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Covid-19 was the main topic of conversation at the Camanachd Association September board meeting, and the way forward.
Cabinet Secretary for Finance, and Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP, Kate Forbes was also present, taking part in discussion on how Covid has impacted the sport and clubs.
Difficulty of travelling to fixtures in rural communities under current restrictions was highlighted among the many challenges that clubs are facing, however, Derek Keir, Camanachd Association CEO, has commended the forward-thinking approach from shinty clubs during the pandemic.
‘Clubs have been extremely positive and pro-active in moving beyond the current crisis by working through their Covid readiness documents and getting
back to playing the sport,’ he said.
‘At present 17 clubs have completed their documentation and are ready to play which is testament to the hard work and great character of the volunteers who drive our clubs.
‘The Camanachd Association is ready to work with any club which wants to take the next steps on its journey in returning to sport.’
This was in light of the first shinty matches since March being played on Saturday, September 26 – a fantastic feat for the sport as a whole and especially for the specific clubs involved.
Other actions were discussed including the development of facilities for Scotland’s most historic sport.
Some discussions focused on increasing the number of schools engaged in shinty and the important role modern facilities play in retaining members.
Recent developments were also noted including the partnership work with Highlife Highland, Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise as
well as Inverness Shinty Club regarding facilities at the Bught Park and UHI campus.
Further discussions also highlighted the incredible role sponsors have played in 2020 with significant contributions from Mowi, Tulloch Homes and Highland Industrial Supplies.
The Camanachd Association has been working from the outset of Covid to develop a more sustainable platform and is now in the process of consulting clubs to explore more modern membership packages that can complement the changing needs of clubs and at the same time reduce the pressure on club volunteers.
Keith Loades, president of the Camanachd Association, said: ‘We greatly appreciate Kate taking the time out of what is a hectic schedule to spend time listening to the challenges that our clubs – and the association as a whole – are facing at this time.
‘She has long been an ardent supporter of our most ancient sport and we hope that these productive discussions will bear fruit in the months and years to come.’
Ms Forbes said: ‘Having several of the top teams in my constituency, I am well aware of the importance of shinty to local communities across the Highlands as well as further afield.
‘I know that clubs have tried to be as responsible as possible during the pandemic in deciding whether to train and whether to participate in local fixtures.
‘It is taking all of us some time to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and I know the Camanachd Association has been keen to ensure that sufficient measures are put in place to minimise the risks involved and also help support players, their families and, of course, supporters.
‘I was pleased to take part in the recent board meeting, and I am taking a very keen interest in the short-term working group’s work on stemming rural depopulation – which is a subject very close to my heart.’
Mr Loades and his fellow directors thanked the minister for her contribution on issues currently affecting the sport.