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Highland League restart not ruled out yet but testing remains key issue

The Highland League has been in cold storage since January 11
The Highland League has been in cold storage since January 11

Highland League secretary Rod Houston admits it’s “difficult” to see a restart at this stage, but says nothing has been ruled out.

Clubs in Leagues One and Two are set to resume this weekend, having agreed to carry out coronavirus testing on players and staff.

The seven Highland League clubs left in the Scottish Cup have also agreed to do this to participate in the competition, however, to resume the league campaign with testing would place too big a financial burden on clubs.

The Highland League was shutdown in January – along with all other football in Scotland below the Championship – having begun the 2020-21 campaign in late November with clubs carrying out temperature checks, rather than Covid-19 tests, on those involved.

On Tuesday, the Scottish Government announced a timetable for easing of coronavirus restrictions with outdoor adult contact sport set to be allowed to recommence on May 17.

As a result, it appears increasingly likely the 2020-21 Highland League season will not be completed.

However, nothing has been decided yet, but testing remains the key issue, according to Houston.

He said: “You can always hope – but testing will remain the central issue.

“Until such time as we get a resolution on that which would make it less of a financial commitment then it’s difficult to see a restart.

“Nothing is ruled out yet, however, and we’ll wait and see what happens.

“But it’s the toughest thing in football being patient.”

Highland League secretary Rod Houston.

Houston says Tuesday’s announcement from the Scottish Government about adult contact sport not being allowed until May 17 hasn’t changed anything for the Highland League yet.

He added: “There is no change following Tuesday’s announcement.

“We understand the Scottish FA is meeting with the Scottish Government soon and the Scottish FA will then meet with the various leagues, particularly the Highland and Lowland Leagues to let us know what the state of play is.

“We await those meetings. We don’t have a league management committee meeting scheduled until later in March.

“It’s pretty much a case of sitting tight for the moment.”

Meanwhile, Houston says the Highland League is monitoring a proposal which could be put to SPFL clubs to add two Highland League sides to an expanded League Two from next season.

A working group which was set up last summer to consider how to improve Scottish football is reported to have submitted a proposal to the SFA’s professional game board which includes adding Celtic and Rangers colt teams to League Two along with two sides from the Highland League and two from the Lowland League.

It is believed a vote of the 42 SPFL clubs could take place as soon as next month, but for the Highland League it remains a watching brief at this stage.

Houston said: “We’ve been made aware of the proposals and we are monitoring it.

“But we are not in a position to say or do anything at the moment, because it’s entirely in the court of the SFA and SPFL.

“We’ll just wait and see what is decided and deal with it as appropriate.”

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