FALKIRK chairman Martin Ritchie has accused Scottish Football League chief executive David Longmuir of acting “irresponsibly” by proposing Old Firm “colt” teams join a new league set-up.
The 30 SFL clubs yesterday received a document in which Longmuir reportedly argues that Rangers and Celtic reserve teams should join the lowest league in any new structure so that the Glasgow clubs would continue to have a presence in Scottish football if their top teams move elsewhere.
The development came 24 hours after the Scottish Premier League announced that their clubs would vote on plans for a merged 12-12-18 structure on 15 April, with a view to introducing it next season.
SFL clubs have not set a date and have also been discussing plans for a 12-12-10-10 league, which would require two new teams. And Ritchie feels they should focus on the plans in hand rather than creating fresh controversy. The Falkirk chairman told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme: “The problem I have with it, I think at this stage it’s just a total distraction from the key issue that everybody is discussing, which is reconstruction. There are pros and cons with it but it is clearly going to be a contentious issue.
“It’s going to divide the clubs and it’s going to divide the supporters and to introduce it at this stage of the reconstruction debate, I think it’s irresponsible.
“I got it absolutely out of the blue this afternoon when I opened my emails.”
Ritchie added: “Maybe there’s an opportunity after reconstruction to look at the pros and cons and decide if it’s a good idea but, at the moment, we have very tight timescales.
“The SPL have said they are going to vote on 15 April. The SFL are behind that, partly because it was the SPL that were drawing up the documents. But the SFL have got quite a lot of catching up to do and to suddenly put a new variable on the table, and one that will certainly divide the clubs and the supporters, all that is actually doing is putting the whole process into further disarray.”
The plans do not appear to have been shared with the SPL and St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour expressed his club’s opposition. “Our view has never changed on colt teams from when it came up the last time – if there are to be colt teams, then fine, we have everybody in a colt league,” he said. “We have no desire to have some clubs having colt teams and others not. It’s as simple as that.”
In extracts of the document published by the BBC, Longmuir argues that Scottish football should be looking to safeguard the game from the potential loss of Rangers and Celtic, who have both declared themselves open to exploring commercial opportunities outside of the country.
Longmuir wrote: “If both clubs were to leave without the legacy of a colt team and an
annual financial settlement, then Scottish football as an industry would face significant drops in commercial, marketing and media investment.
“Our games may be more competitive, with more clubs evenly matched but that would come with a potential reduction in quality and resources. The legacy of a colt team would provide a level of domestic football which would be competitive, interesting and attractive to fans, sponsors and media alike.”
Longmuir’s proposal would see both reserve sides unable to progress up the divisions unless Celtic and Rangers left Scotland.