Rangers have withdrawn their B team from the Lowland League for next season after seeing long-term plans for a new Conference League fail.
The Ibrox club says it remains committed to finding a long-term plan for the development of younger players and hopes that will be part of a professional league set-up.
Rangers, along with Celtic, has entered a B or ‘Colts’ team in the Lowland League for the past two years after paying a fee to enter.
Hearts joined the arrangement last season and the Lowland League has voted to admit Premiership B teams next season 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.
Plans had been drawn up with the Scottish FA to create a new ‘Conference League’ from the season after next, accommodating B teams along with sides from the Highland and Lowland League in a new fifth-tier division in the Scottish football pyramid.
However, that plan was withdrawn before a scheduled vote, with the SFA keen to avoid a split between clubs when it became clear there was widespread opposition to the idea.
Rangers say they are disappointed by that outcome and say that a permanent place for B teams would be good for the advancement of players not only for the Ibrox club but for the Scottish national team.
A club statement read: “Rangers can today announce the club will not be entering a B team in the Scottish Lowland Football League in season 2023/24 and beyond.
“This follows the Scottish FA’s decision to withdraw a vote on the proposed introduction of a ‘Conference League’ at tier five in the national football pyramid.
“Firstly, Rangers would like to put on record our sincere thanks to the Lowland League for hosting a Rangers B team in their league for the past two seasons, and to the clubs for their fantastic hospitality and sporting challenges during that time. Rangers wishes each and every one of them the very best for the future.
“Rangers has long been a strong advocate for the introduction of B Teams in the professional leagues of Scottish football, with a Conference League being an excellent step in that direction. Nations across Europe operate similar B Team systems with strong evidence of their development of players at club and national level.
“Indeed, all ten teams who contributed most to the development of players for last year’s World Cup have B teams operating in national senior leagues. The desire from all at Rangers to have a B Team in the professional leagues remains as strong as ever.
“Our view on B Teams was also strongly supported by the Scottish FA and its CEO Ian Maxwell, who recognise the clear, beneficial impact B Teams have on top international sides. For 18–21 year-old footballers, our research and the evidence clearly shows the best path for their development is playing professional football in professional leagues. A Conference League would have been a positive move towards that.
“As matters now stand, there is no suitable, governing body-led development structure for players between 18-21 in Scotland. The club has, however, enjoyed positive dialogue with a number of key stakeholders in recent days, including the Scottish FA, and looks forward to continuing such discussions to map the best possible direction for the development of the country’s top young players.”
Rangers say they will continue to arrange ‘best v best’ games against leading sides from top level clubs in the UK and from across Europe, and will compete in the SPFL Trust Trophy, City of Glasgow Cup and, “hopefully”, the UEFA Youth League to give their players “regular tests of a varied nature”.