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Highland League: Nairn County chairman Donald Matheson backs delaying next season to finish current one

Donald Matheson, chairman of Highland League side Nairn County.
Donald Matheson, chairman of Highland League side Nairn County.

Nairn County chairman Donald Matheson would advocate pushing back the start of the 2021-22 season to get the current one completed.

With news that football below the Championship was to remain paused coming out on Friday, taking it until at least February 14, the Highland League would be under pressure to get all the current fixtures played on time.

At present April 17 is the last date for matches this season, however it looks as though this will have to be extended with teams only playing a handful of their 15 games.

The league’s management committee will meet tonight to discuss the latest developments, with Scottish Cup concerns also likely to be raised. Seven clubs – Brora Rangers, Keith, Huntly, Formartine United, Fraserburgh, Nairn and Buckie Thistle – are still in the competition, with the prospect of ties against clubs who are or hope to be testing players.

Matheson said: “I was speaking with (league secretary) Rod Houston through the week and what was reported in the papers – still hoping to complete the league – if we can get back to playing then the priority has to be completing the league.

“The Scottish Cup has to be looked at. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that until Monday. We’ll see if the SFA had anything to say about that.

“The priority has to be get the league done and dusted, regardless of how long it’s going to take, but then we have to look at what happens if it runs really late. It can run on but then it’s the preparation for starting the season as normal at the end of July. That I can see getting pushed back a couple of weeks, to give the boys a bit of a break.”

The Highland League usually finishes before the end of April to fit in with the pyramid play-off, where the champion will face the winner of the Lowland League. The victor then goes on to face the bottom side in League Two for a place in the SPFL.

Nairn County and Brora Rangers, two of the Highland League sides left in the Scottish Cup.

There has been a mixed reaction to what could happen to the Highland League, with Rod Houston optimistic it could be completed and others more sceptical about it.

Matheson added: “Again, you just don’t know. You’re hypothesising a lot of the time. It could come up all sweetness and light – what happens if things change again? It’s a year in March. We thought it’d be three or four months. At least we did get back to playing some football, which was a huge bonus for the supporters, players and everyone involved.

“I know what I want to happen but I just don’t know. I hope we do get some form of football back, even if we have to be back behind-closed-doors again. We can then maybe get set up with the streaming again, which seem to be reasonably successful. If we do that at least we can show people some football, even if they can’t be at the ground.”

Nairn County chairman Donald Matheson confident reduced Highland League season can be played to finish

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