A significant number of our members have been in touch to ask us about our and the Club’s positions on the so-called “Conference League”. This is an alleged proposal to insert a new division in Scottish football between League Two and the Highland and Lowland Leagues. The new league would host the B-teams of a small number of top flight clubs and some of the teams currently in the Highland and Lowland Leagues.
It is important to stress that, to the best of our awareness (and contrary to some media reporting) no specific final proposal has yet been put to the member clubs of the SPFL. Much of what we have pieced together about the proposal has had to be gathered from social media campaigns, statement from other Clubs, and press reporting.
The TJF Board's preliminary view
At yesterday’s TJF Board meeting, we discussed the potential implications of the proposal (as reported). Based on our best understanding of what the Conference League would involve, our initial collective view is it should not proceed.
On the face of it, it is an attempt to give larger top flight clubs, mainly Rangers and Celtic, greater control over Scottish professional football and youth development.
Dubious youth development advantages
There is no obvious youth development advantage for the rest of Scottish football in allowing Rangers B and Celtic B to play Buckie Thistle instead of Civil Service Strollers. The argument that this new league would improve youth development strikes us as disingenuous.
Undermining the pyramid system
The proposal appears to drive a coach and horses through the pyramid system that was set up only a decade or so ago, and which has seen several new teams freshen up Scottish professional football (most recently Spartans, who beat Rangers’ and Celtic’s B teams to the Lowland League title).
Effectively to relegate so many community football clubs, placing a new barrier to progression into the professional leagues, is very difficult to justify, especially if those clubs won’t even get a say over these proposals.
A potential Trojan horse
We share the concerns of many that this is a Trojan horse for allowing B-teams to progress into the mainstream of professional Scottish football. This would be a backwards step for the sustainability of small and mid-sized professional clubs and pose severe challenges for sporting integrity.
Lack of SPFL consultation with fans
Most importantly of all, we don’t think any proposal for league reconstruction of this kind should be rushed through without widespread consultation of supporters and clubs in an open and transparent way.
Have your say
That is just our view, however. TJF is a democratic members’ organisation and our membership may well take a different view. If you can spare a few minutes, we’d like you to complete our members’ survey, which we have emailed out this evening.
We will collate the findings and make them available to the Club Board. This will enable them to make an informed decision reflective of their fans’ views, should the SPFL bring any formal proposal to a vote.