The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
Values shine through many tough choices
As coronavirus pandemic brings season to a premature end
other clubs before the end of June. Donly McLeod, Strathspey Thistle’s chairman, hopes this can protect them in these uncertain times.
Like many smaller clubs, they rely on a weekly lottery to generate funds but with social distancing vital, sending agents door-to-door to sell tickets is now unfeasible.
“It’s a bit of a blow to us but it’s the same for all clubs in the Highland League and further afield,” McLeod said. “We’ve just got to carry on and hope things pick up over the next few weeks and months.
“We’ve got bills to pay like every other club. We’ll get over that, there’s no question about that. My biggest worry is getting players in for next season and how we’d go about that. But that’s up to the manager Gordon (Nicolson) and (assistant) Tommy Wilson to sort out.”
McLeod, a former manager of the Grantown Jags, takes a wider view on the league’s general health during the shutdown, with his role on the league’s management committee.
“There will be three or four that will find it a real struggle – some of them have lotteries as well and are dependent on that. Bills don’t stop.
“We don’t want to see any teams missing out because of this. But the world’s a cruel place at times and bankers won’t listen to hard-luck stories. They’ll want bills paying.”
Strathspey finish in 13th, three places above Lossiemouth where the picture is less rosy. Four wins from 28 saw them end the season second-bottom, above only Fort William, with real uncertainty ahead over the coming months.
“Financially we’re OK at the minute but if we have to go until July before football starts, I don’t know where we’ll be,” said chairman Alan McIntosh. “I’ve got the social club as well, which I had to close down.
“We’re all off work too. I don’t know what’s going to happen – if I only get 80% of my wages, I’ve got a son and daughter who are exactly the same. It’s a trying time and football tends to go on the back burner.”
That sentiment underlines the fact that Highland League clubs are a labour of love, not necessity. When the choice ultimately comes between your family and football, the latter may have to suffer.
McIntosh stresses there will be a Lossiemouth Football Club at the other side of this.
They are grateful to the players, who have also agreed to a wage stoppage, and their sponsors for backing them. But the fear exists.
“If the treasurer comes knocking and says ‘we’ve not got enough money to pay this’, what do we do? You’ve got to look after your own house first – the football club comes second,” said McLeod.
“We’re all voluntary down there. It’s not peaked yet so we don’t know how long it’s going to go on.”