Testing costs make West of Scotland return this spring impossible says Lanark United boss Jamie McKenzie

Lanark United manager Jamie McKenzie fears that restarting the coronavirus-hit West of Scotland Football League won’t be viable as long as regular testing for the disease remains mandatory.
Lanark United manager Jamie McKenzieLanark United manager Jamie McKenzie
Lanark United manager Jamie McKenzie

The Moor Park gaffer was speaking to the Carluke and Lanark Gazette as doubt remains over whether divisions in Scotland below League 2 can begin again this season, having been off for two months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

McKenzie said: “With the news last week about Leagues 1 and 2 coming back, there was a big emphasis put on testing the players.

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"I think financially that makes it almost a non-starter for our leagues.

"I think it is upwards of £1,000 per week just to test players, management and committee guys.

"Those kind of figures are way outwith what most teams can afford.

"With the news that the authorities are demanding the tests be done, I think it’s looking less and less likely that we will restart.

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"A few months down the line, hopefully we will be in a better place and we will be ready to start.

"It’s a blow because we would all love to get back to playing, but as the weeks go on, we are not really any closer.

"I think that hope is rapidly disappearing as teams at our level having to pay £1,000 a week just to do testing alone would be impossible.

"The West of Scotland League probably need to come out as an organisation and tell us where we’re at so we can just draw a line under it and plan for next year."

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The West of Scotland Football League issued a statement this week on the likelihood of play resuming imminently or not.

It read: “The board have confirmed that due to the current suspension of the game due to the coronavirus pandemic, the current football season will be officially ended and declared null and void if clubs are not allowed to resume full contact training by April 3, therefore allowing for the resumption of competitive fixtures no later than the April 17.

“At the start of the season, the then Interim Management Group confirmed that 50 per cent of matches across all divisions would be required to be played to allow the league to be determined on a points per game basis, should the league competition have to end prior to the completion of all fixtures.

"An average of 10 rounds of fixtures are required to be played to achieve that milestone and allow all clubs to have played each other at least once.

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"With the Premier Division Champions requiring to be determined no later than May 22 to allow possible participation in the Lowland League Play-offs, this would require clubs to play both weekend and midweek fixtures from the 17th April.

“Therefore should it become clear that this will not be possible, the league will be declared null and void and the focus will thereafter be on planning for the start of the 21/22 season.

“Meanwhile the league welcome the announcement from the Scottish Government regarding the easing of lockdown restrictions but would remind clubs that the current suspension of training remains in force until we receive a further update from the SFA.”

That continuing uncertainty means that McKenzie’s preparations for any resumption of play are challenging, to say the least.

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The Lanark manager added: "I have already started planning for next year, but it’s still difficult when you have one eye wondering ‘are we going to start up?’

"For example, if I thought about players who were maybe going to leave my club in the summer and then next week I get told were starting, I then need to go and ask these players to go play for me again and it’s not going to be easy.”