IF anybody had a right to feel aggrieved about the Highland League’s decision to award the title to Brora Rangers this weekend it was Fraserburgh chairman Finlay Noble.

The Bellslea Park club may have been 17 points behind the league leaders - but they had three games in hand and nine matches in total still to play.

They, along with Rothes and Buckie Thistle, could potentially have pipped Brora to the trophy and won the right to take on the Lowland League winners in the SPFL play-off.

Yet, Noble had no qualms, along with representatives of the part-time division’s other 16 clubs, about voting for the league placings on March 13, when the SFA and SPFL Joint Response Group suspended the game in this country, to decide the champions.

He has heard first hand harrowing tales about the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy in recent days and feels that sporting matters are utterly inconsequential in the current global crisis.

“In my daily job I speak to Italian people a lot,” he said. “It’s quite heartbreaking listening to what they have got to say about the situation over there. Football pales into great insignificance in comparison.

“I work in customer support in the oil and gas industry and my client base is mainly in power stations in Italy. To hear what they have had to say has been upsetting.

"The people I speak to are all confined to their homes. One told me on Friday there are 17 doctors who have died. It is not just the elderly, doctors are dying now. That is the last thing we want.

“The fear is that this country goes the same way. We have got the opportunity to avoid as big a catastrophe. But we don’t know what we’re facing. It has been a bleak outlook speaking to people in Italy and Spain.”

The prospect of the SPFL going down a similar route and naming Celtic Ladbrokes Premiership champions and relegating Hearts without completing the final fixtures has upset many in the Scottish game.

Noble revealed that awarding Brora the Highland League crown was a straightforward process and hasn’t led to any recriminations – but conceded determining what to do in the four senior leagues will be far more complicated.

“It was an easy decision for us,” he said. “At this moment in time there’s no relegation. It was only about getting a champion. We as a club felt, while it was mathematically possible to catch Brora, we needed to win all our remaining games and them to lose three games. It was possible but unrealistic.

“We were all quite happy for Brora to be champion club. There was absolutely no challenge to it. Everybody had the chance to say their piece. It was unanimous.

"We spoke at length about it. The decision was based on our own circumstances. Up north we’re unique in terms of our geography and population. We don’t want to be travelling to games in 30 individual cars and putting 30 people in a bus for four or five hours is against current guidelines."

Noble continued: “Null and voiding the season was certainly considered as was overlapping this season into next season. But there was nothing to be gained from either of those scenarios. We felt Brora were too far ahead and we would just be delaying the inevitable.

“Hopefully everybody, supporters and sponsors, can appreciate the reasons . We haven’t had any negative feedback. A few fans have questioned why we have done it, but once it is explained to them I think they accept it.”

“I’m sure the SPFL will have a far, far header job picking the bones out of their four leagues. Even in the Lowland League, where there is not much between the four clubs at the top, it will be harder."