‘No plans to change the format’ - SPFL dismisses Championship expansion claims

Andrew Stirling and Kyle Jacobs of Queen of the South battle with Partick's Shea Gordon during a Championship clash. Picture: SNS Group
Andrew Stirling and Kyle Jacobs of Queen of the South battle with Partick's Shea Gordon during a Championship clash. Picture: SNS Group
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The Scottish Professional Football League say they have ‘no plans’ to extend the Ladbrokes Championship to 12 teams amid fresh reports of Celtic and Rangers’ under-20 sides joining a revamped senior league set-up.

The SPFL responded to claims the Scottish second tier could be expanded for the 2020/21 campaign by having no relegation from it next season, and granting automatic promotion to the top two clubs from Ladbrokes League One.

That would mean a 44-game league season in Scotland’s second tier. Changes to League One and League Two could see automatic promotion to the bottom tier for both the Highland League and Lowland League champions, while two “colt”, or under-20 teams from Premiership clubs could be included.

But while talks over any potential alterations to the current SPFL set-up are ongoing within the organisation’s competitions working group, they insist a 12-team Championship is not on the agenda.

“Whilst we regularly review our competition formats, there are currently no plans to change the format of the Ladbrokes Championship,” said an SPFL spokesperson.

“We always want to ensure fans enjoy competitions that are dramatic, exciting and compelling – just as this season’s Ladbrokes Championship has been.”

Celtic and Rangers have been actively seeking inclusion for their under-20 sides in the SPFL for some time now.

In January 2018, the Old Firm clubs made a joint proposal for a two-year pilot scheme which would see their “colts” play in League 2.

They suggested their teams would play all of their fixtures away from home and offered to guarantee the purchase of 250 tickets per match at £10 per head to the other 10 clubs.

The move was rejected by several clubs, including Annan Athletic and Stenhousemuir, after consultation with their supporters.

Several European countries - including Spain, Germany, Portugal and Norway - allow reserve or youth teams from major clubs to participate in the lower divisions of their senior leagues with restrictions on how far they can be promoted and which cup competitions they can enter.

Under-20 sides from the Scottish Premiership clubs have taken part in the Irn-Bru Scottish Challenge Cup in the past three seasons.