Rod Houston believes settling on a start date for the 2020-21 Highland League season is a big step forward.
Following a league management committee meeting on Saturday, the league will get under way, subject to government approval, on Saturday October 17.
Due to the delayed start to the campaign, the league will be 16 matches rather than the usual 32.
To increase the number of home matches clubs have, the 2020-21 Highland League Cup will start with a group stage format.
The league has also committed to completing the 2019-20 League Cup. It is hoped it can be finished by late November with the semi-finals, between Brora Rangers and Buckie Thistle and Formartine United and Rothes, and the final still to be played.
There is still work ahead for clubs to ensure their grounds are ready for the potential return of fans, but Highland League secretary Houston believes a positive step has been taken.
He said: “It’s positive news and I think everyone involved is feeling very positive about things.
“We just have to get through the next bit, which is organising the grounds, and be sure that we can deal with things appropriately.
“The clubs have got a fair bit of work ahead of them, but they’re all keen to do it because they’re all keen to get back playing games and giving Saturdays some kind of semblance of normality.
“I think this a big step because it’s a conscious thing of the league saying ‘right we can go for this now’.
“This has certainly been a major challenge for the league.
“But one of the strengths of the league is even if there are points of disagreement they still come together for the greater good and a sense of purpose in sustaining the organisation.”
Commenting on the fixture programme for the new season, Houston added: “We’ve had three meetings to discuss these things, so it certainly hasn’t been for the want of considering the issues and making sure we’d covered all the ins and outs of possible fixture programmes. But we’ve settled on something that we consider to be achievable whilst allowing to some extent the risk of disruption.
“There will be a weather risk at some point, we know that – it’s the Highland League.
“But you never know if you will be disrupted by the pandemic with a spike or a lockdown.
“We think we’ve got something that’s achievable, but at the same time is also credible as a competition.”
The changes to the League Cup are to help negate the loss of eight home league fixtures for clubs.
Houston said: “With one round of league games we’re arranging the League Cup in zones so that where there are derby matches, if you’ve had a home derby game in the league, the other team can have one in the League Cup.
“We’re trying to give that opportunity and we’re trying to balance it up because we think it will interest the fans.
“The other part of it means that we can guarantee every club 10 home games a season.
“In a normal season, every team is guaranteed 16 homes fixtures, and with the bite that’s been taken out of the season we’ve tried to mitigate that gap as best we can.
“From the outset we were committed to finishing the 2019-20 League Cup and we’re hoping to announce dates quite soon.
“We’ve had discussions with the sponsors (Utilita) and they’ve been very supportive and most helpful.”