Lowland League Hearts B team vote expected to be close after SFA provides assurances

The final Lowland League vote over whether or not to allow B teams to compete as guest clubs next season is expected to be very close after the tightening up of rules and regulations and promises made by the Scottish FA.

A final decision will be made at 7pm tonight when 16 member clubs will be asked to simply vote yes or no to accepting Celtic, Hearts and Rangers into what would be a 19-team league.

Outgoing members Bonnyrigg Rose and Vale of Leithen are not included, but incoming teams Cowdenbeath and Tranent do have a vote after officially becoming members at last week’s AGM. A simple majority is required for the motion to pass in what will be a secret ballot.

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A result will not be communicated by Lowland League chiefs to clubs until Tuesday morning after the Scottish FA has been consulted.

Young prospects like midfielder Callum Flatman could feature in the B team if Hearts are voted into the Lowand League Craig Foy / SNS

The Edinburgh Evening News has spoken to sources at two clubs who will be voting against the proposal but predict that the motion will sneak through.

It comes after clubs received additional assurances at last week’s AGM, agreeing to tighten up rules and regulations on fixture rescheduling, player eligibility and declaring a champion in the season ahead.

Rangers and Celtic B teams finished second and third behind Bonnyrigg in 2012/22. The SFA has pledged that the member club who finish highest in the table will progress into the pyramid play-offs for a place in League 2.

There are concerns that a 36-game season and an odd number of teams will cause fixture congestion, but the additional income that Celtic, Hearts and Rangers could bring may tip the balance in favour of accepting the three B teams.

The entry fee has been raised from £25,000 to £40,000 per guest club.

Lowland League members originally approved two guest clubs for next season after Rangers and Celtic both said they’d be happy to continue. But Hearts threw a spanner in the works by putting in an application to enter their own B team after talks on restarting a reserve league stalled.

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Members subsequently voted to reject three guest teams and a 19-team league, but the three Premiership clubs responded by delivering an all-or-none ultimatum.

Hearts B are expected to play home matches at Ferguson Park, Rosewell, home of East of Scotland League club Whitehill Welfare, if the 19-team league is approved.

Along with Celtic and Rangers, the Tynecastle club feel the gap between the Club Academy Scotland Under-18 League and the first team is too large but would prefer to keep their own young players and give them regular matches rather than send them all out on loan.