Secretary Rod Houston admits the Highland League may have to adjust its plan for the new season following changes to coronavirus restrictions in Scotland.
The Highland League has been planning for the 2020-21 campaign to begin on October 17, with the first three rounds of fixtures released at the weekend.
However, the clubs have committed to starting the season with fans inside grounds, with the indicative date for supporters to return to stadia in Scotland set as October 5.
The announcement yesterday from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that changes to Covid-19 restrictions set for October 5 – including the return of fans – was “unlikely” to happen means a delay to the Highland League season appear to be on the cards.
Houston said: said: “The significant statement with regard football was that the phased return of fans from October 5 is ‘unlikely.’
“That worries us because the whole basis of the Highland League season starting was predicated on the country being in phase four with fans coming back into grounds.
“The league has been clearly of the opinion they wanted the competitions to be played with fans.
“We’ll need to try to obtain clarity, which will come from the Scottish FA in due course, but we are wondering what we’ll do.
“We need to get a wee bit more of a steer as to how unlikely is unlikely, because if unlikely means no chance (of fans being allowed into grounds) then we’ll adjust our plans accordingly.”
If starting on October 17 with fans isn’t possible Houston says the Highland League is ready to re-evaluate when the new term can begin.
He added: “If there’s no chances of fans being back from October 5 we then take it step by step.
“We find out what trends and patterns are and see when there is a chance of things changing and we then make judgement calls based on that information.
“What we can’t afford to forget is that there’s a pandemic on. As much as we’re all desperate to get back to football, we can’t lose sight of the fact there is a global pandemic going on.”
Earlier this month two test events – Aberdeen v Kilmarnock at Pittodrie and Ross County v Celtic at Victoria Park – with 300 supporters in attendance took place.
For the time being, the Scottish Government has taken test events off the table. Houston says when safe to do so the Highland League would be willing to host test events to show they could cater for fans returning.
He said: “The Scottish FA know we would be prepared to do some test events, but that’s obviously once test events are allowed.
“But at the minute that’s unlikely and October 5 is a week on Monday. It’s not far away and it’s hard to see how things will change dramatically between now and then.
“But they know we would be prepared to carry out test events if that’s what they wanted.”