Highland League Football Halted
The Highland League League Management Committee met last evening to take stock of season 2020-2021 and the prospects of completing the planned fixture programme.
In view of the circumstances the meeting decided to call a halt to season 2020-2021 because it could not see a viable means to finish it in reasonable time that would allow appropriate preparations for season 2021-2022. The clear hope is that the new season will provide circumstances that enable a return to more normal activity.
The LMC also decided to honour its obligation to the Scottish Football Pyramid by declaring Brora Rangers FC the champion club for 2020-2021. The statement below provides the background to this decision.
SFA Pyramid Play-offs Season 2020-21 – SHFL Determination of Champion Club
The SHFL is a committed member league of the SFA Pyramid for Scottish Football. This commitment brings with it an obligation to produce a champion club to take part in the annual Pyramid Play-offs and, once the appropriate arrangements are in place at Pyramid Level 6, to ensure that play-offs between Level 5 and Level 6 in the North/North-East of Scotland are established.
The SHFL champion club is determined by points won in championship matches and, given the League Management Committee (LMC) precedent of 21st March 2020, where the season can’t be completed, on a points per game basis. In the event of points being equal, goal difference applies – SHFL rule 8.1.3 refers.
The SHFL LMC has the power to make the decisions on how the champion club is identified – SHFL Rule 4.2.1 refers – ‘The business of the League shall be conducted by the League Management Committee….’.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, LMC standing orders were suspended for the duration of the pandemic by a unanimous vote at the EGM on 21st March 2020. This suspension continues as the pandemic is not yet over.
The 2020-21 season has been shortened severely by pandemic circumstances. The League took great care to hold off beginning the Championship until it could start at a stage at which it was as safe as possible to do so in the communities in which the League is based. This was also for the sake of people involved in the League’s activities – its sense of responsibility to that context is important – and it has been unfortunate that another suspension of play occurred, thereby further truncating the season.
The Scottish Government has allowed the restart of Scottish Leagues 1 and 2, subject to weekly testing of all involved for the remainder of the season. The cost of PCR testing – at an estimated £1,500 per club per week – is beyond the sustainable resources of SHFL clubs for the length of even a shortened League campaign. It should be noted that, from the outset, the League’s top priority has been to seek to ensure that all clubs survived beyond the pandemic.
Strict interpretation of the Pyramid Play-off rules means that the obligation to produce a champion club has to relate to the season in which the play-offs take place. The LMC therefore considered the matter using League rules and decision precedent of a points per game basis, and where necessary, goal difference as its guide.
Consequently, with a decision having been made to call an end to Season 2020-21, the LMC unanimously agreed that Brora Rangers FC should be declared the SHFL Champion Club for Season 2020-21 and be put forward as the SHFL’s nominated club for the SHFL/SLFL/SPFL play-offs.