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Highland League season declared over with Brora Rangers champions

By Jonathan Clark

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THE Highland League season has been brought to an early conclusion with Brora Rangers being named champions.

Brora Rangers player-manager Steven Mackay. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Brora Rangers player-manager Steven Mackay. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

With the campaign already on hold, SHFL clubs met at a league management committee in Lossiemouth today and made the decision to end the season amid the coronavirus crisis.

It was decided Brora, who had a 13 point gap on second place Inverurie Locos with two games in hand, would be declared league winners.

Nothing regarding any other positions was decided during the meeting. Moray clubs Buckie Thistle and Rothes, who were battling for top four when the season was suspended on March 13, will have to wait to find out if they will play in any national competitions next season.

The decision to end the season early was made by all clubs, according to Highland League president Raymond Cardno. He said: "That is one of the nice things – the whole Highland League came together as one body. It was absolutely unanimous.

"Brora had a comfortable lead at the top of the table, which made things easier. They have been the best team.

"Hopefully there will be play-offs for Brora to move into Scottish league and we are going to press for that. Both Highland League and Lowland League clubs started the season with winning the league and progressing up the pyramid in mind. We are hoping there will still be that opportunity."

A decision on which clubs will play in respective national competitions will come later – when there is certainty over whether these tournaments will take place or not. The Highland League's top two get a bye to the second round of the Scottish Cup, and the top four play in the Challenge Cup.

Cardno, who is also vice-president at fifth-placed Buckie Thistle, added: "The scenario is that the Highland League will be asked to put forward nominations for the various cup competitions. We don't know when next season will start at the moment, so we don't know if any of these competitions will be competed for – that may be determined by the start date of the 2020-21 season.

"That isn't to be decided at this moment in time. We are trying to give clubs a degree of certainty, and we felt the thing we could do with certainty was decide our champions and give Brora the best chance of preparing for a play-off."

The Highland League Cup semi-finals, originally scheduled for March 14, will be put on hold and played at the start of the 2020-21 campaign. Those semi finals see Rothes travel to Formartine United and Buckie Thistle travel to newly-crowned champions Brora. Brora will play in that semi-final irrespective of which league they are competing in next campaign.

The Lowland League are currently discussing what to do regarding their champion situation. Football in Scotland will remain suspended until at least April 30.

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