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Highland League secretary hopeful of avoiding club cash crisis

By Alasdair Fraser

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HIGHLAND League secretary Rod Houston is keeping a close eye on member clubs’ financial wellbeing – but is hopeful none are in imminent danger.

No date has been set for the start of the Highland League. Picture: Callum Mackay.
No date has been set for the start of the Highland League. Picture: Callum Mackay.

The north game’s chief strategist has spoken regularly with the league management committee and kept in touch with club officials during lockdown.

With no firm date currently set for next season’s start, these remain worrying times for the 127-year-old association. Nairn County earlier this week announced it faced “tough decisions” after losing it’s main club sponsor.

But Golspie-based Houston stressed: “We’ve not been informed of any club approaching financial distress. Much depends on how long this situation goes on, what each club’s standing obligations are financially, and what they can do in generating revenue once we get going again.

“A lot have taken advantage of government-led schemes, like the small business grant or furloughing players and staff. It depends entirely on their cost burden, but at no stage have we been picking up signals of financial distress.”

Rod Houston has been appointed to the reconstruction
Rod Houston has been appointed to the reconstruction

Houston believes the Highland League’s tight-knit nature can ensure clubs facing difficulties receive assistance. He also suggested the league’s part-time status meant it had a responsibility to players and their main employers to avoid rushing back into action.

He said: “I’m pretty sure, if something awry was in the offing financially, we would get tipped the wink and would then see what was necessary in order to help said club.

“Nobody at the minute has given us that indication. Ours is a part-time football league, albeit very professional in how it goes about its business and how clubs organise themselves.

“But it isn’t the players’ main source of income so we have to be conscious of that. If we start too soon and a player carries the virus from football into his place of work, the consequences for that workplace and work colleagues could be quite serious.

“At part-time level, the financial dependencies are less, but the risks of cross-infection are greater. Full-time clubs can almost operate with a cordon around them, but it is very difficult in part-time football.”

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