HIGHLAND League clubs took the decision to award Brora Rangers the title this weekend amid concerns that competitive football in Scotland might not resume until the autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was last night revealed.

A meeting of the part-time league’s 17 member clubs in Lossiemouth on Saturday voted unanimously in favour of naming Brora, who are 13 points clear with six games still to play, the 2019/20 champions.

The SFA and SPFL Joint Response Group suspended the game in this country from grassroots to professional level indefinitely on Friday, March 13, in an attempt to safeguard players and the public during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The group last week stated the shutdown will last until April 30 – but stressed it is likely to remain in place for some time after that date as medical experts do not expect the pandemic to peak in the United Kingdom until the end of May or middle of June.

Rod Houston, the Highland League secretary, praised clubs for shelving self-interest during an unprecedented crisis and predicted they will now be better placed to prepare for next season.

However, Houston, a former president of the Scottish Schools’ Football Association, admitted that he fears the 2020/21 campaign won’t get underway this summer as scheduled.

“There were a number of issues hanging,” he said. “We had a meeting of office bearers last week and they made a series of recommendations which went to a general meeting of clubs yesterday and the decision was finalised.

“We have drawn a line under the season and declared Brora champions for season 2019/20. It was utterly unanimous. It was led by Fraserburgh which I thought was hugely magnanimous given that they arithmetically had a chance (of winning). I have had nobody on dissenting, which is amazing in football.

“Clubs wanted a bit of clarity because they have a lot of players on contracts to deal with. There was also a sense of ‘let’s just decide what we’re doing, get the season tidied up and then when there is a chance to resume we are ready to go, almost with a clean sheet’.”

Houston continued: “We think any notion of resumption by the end of June is probably over optimistic based on the information we have gathered.

“We have done a lot of looking around in the last week to see what the likely scenario might be, have listened to what the politicians are saying very carefully and looked for messages in there.

“One or two good political connections have also been able to give us briefings about likely timings. I think it might even be into the autumn before football can resume. That is a worst case scenario, but I think it (the shutdown) could be even longer.”