The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
Community as clubs face
● Highland League’s resilience tested
Camaraderie is a word often used in Highland League circles. Whether it owes to the popular hospitality boxes at community clubs, or that once you are involved in the game you are in it for life, everyone acknowledges the work and sacrifices that come as part of volunteering.
It is such resilience and community-centric values that need to be in plentiful supply right now, as society itself, not just football, teeters on the precipice of significant change.
Andy Troup has been chairman of Keith Football Club since 2014, and had this season been completed, they would have ended up debt-free.
However, the Highland League’s decision to end the season early and crown Brora Rangers champions – unanimously backed by all clubs – has kicked that particular can down the road.
They announced this week that wages had been suspended, in agreement with the players, and Troup will continue to look at running costs the longer the shutdown goes on.
“We run a tight ship so it’s not as if we overspend. Like most Highland League clubs we don’t have an overspill of cash,” said Troup.
“We’ll be looking at rate reductions; there’s some grants available from the government so we may look at taking one of those out.
“We’ll be speaking to our suppliers about payment structures, just to keep the cash flow there. This week we’ve had our payment from the SFA, which is what we normally receive in December but has been made available now, which is a boost.”
Keith had three home games left to play with full hospitality bookings for each one.
Troup estimates £18,000 was lost as a result. Wages are the biggest expense and had to be looked at first.
“We’ve got a really good bunch of lads but the love and the passion they’ve got for the club is outstanding,” he said. “When times like this happen, which is really outwith anyone’s control, it just shows what they show for the club. There was nobody asking questions, they accepted it and that was fine.”
Although historically successful, Keith are not perennial high-flyers.
Their ninth-placed finish this season was a gradual improvement on the last two years but they are not flush.
“You’ve maybe got one or two teams in the Highland League who have a sponsor able to substance a little more money. We’ve been working our way out of debt and were on track to do it this season, but this has knocked us back a little bit.
“The football club is my passion. It’s like every other football club in that it’s in a difficult position but we’ll come through the other side.”
Like many community clubs, the Maroons have extended a helping hand into the surrounding area, offering to do shopping and walk dogs during people’s periods of isolation. Charity starts at home.
At the same meeting where Brora were declared champions, the 17 member clubs also reached a gentlemen’s agreement that no players would be signed from