The Aberdeen and District Juvenile Football Association has defended significant changes ahead of the Covid-delayed 2020/21 campaign.
Executive committee members have announced, with competitive football allowed to return on October 3, the season will begin three weeks later on October 24 and is currently scheduled to run until May 9.
In the most radical change to the season, juvenile sides between the under-13s and U19s age groups, will play each of their league rivals only once over the course of the campaign.
As a result, over the course of the 29-week 2020/21 term, clubs are currently expected to have nine league games, and between one and four Scottish Youth Football Association Cup matches.
The ADJFA has budgeted for 16 weeks of teams’ seasons to be written off due to the Easter and Christmas holidays, bad weather, and Covid-related problems like local lockdowns, infections and reduced pitch and referee availability.
In a letter to clubs an ADJFA spokesman said their plan for the season will give them “the best possible chance to ensure that the leagues are completed, and champions declared”.
However, concerns have been raised with the Evening Express about the delay in starting matches between October 3 and 24 when teams are already allowed to train, and also the emphasis placed on finishing the league season, rather than giving youngsters as many chances to play games as possible.
The ADJFA stood by the reasons behind their decisions, which the “vast majority of teams recognise”. They said it still unclear whether clubs will still be able to secure pitch-sharing with senior and junior, or whether multi-pitch venues will be forced to run at reduced capacity.
There are also concerns over an ageing pool of referees, who could be shielding from coronavirus.
A spokeman said: “The executive committee in deciding the start date for the leagues took into consideration teams have been match-less for at least six months and would require as much time as possible to get match fit.
“This coupled with the fact that the schools break for the October holiday on 9th of October, just one week after the permitted start date for competitive leagues.
“It was felt too many teams may have players away on holiday, particularly as families may not have had a holiday this year. A number of families may take the opportunity to visit family in other parts of the country.
“This would mean a large number of teams would not have sufficient players to field a team.”
The spokesman – who expressed hopes more fixtures can be added for teams via supplementary competitions if there is time at the end of the season – continued: “It was decided that to give the league every chance of being completed the number of games would be reduced, so that teams would only play one another once. A similar approach has been made by a number of different leagues including the Highland League.
“At the conclusion of our league programme in March this year, when the Covid restrictions were imposed, a number of our teams had only complete seven or eight league games. One team had only played five.
“We will have lost 10 weeks of the better weather when we start, so setting a target of a maximum of nine or twelve (in the case of one of the leagues) is realistic.
“As was stated in notice to all teams, should we have time at the end of the season, cup games can be arranged to keep the teams playing.
“It is not unusual after a mild winter for the league to hold supplementary competitions.
“The executive committee will do everything possible to ensure that teams can play football.”