Clubs in the Lowland League have voted to admit Premiership B teams for the third season running following a review of the football ‘pyramid’ by the Scottish FA.
The decision comes as proposals for a permanent fifth tier ‘Conference’ league to accommodate ‘Colts’ sides continue.
Celtic and Rangers sides were admitted to the Lowland League in the 2021/22 season after paying a fee to enter for what was intended to be a single season.
The arrangement carried over into a second season, with Hearts also entering a side to make a 19-team league, with the guest clubs required to play at least seven players in every game who are eligible to play for Scotland national teams, and to provide funding to the league and clubs.
That move took place as discussions continued over the pyramid structure and the best way to help the development of elite players between the ages of 17 and 21.
With no permanent solution in place yet, the Lowland League announced that it would welcome Premiership clubs sending their youth teams to the competition again.
A brief statement read: “We can confirm that members have voted in favour of including B teams for season 2023/24.
“This vote comes following the Pyramid Review undertaken by the Scottish FA this season.”
The vote was not unanimous and one club went public with their opposition to the plan, announcing before the vote that they would be rejecting the plan and saying the move was being forced on to clubs.
East Stirlingshire tweeted: “We have have tonight, alongside other SLFL clubs, been asked to vote for the inclusion of B teams for season 2023/24.
“Together as a club we will be voting NO. As we look to build a new era for East Stirlingshire we want the foundation to be built on integrity, support and to lead the way on sustainability.
“We as a club believe the proposed inclusion of B teams and the subsequent birth of a conference league, which we feel is being forced upon us, is not in the best interest of Scottish football and only highlights and benefits the might of the big clubs at the expense of the smaller club.
“From small acorns grow great oak trees with which lower league football plays a huge part and should be given the opportunity of building a foundation to stand on their own merit for the future of Scottish football.
“What Scottish football requires is a properly constructed and ventilated pyramid structure that allows all clubs to find their competitive level.
“Talk’s cheap, action wins the day.”
Last month it was revealed that discussions over the long-term solution for the football pyramid explored the possibility of creating a new league.
The proposals would see the new level of competition introduced just below SPFL League Two in Scottish football’s pyramid structure, and would also feature sides invited from the Highland and Lowland leagues.
Under the plan, four Premiership Colts sides would join six clubs from the Highland and Lowland Leagues in the ‘Conference’ league.
Funded by the participating top flight clubs, the Conference would sit below League Two and would be established as a separate company from the SPFL. Promotion and relegation to and from the SPFL would take place.
Because the Conference is a separate entity from the existing SPFL league structure, no formal vote would be required to pass the proposed new division.
Other ideas have been considered. Plans to add a fifth level to the existing SPFL structure, a new League Three, would not be likely to have sufficient votes within the league body to be passed. A proposal that the existing League Two could be expanded from ten to 16 teams would also fail to get the backing of enough SPFL clubs if put to the vote.
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