B-team 'conference' league plans thrown out amid opposition

Clubs throughout the Scottish football pyramid objected to plans for a new fifth tier which would effectively relegate 200 teams.

Scottish ‘conference’ league plans featuring Celtic, Hearts and Rangers B-teams thrown out SNS Group

Plans for a Scottish football league featuring B-sides from three Premiership clubs have been shelved.

Celtic, Hearts and Rangers were due to field sides in the fifth-tier “conference” sitting between League Two and the Lowland and Highland leagues under proposals voted on by clubs at the Scottish Football Association’s AGM.

However, the governing body has now thrown out the plans in the face of overwhelming opposition from the majority of sides in the current pyramid system.

Premiership sides Livingston and St Mirren are among more than a dozen clubs to publicly come out against the plans.

They were among a slew of clubs who objected to the effective relegation of 200 clubs further down the pyramid and Aberdeen last month declared they would not be entering a team.

Queen of the South, Falkirk, Cowdenbeath and Partick Thistle have declared themselves against the plans and fan-owned Clyde and Stirling have listened to their supporter votes and opposed the plans.

Both Morton and Cove Rangers released similar statements saying they did not agree that the plans would aid player development.

Both stated that they saw “the development of players closely linked to earlier pathways to the first-team and through successful use of the current loan system”.

Kelty Hearts have also decided to oppose the proposals.

Sporting director Craig Reynolds said: “We are all for player development but a league where you can finish sixth and be relegated or finish fifth and be promoted isn’t right for sporting integrity.

“While we understand the case for B teams, we believe that there’s other ways to improve Scottish football, such like larger leagues, reserve leagues and more loan players from the so-called bigger teams, as well as a more open pyramid system and fairer financial allocation throughout the SPFL.”

Stranraer’s committee have “overwhelmingly” rejected the plan.

Chairman Iain Dougan said: “A ten-team league with an automatic relegation and further play-off spots top and bottom, that only six teams were involved in, was in our view very, very fine margins.

“The funding for such a league would in all honesty have been a welcome softer landing should our club find itself as club 42 and losing any ensuing play-off, but we have long held the belief that as part of the pyramid, both Lowland and Highland Leagues should have been funded from their inception.”

Lowland League Berwick said: “The prospect of a third of our league fixtures being against B teams would be an oversaturation, and reduce the appeal of matches at Shielfield Park for supporters and potential sponsors.

“The increased travel distances for our loyal away support was another issue that was reported back to us consistently, and we have listened to those comments as well.”

FC Edinburgh declared they could not support any proposal which created an “additional impediment to teams attempting to progress as we and others since have”.

Stenhousemuir said: “We don’t believe the case has been made that the introduction of a new Conference League at Tier 5 in the pyramid will have enough of a positive impact on player development that it outweighs the negatives regarding the integrity of the competition.”

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