It’s a decision – and subject – which has split opinion, before, during and now after the event.
What we know
Rangers and Celtic Colts will be invited to enter two Colts teams or B-teams into the fifth tier of Scottish football for one year, next season. Neither side will be eligible for promotion – as they are only entering on a one season basis – and each will pay an entry fee of £25,000.
The Lowland League will now address the rules and constitution to admit the teams for next season’s competition.
The Lowland League proposal arises from the long-running debate over colts teams which has accelerated again recently.
Talk of the teams entering the SPFL proper at League Two level has often been rejected, though recently resurfaced, and was dismissed again with Brechin City suggesting league reconstruction and abandoning the pyramid play-off this season.
However, the Lowland League held discussions for the clubs to enter one rung down the pyramid ladder and put the option to a members’ vote on Monday night.
Chairman George Fraser explained the reasons: “Celtic and Rangers are looking for a league for their B-teams where they can develop as players. Having been on the PGB sub group tasked with further developing the ‘Scottish Football Innovation’ paper, it was clear to me there is a major gap in the player pathway which would, if not addressed, impact a generation of our best young talent. The Lowland League, as a modern progressive organisation, identified an opportunity which will have massive benefit for our own clubs and league but also the wider Scottish game.
“Over the last few years the Lowland League has proved to be a well-run professional league and both these clubs feel their teams and players will develop by being part of it, while importantly for us we will be able to generate new revenues and shine a spotlight on the aspirational and ambitious clubs we have within our ranks.”
Supporting the changes
Clubs voting for the proposal included: Berwick Rangers, Caledonian Braves, East Stirlingshire.
East Stirlingshire director Ian Fleming outlined some of the reasons behind his club's vote.
"We felt it was a great way, rightly or wrongly, to highlight the league to new people and that hopefully gives us something to build on in the future after Rangers and Celtic have gone off to wherever they go at the end of the season.”
He added: "A lot of people seem to think this was done purely for money but given it's only £50,000 to the league, that isn't automatically given to the clubs and even if it was it would be little over £3000 each, although that’s not to be scoffed at it won't change anyone’s season and is pretty negligible in the grand scheme of things.
"It's only for one year, and we've had that confirmed, the rule of the league will be changed and extending anything beyond one season would have to go to another vote.
"From our point of view this won't be detrimental to any tier six teams, as none were going to be promoted after last season anyway, so they are not taking a place from any other team.”
Berwick surveyed their support and 51% found in favour with 34 against and 17 had no strong feeling on the proposals. That led to the Shielfield Park club voting in favour of the proposal which would see the Old Firm return to the former senior league ground as opposition, potentially adding to attendance figures.
Director Dave Buglass said: “For us as a club we took into account what our supporters said and also the supporters’ trust in what we have done in the past 18 months in working and building the club. For this occasion we believe there is some short-term benefit for how this could progress and if it doesn't work out by the end of the pilot then we, like other Lowland League clubs, will be asked to re-assess it and will sit down and talk.
"We think we could make something from this and build it longer term, but like other clubs we are also disappointed in the personal stuff that’s beginning to come out.”
Votes against included: Bo’ness United, Bonnyrigg Rose, Civil Service Strollers.
A members’ poll was held by Bonnyrigg, which resulted in 95 percent of the club opposing the move, stating “the over-riding [reason] was sporting integrity”. In the wake of the decision the club stated: “We can confirm that we took the mandate given by our members and voted against. Like our club, the LL is a democracy and therefore respect the decision made.”
However, C.S. Strollers president Russell Pryde resigned in protest at the vote outcome.
Bonnyrigg Rose manager Robbie Horn also added his view: “I've no problem with Rangers or Celtic being in the league, it's just the way it's been done. For me they've got to work their way up the pyramid like everyone else.
"There's a lot of teams with a lot of cash who could quite comfortably stump up £25,000 to get into the Lowland League. What's to say a Darvel, Tranent, Auchinleck or Kilwinning say here's £25,000, we're applying to join as well. Where do you draw the line?
"As a manager I have no issue with the Colts teams being in. It's probably a good test playing against Rangers or Celtic Colts and it's good for their players. But the way it's been done doesn't sit right with me."
He added: "I can see why Rangers and Celtic are trying to do it but the element of being in it for a year – there's no promotion or relegation, so what are they actually in for? You have two teams in the league who are not actually playing for anything. In effect, just glorified friendlies.”