By NEIL RIDDELL
LAST weekend’s fixture between Shetland and the Western Isles had to be postponed after the visitors’ plane from Stornoway was cancelled due to fog.
The game looks likely to be rescheduled, however, for early October – chiefly because the Western Isles side has no other way of recouping the money for its flight to Shetland.
The SIC has said it is willing to make Gilbertson Park available for the one-off match, which could take place on either Friday 3rd or Friday 10th October, with a late afternoon kick off. Alternatively the game could be switched to the floodlit Harbison Park in Whalsay.
Referees Michael Wilson, Chris Boyle and Alan Cunningham were flown up, funded by the Scottish Football Partnership, for last weekend’s scheduled fixture.
“We’re obviously disappointed because it’s been a lot of organisation to get to this stage,” said SFA president Magnus Flaws. “The fact that special referees came up and nothing happened, it was a bit sad but we can’t change the weather.”
Shetland Football Association shelled out £800 for match day programmes, which would have gone to waste had the game not been restaged, but Mr Flaws said it would now hopefully be distributed with an insert on the rescheduled date.
It is the second time that weather problems have bedevilled a fixture between the two sides, after Shetland’s visit to the Western Isles two years ago saw them arrive only minutes before kick-off, with the game having to be cut short due to fading light. That fixture ended in a 3-1 victory for the home team.
The Western Isles fixture is to be the fifth match of a generally successful 2008 season for the Shetland team, who are expected to have an even busier calendar next year.
A 2-1 victory over Deveronvale in June was followed by a comfortable victory in Kirkwall against Orkney, before last month’s sojourn into competitive Scottish mainland football saw Shetland thump Fort William 5-0 before succumbing 6-2 to champions Cove Rangers last month.
As well as the annual inter-county fixture, Shetland will be sending a team to compete in the NatWest Island Games in Åland next June and are also hoping to re-enter the Highland League Challenge Cup next August.
Despite an excellent summer of weather keeping postponements to a minimum, the increased number of fixtures for the county side has seen some Premier League clubs enduring regular fortnight-long breaks from action in what is already a short season of 20 weeks.
Players and managers from several different teams have voiced their frustration in recent weeks and the issue of disruption to the local calendar was due to be on the agenda of the SFA’s monthly committee meeting last night.
Mr Flaws said he was happy to have discussions on how best to cope with the disruptions and that a decision would need to be taken at the association’s annual general meeting in November, he but accepted that it was a situation which needed to be addressed.
“That’s something we need to look at,” he said. “It does cause disruption, and it may be the case that teams just have to play with what they have [when Shetland has a fixture].”