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Ross County may cover lower league coronavirus test costs for Betfred Cup

Celtic v Ross County – Pre-Season Friendly – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Ross County are ready to make a “gesture” to lower league clubs in order to make sure next month’s Betfred Cup games go ahead, according to boss Stuart Kettlewell.

Teams in the Scottish Championship, League One and League Two will not have to test players for Covid-19 when their season finally gets underway on October 17.

But they will have to carry out checks for coronavirus if they are taking on a Premiership side in the Betfred Cup, which kicks-off on October 6.

That has already led to fears from the lower league clubs that they could be left crippled by the cost of testing their entire squad, concerns which have deepened since First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on Tuesday that plans to welcome back fans into stadia have been shelved.

But Kettlewell has hinted County owner Roy MacGregor is willing to meet the cost of testing to ensure their group games against Arbroath, Elgin, Montrose and Stirling Albion take place.

He said: “I think it’s a critical time for Scottish football.

“We’ve all had to show an incredible amount of resilience. It’s been tough for us all, no matter what walk of life you’re in.

“I see this now being another hurdle to be overcome. We all have to be pretty smart and make sure we stick together one as a club, but two as a body of football in this country.

“I know there has been talks within our club to try to help other clubs along the way.

“I think there is the prospect looking towards Betfred Cup games for us to try to ensure that these take place.

“It is our full intention that these four games in the group section go ahead in whatever way possible.

“You guys know Roy and how much he’s an advocate of football in the Highlands so it’s safe to say there maybe a gesture in there to help out one or two of the clubs along the way.

“To what extent that will be I can’t confirm but I think there will be something there.”

County were given permission to welcome 300 fans back through the turnstiles for this month’s visit of Celtic as part of a trial event.

But a second surge in Covid cases across Scotland means it will be some time yet before other clubs are able to reopen their stands to supporters.

But Kettlewell is confident the Staggies can overcome the financial strain caused by the pandemic.

He said: “We were very proactive back in March-April time. We had a plan A, B and C and I’ll be honest with you, Plan A was based on there being no supporters in the ground.

“That was how we saw it and how we budgeted. Anything else that came on top of that was always going to be a bonus.

“I know that’s a very pessimistic view but at the time we felt it was a realistic view.

“Obviously as the weeks and months went on, there started to be signs of improvement but always in the back of our mind we knew we had to be aware of the situation and how that could change in a matter of days, as it has done.

“It terms of us operating as a club, we’re comfortable with the fact there will not be any supporters coming in within the near future and we’re braced for it.”