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Highland League chairman says Covid testing is viable for Scottish Cup but not league fixtures

By Will Clark

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Chairman Donald Matheson says Nairn County would be prepared to pay for testing to play in the Scottish Cup, but questions if it is sustainable to be introduced to the Highland League.

Nairn County and Buckie Thistle are two of seven Highland League clubs still in the Scottish Cup. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Nairn County and Buckie Thistle are two of seven Highland League clubs still in the Scottish Cup. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Questions remain on how the Highland League can restart after the campaign remains suspended until at least March.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) will be holding a review into restarting competitions at League One level and below on Monday, March 1.

But there are concerns that for lower leagues to restart, Highland League clubs could have to pay for £1100 to £1200 per training session and game for PCR testing to ensure players are free of Covid-19.

Buckie Thistle and Keith are among seven north sides still in the Scottish Cup.

Along with Huntly, Formartine United, Nairn County and Brora Rangers they have second round ties lying in wait, while Fraserburgh are already through to the third round where they await the winners of Nairn's clash against Montrose.

Nairn chair Matheson says his club could afford testing costs if forced to pay for them to allow them to compete in the Scottish Cup.

But with 13 matches remaining in the Highland League, he thinks Nairn County and other clubs in the division would have a tough choice to make.

He said: “Testing is something bigger clubs can afford, but in the Highland League it is not economically viable.

“If push came to shove, if we got the Montrose game in the Scottish Cup on and we had to test, we would do it. We would have no objection to that to get the game played.

“But with a squad of 18 along with manager, assistant manager, coach physio, you are looking at a bill of £1100 for testing, and we might have to do it twice a week.

“Playing four weeks is at least £4500, and if you play 16 games that is £16,000 to £17,000 in testing for a half-season. That would just cripple clubs. I can’t see that being economically viable for clubs in the Highland League.”

Matheson was disappointed that the Highland League could not restart this month, but accepts the decision by the SFA to continue the suspension.

But he remains confident that the league season can be completed.

He said: “If it has to be, it has to be, but I was disappointed because I was looking forward to getting some movement towards the end of this month to get the league up and running.

“We were looking forward to getting boys back to training again. As things stand, games wouldn’t take place because everything was frozen. But there is still time, and we can still do it and get the games, but it will be a rush.

“We will wait to see to what the powers that be say.”

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