Lowland League: Hearts interest raises prospect of another controversial vote

Hearts are ‘very interested’ in entering a B team into the Lowland League, raising the prospect of another contentious vote – this time on which two guest sides to admit next season.

The 16 member clubs voted 11-4 on Monday night to approve the admission of two guest teams again next season. Clubs did not, however, vote to approve specific applications from Celtic and Rangers, even though they have both indicated that they would like to participate again next season.

It means that if Hearts, or any other other club, lodge an application along with the Old Firm, Lowland league members could be forced to vote on which two guest teams to admit and who to leave out.

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Robbie Neilson told the Evening News in February that Hearts would consider applying for the Lowland League to provide young players with game time if there was a lack of progress on talks to restart the reserve league next season.

Lowland League rules allow for two guest clubs next season

The Old Firm made a presentation at the a recent Lowland League meeting to put forward their case for continuing, but Hearts at that stage had yet to formally contact league officials.

Nevertheless, according to a source at the Tynecastle club, Hearts are still ‘very interested’ in entering a B team next season.

Lowland League chairman Thomas Brown said member clubs will make a consideration if and when they hear from interested clubs.

He explained: “The league rules are quite clear. It is a 16-team league, but it can go to 18 at board’s discretion.

“Clubs have only voted on the principle of admitting guest clubs for next season. But there has been no vote on which guest teams get in.

“If there are only two applications then there would be no requirement for a vote. If there’s more than that it would go to a vote to decide who gets in.”

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The rules which applied to the Old Firm colts sides this season are expected to be tightened up. An increase in the £25,000 fee along with an agreement to play fixtures at licensed stadiums, a squad limit of 22 registered players, age restrictions and a limit on those who have played in the first team are some of the likely requirements.

Brown confirmed: “The criteria for guest clubs has still to be confirmed. There is already a formal agreement in place for current guest clubs this season. Part of the criteria will be similar to that, plus new things that may be added.”

Monday’s vote to re-admit two guest teams prompted a wave of criticism from fans of East, West and South of Scotland League clubs who form tier six of Scottish football’s pyramid. It followed another Lowland League vote last month not to increase the number or teams relegated from and promoted to the fifth tier.

The tier six clubs have a bottleneck above them, with only one promotion place still available between the three feeder leagues. Many clubs at that level are pushing for far more fluidity between the tiers and some argue that B teams should start at the bottom rather than paying their way in as guests and jumping the queue.

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