Highland League brought to an early end with Brora Rangers awarded title

By Tyrone SmithBBC Scotland Sport
Dudgeon Park
Brora Rangers have been declared champions with the season brought to an end early

The Highland League have brought their season to an early end and awarded the title to leaders Brora Rangers.

Scottish football is currently in shutdown until at least April 30 due to the coronavuris pandemic.

The lack of action has created problems for a number of clubs, who are seeking clarity over when, or if, the season will be completed.

The Dudgeon Park side - who had six games still to play - are 13 points clear at the top the table.

At a league management committee meeting in Lossiemouth on Saturday, member clubs opted to end the season now and name Brora Rangers as champions.

The Highland League decision sets an intriguing precedent with the Scottish football authorities still trying to determine how to resolve the major issues up and down the SPFL if, as many are predicting, the current campaign cannot be played to a conclusion.

With their northern counterparts deciding to act now, it remains to be seen if the Lowland League will do the same.

As things stand, no decision has been made about the way forward, with clubs not set to speak for another two weeks. However, BBC Scotland has learned the Lowland League were unaware the Northern League planned to finish their season early.

Kelty Hearts top the table with five matches remaining, six points clear of Bonnyrigg Rose who have played a game less.

Under the current rules, Brora Rangers will contest a two legged play-off with the Lowland League champions. The winners of that will then play the team that finishes bottom of League Two - currently Brechin City - to determine who will be playing in next season's SPFL.

However, it is unclear if that process will play out this time round, with league reconstruction being mooted by several clubs further up the league ladder as a possible way out of Scottish football's current gridlock.

While the Highland League season has ended early, the remaining ties in the Highland League Cup have been rescheduled to take place at the start of next season.

Brora Rangers manager Steven Mackay insists the decision to award them the title was "correct and fair".

"I don't think anyone could deny that my players have been the most consistent this season and deserve to be crowned as champions, although we had some tough competition from other clubs," he said.

"The Highland League board and clubs deserve huge credit for making a correct and fair decision. We would, of course, have wanted to win the league by completing all of our fixtures but that has not been possible.

"Our objective at the start of the season was to finish the league as champions, and the boys have done that, therefore I am incredibly proud of them and their achievements."