The Scottish Lowland Football League has voted to allow Rangers and Celtic ‘colts’ teams to join their league for next season.
The member clubs voted in favour of allowing youth teams from the Glasgow giants to enter their competition for one season only, Rangers and Celtic paying a fee for entry.
At a meeting on Thursday evening, 18 rule changes were approved by clubs, with two major changes paving the way for the new-look expanded league next season.
An amendment was made to allow “guest” sides to play in the league, meaning that Rangers and Celtic will not become full Lowland League members.
A second major rule change prevents either team from being declared winners of the league, or for their position being taken into account for promorion or relegation.
Lowland League winners are entered into the play-off against the Highland League champions with the winner player the SPFL’s ‘club 42’ for a place SPFL League Two the following year.
League chairperson, George Fraser, said: “The member clubs have voted in favour of this proposal that was put to them earlier this month.
“Whilst it wasn’t unanimous the majority of member clubs are in favour of it and ultimately the members made the decision, which is only right in a democracy.
“Our Board will now get to work on moving forward with plans to get the new season started on July 17.”
The move has attracted controversy, with some critics arguing that the clubs are buying their way into the football pyramid at tier five when the teams start at a lower level.
But the move has the support of Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell, when it comes to giving young players the best chance to fulfil their potential.
Speaking to STV earlier this week and before the Lowland League’s decisive vote, Maxwell said: “I think anything that gives players at that 17-21 age an opportunity to develop is a good thing.
“I’ve been banging the drum for a long time that the pathway we’ve got at that stage isn’t developing players as well as we could.
“When I was [chief executive] at Partick Thistle I chaired an SPFL working group for four years that looked specifically at that bit of the pathway and how we could adjust the reserve league and the structure to give those players as much of an opportunity as possible.”
The former player added: “I don’t think it’s going to be done through reserve football, I think reserve football has changed.
“When I played, if you didn’t play for the first team on a Saturday then you played for the reserves during the week. Everybody did that but the games changed through sports science and they don’t need to go through a reserve team schedule of games.
“So we need to look at other innovative ways of doing it. I think players playing for colts teams, going out on loan and playing meaningful football as often as they can, is absolutely the right way to go.
“Look at the St Johnstone team last weekend, I think seven of their squad came through their youth academy.
“St Johnstone don’t have an elite academy in terms of our structure. Their model is that they take a handful of their best players and put them out on loan. That’s how they develop their players and there is absolutely an argument that it makes better players, which is fundamentally why we’re here.”