Brora Rangers have been crowned champions in Scotland’s Highland League after a decision to finish the season early amid the coronavirus pandemic. The new champions had built a 13-point lead at the top of the table ahead of second-placed Inverurie Loco Works FC, with six fixtures still to play, and mathematically could still have been caught.
A league management committee meeting in Lossiemouth on Saturday ended with agreement among all member clubs to bring the season to a close and award the title to the runaway league leaders. Brora would now normally head for a two-legged play-off against the winners of the Lowland League, but no decision has yet been made on how to conclude the season by the other competition in Scotland’s fifth tier.
A statement on the official Highland League website said: “Scottish Highland Football League clubs met today to consider options during the current public health emergency … The following decisions were made by the meeting: That the 2019-20 season be deemed to have concluded … [and that] Brora Rangers FC be declared Breedon Highland League Champions for 2019-20.”
A message on the clubs’s Twitter feed posted on Saturday afternoon read: “The club are delighted to announce that after today’s Highland League meeting between all clubs that we have been declared league champions for the season 2019/20. This decision was taken in light of the current global health crisis.”
Professional football in Scotland is currently shut down until 30 April at the earliest, in line with the rest of the professional leagues in the UK. Founded in 1893, the Highland League is Britain’s northernmost senior football championship.
Saturday’s decision again raises the question of how the Premier League and Britain’s other professional leagues may choose to address similar issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Liverpool top the Premier League by 25 points, ahead of current champions Manchester City, while Leeds United lead the race for promotion from the Championship to the top flight.
Professional sport across the globe has been shut down to the worsening outbreak with no clarity – despite the proposed restart dates – on when things may return to something resembling normality.