Our survey on the Conference League proposal has now concluded. Thank you to the 384 members who took part.
What were the key findings?
The TJF membership is decisively against the inclusion of B-teams in the Scottish football pyramid. The headline figures from the three questions we asked are as follows:
Nearly 75% oppose even B-team participation in the Lowland League
Just over 95% oppose the creation of a Conference League along the lines proposed
Almost 95% oppose B-teams being eligible for promotion to the fourth tier of the Scottish footballing pyramid
Sporting integrity was a major driver behind the views of TJF members. This proposal appears to be designed to benefit a small number of already very large and financially influential clubs. When even Scotland’s third-placed team cannot afford to participate in the Conference League, it must at least be doubted this is in the interests of wider Scottish football.
The most forceful criticisms raised were about the effective demotion of some 200 or so community clubs, one further rung down the Scottish footballing pyramid.
TJF members also believed that the continued presence of B-teams in the 5th tier would hamper subsequent progression of community clubs, even if B-teams could not be promoted to the SPFL League Two.
Widespread scepticism was expressed at the claimed benefits for youth development. Several members argued that the Conference League, in particular, may have the opposite of the desired effect, encouraging larger clubs even more aggressively to “stockpile” young talent while depriving those players of regular game time at an appropriate level to their stage of development.
There was almost universal concern that this proposal was a “trojan horse” for relaxing rules on promotion further down the line. This could have very real impacts not just for semi-professional community clubs, but for established, full-time, professional clubs such as Thistle.
Many of our members argued that a proper reserve league would be a much better, more equitable, way of getting game time for younger players on the fringes of top flight squads.
The sentiments of the 384 fans who responded to the TJF members’ survey may well be more strongly held than those held by the wider Thistle fanbase as a whole. However, the position could scarcely be clearer.
Partick Thistle fans, on the whole, are uncomfortable with the existing presence of B-teams in the Lowland League. They are are emphatically opposed to the Conference League proposal. And they do not believe B-teams should feature prominently in the Scottish football pyramid.
We hope this feedback assists the Club Board, and others, when deciding how to vote on the proposals. As a fan owned Club, we’d hope the views of Jags fans are listened to carefully.
As Brian Graham alluded to in recent interviews, the arbitrary circumstances of our own enforced demotion in 2020, and the lack of solidarity from other SPFL member clubs, still jars for many Thistle fans. What would it say about us as a club if we voted to relegate some 200 sides for, on the face of it, the sporting convenience of Scotland’s biggest football clubs?
We also urge the Scottish footballing authorities to be much more transparent and open about the details of proposals such as these. It is not good enough to leave fans to rely on press reports to try to work out the detail when fundamentals of the football pyramid are potentially being changed. Scottish football is about more than just boardrooms and directors: it is fundamentally about the fans.