Lowland League says yes to Rangers, Celtic and Hearts - how much each team will pay and size of league revealed, review promised
The 16 member clubs held a vote on Monday evening to decide whether all three would be allowed in, having previously shown their intention to reject the guest clubs, with a preference for two rather than all three.
However, when faced a with an “all or nothing” scenario, they reconvened and the second ballot delivered a majority in favour of admission.
It means Rangers and Celtic’s B teams – who played in the league last year and finished second and third respectively behind Bonnyrigg Rose – will once again be involved, with Hearts entering their own team for the very first time.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was very keen to get his club admitted, saying a few months ago:
“I support a platform for the young players to go and play. We have not had a reserve league for a number of years and it’s really hindered the development of these players.
“We have had to find loan deals to put them out but we have no control over what happens there - how they play, how they train, the environment they are in.
“If we can get that [the Lowland League] I would be delighted. I’d be all for it.”
It means that next season’s Lowland League will have 19 teams competing, with the three B teams unable to participate in the promotion play-offs.
It has been reported that Rangers, Celtic and Hearts will each pay a £40,000 entry fee, an increase of £15,000 from last season.
Furthermore, the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Professional Football League have committed to a review of the pyramid structure to try and ensure that there will not be a repeat of the contentious issues this season. The SFA confirmed that it will lead on discussions going forward.
A statement from the Scottish Football Association read: “Following positive and collaborative discussions between the board of the Scottish Lowland Football League, representatives from the Scottish FA and the Scottish Professional Football League, plus Celtic, Heart of Midlothian and Rangers, a revised proposition for season 2022/23 has been agreed.
“This proposition allows the three guest clubs to participate in the Lowland League for season 2022/23. In addition, the respective league bodies have agreed to participate in the Scottish FA's pyramid working group discussions aimed at providing a longer-term solution to optimise the structure and aid the transition of talented players between the ages of 17 and 21.
“Following a positive vote, the plan commits to the following:
“Celtic, Heart of Midlothian and Rangers will join the Lowland League for season 2022/23, creating a 19-team league for one season only. This will result in a 36-game fixture calendar.
“Guest clubs are required to field seven players eligible for Scotland national teams in the starting line-up.
“Each guest club will provide funding to help develop the league and its clubs.
“The Scottish FA will lead on a review of the pyramid structure, with recommendations proposed ahead of the 2023/24 season.”
Ian Maxwell, chief executive of the SFA, said: "We are delighted that the Lowland League clubs have approved the participation of three guest clubs for the forthcoming season. The Scottish FA supports the principle of elite player development and particularly providing opportunities for talented players in the key transition years from 17 to 21.
“The Scottish FA will oversee a discussion in parallel to propose and implement a long-term plan with the objectives of optimising the pyramid, which has been a resounding success in Scottish football, harnessing the player pathway and accelerating the development of the country’s most talented young players through the national youth teams to the full international stage.”
Thomas Brown, chairman of the Lowland League, said: "We were always open to the inclusion of guest clubs for a further season given the successful player development outcomes from last year's pilot. We want to be a modern and progressive league and we are excited to be playing our part in the eco system that develops Scotland’s talent.
"Importantly, we now look forward to working with the Scottish FA, the SPFL and our friends in the pyramid to create some new solutions to some existing challenges which will provide a bright future at all levels of our game."
Neil Doncaster, chief executive of the SPFL, added: "It is hugely encouraging to see such a joined-up and collaborative approach being adopted in such a vital area of our game.
“There are few more exciting things in football than watching the development of home-grown talent and it's extremely encouraging that the Lowland League has agreed to assist our clubs on a temporary basis for Season 2022/23.
"The SPFL will commit our energies to a process that will explore options and, hopefully, allow us to move forward various aspects of our game for the benefit of our 42 member clubs and Scottish football as a whole."