Seasons still on hold for Borders football clubs despite play resuming for teams in higher tiers

The Borders’ two Scottish Lowland Football League teams, Gala Fairydean Rovers and Vale of Leithen, are to remain out of action for now despite the two tiers of the game above them being given the green light to resume training and playing.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:31 pm
The gates at Hawick Royal Albert United's Albert Park home ground look set to remain locked for a while yet (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon and public health and sport minister Mairi Gougeon this week gave the thumbs-up for League One and League Two teams to restart their current seasons, on hold since Monday, January 11, subject to regular coronavirus testing being carried out.

The present Scottish Cup campaign, featuring some lower league teams, was also given the go-ahead to carry on.

No date was given for the resumption of play below the Scottish Professional Football League’s fourth tier, however, so the Galashiels and Innerleithen sides will be forced to play the waiting game for a while yet, as will East of Scotland Football League teams such as Hawick Royal Albert United and Peebles Rovers.

Gougeon, MSP for Angus North and Mearns, said: “We are aware of the importance of football, at all levels, to many people in Scotland, and I'm happy that we have been able to work closely with the Scottish Football Association to allow the resumption of some further football activity, starting with Leagues One and Two, SWPL1 and clubs still in this season's Scottish Cup.

“This could only happen alongside enhanced measures to keep everyone safe, including mandatory weekly Covid PCR tests for all players and staff.

“We continue to discuss with the SFA and other stakeholders to ensure football at all levels can resume as soon as it is safe to do so."

SFA president Rod Petrie welcomed that move, saying: “We are pleased that the first minister has again recognised the importance of football in Scotland.

“The decision to temporarily suspend parts of the professional game played by predominantly part-time teams teams was not an easy one to take. None the less, given the sharp rise in infection rates caused by new strains of the virus at the start of the year, it was the right thing to do to assist the national effort to reduce its prevalence during lockdown.

Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon and public health and sport minister Mairi Gougeon this week gave the thumbs-up for League One and League Two teams to restart their current seasons, on hold since Monday, January 11, subject to regular coronavirus testing being carried out.

The present Scottish Cup campaign, featuring some lower league teams, was also given the go-ahead to carry on.

No date was given for the resumption of play below the Scottish Professional Football League’s fourth tier, however, so the Galashiels and Innerleithen sides will be forced to play the waiting game for a while yet, as will East of Scotland Football League teams such as Hawick Royal Albert United and Peebles Rovers.

Gougeon, MSP for Angus North and Mearns, said: “We are aware of the importance of football, at all levels, to many people in Scotland, and I'm happy that we have been able to work closely with the Scottish Football Association to allow the resumption of some further football activity, starting with Leagues One and Two, SWPL1 and clubs still in this season's Scottish Cup.

“This could only happen alongside enhanced measures to keep everyone safe, including mandatory weekly Covid PCR tests for all players and staff.

“We continue to discuss with the SFA and other stakeholders to ensure football at all levels can resume as soon as it is safe to do so."

SFA president Rod Petrie welcomed that move, saying: “We are pleased that the first minister has again recognised the importance of football in Scotland.

“The decision to temporarily suspend parts of the professional game played by predominantly part-time teams was not an easy one to take. None the less, given the sharp rise in infection rates caused by new strains of the virus at the start of the year, it was the right thing to do to assist the national effort to reduce its prevalence during lockdown.

“The preparatory work undertaken with representatives of affected leagues, and their commitment to the inclusion of weekly PCR testing, has given ministers the confidence to permit the return of SWPL 1 and SPFL League One and Two.

“While we are pleased to see the return of these leagues, there remain significant numbers unable to return to play, including the remaining levels of the professional pyramid, elite youth football, club youth football and our amateur and grass-roots clubs across both the male and female game.

“We are acutely aware of the desire within those levels of football to return to playing football and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure they are able to as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Gala and Vale have yet to play a competitive game in 2021.

The former’s last game was their Scottish Cup exit against Annan Athletic on Boxing Day and they last played in the league a week earlier away to Bo’ness United, a 2-1 victory.

The latter have been out of action even longer, last playing in the league on December 15 away to Motherwell’s Caledonian Braves, a 9-0 defeat.

Peebles last took to the pitch in the East of Scotland Football League’s first division conference B on November 28, winning 3-1 away at Glenrothes, and Hawick’s last game in the same division was on December 19, a 5-1 defeat away to Kinnoull.