Saturday and, when we do get back, will they be available?
“Without people like that, you don’t have clubs. It’s been challenging on and off the park. We were lucky in that we did have some football and even luckier that we had some fans in, which was a bit of a breath of fresh air for everyone.
“We trialled ticketing and the protocols we had in place and everything was working really well. Obviously the pandemic took a bigger hold and we were shut down.”
Troup admits they financial challenges of keeping the club going through the pandemic have been tough, but they should make it through to the other side.
“Keeping the club afloat has been tough,” he added. “The players have helped a lot by not taking wages for periods of time and doing different things with training and expenses.
“It’s been difficult keeping a happy medium, making sure the players are as happy as they can be, but also watching the contract side of things.
“There’s been a lot of extra work and the secretaries in the Highland League – including Graham (Wilson) and Rod (Houston) into that – have done a phenomenal amount of work. I can’t speak highly enough for the amount of work Graham and Rod have done.”