Celtic and Rangers B teams are hoping to continue after member clubs voted 11-4 in favour of approving guest clubs in principle for a second season. They would not eligible for promotion to the Scottish Professional Football League.
The vote in favour of retaining guest teams follows the 16 member clubs’ decision last month not to increase the number of teams relegated to the three tier 6 leagues below.
That has prompted a wave of criticism from supporters of clubs in the East, West and South of Scotland Leagues who want the pyramid system to be far more fluid. Like this season, only one team in the 18-team league will be automatically relegated next season.
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Bonnyrigg Rose and East Stirlingshire both consulted with supporters before submitting their vote against the proposal. Rumours that Bo’ness United also voted against have not been confirmed by the club.
Bonnyyrigg’s decision was made after a vote by their members and the club said in a statement: “We had just over double the response of the previous season but the results were broadly similar, with over 90% voting against the motion, which is why we can confirm that we were one of the four clubs that voted against last night.
“We published our vote result ahead of the meeting last season and for similar reasons our members rejected the motion once more. We have been consistent in our thoughts on pyramid integrity since moving back to the senior leagues in 2018, which is also why we voted in favour of additional promotion spots into the SLFL last month, which was rejected with our SLFL board member immediately resigning as a result.
“The process followed in both instances has been a democratic one and while we were on the opposite sides of both they are decisions which clubs are absolutely entitled to make.”
East Stirling’s statement read: “Over the last few days we sought the views of our season ticket holders, regular supporters and sponsors as to their views about guest clubs remaining for another season beyond the initial agreement
Our support was clear that this was NOT something they would wish to see continue. And as such we voted against the continuation for another season of guest clubs during tonight’s vote.
“We acknowledge that both guest clubs have seen major benefits to player development over the initial year and potentially the national teams as well. Our supporters are our club and we are grateful for their feedback and help in our decision making.
“We respect the vote from fellow members of the Lowland league was to continue with guest clubs and we respect that decision. We will welcome every club for the new 2022/23 season.”
The Lowland League board has also issued a statement, acknowledging the criticism that has come its way.
It stated: "While conscious it is, understandably, a divisive and emotive subject, the overriding feeling is their presence has been of benefit in a commercial sense, while there are promising early indications of young, emerging Scottish talents benefitting from early exposure to senior football in a competitive environment.”