In Scottish football, there seems to be a yearly event involving the change and restructuring of the pyramid system. This is in order to accommodate the ‘B’ teams/Colts/U21 teams of a handful of the bigger SPL teams.
Rightly, there is a concern about the lack of opportunities for young players to develop. By playing against a higher standard of opposition, it is hoped this will change.
The two key objectives that the Scottish Football Association are looking to achieve are as follows:
- to bridge the ‘development gap’ that exists for talented Scottish players between the ages of 17 and 21 and ensure their development progresses by providing opportunities for them to participate in competitive football at a vital stage in their development.
- to ensure that the pyramid delivers for the whole of the game, including an appropriate level of ventilation, whilst at the same time protecting relegated clubs from financial instability.
The hope was that last season’s restructuring of the Lowland League, which involved allowing the B teams of Rangers, Celtic and Hearts into the league, would help address this problem.
So, we are again at the point where the SFA needs to tinker with the league pyramid system.
According to the documents I have seen, there are three new proposals on the table. These are being discussed between the SFA and some member clubs involved in the proposed changes.
Below, I will highlight the three proposals being discussed, before putting forward my own, fourth option.
- ‘SPFL League 3’ – consisting of ten teams, including B teams, which would be able to be promoted up to (but not beyond) SPFL League 1. This option would also include greater promotion/relegation opportunities between the SPFL and the Lowland League & Highland League.
- ‘Expanded SPFL League 2’ – (up from ten to sixteen clubs), of which some of the six new entrants would be B teams, and some would be Lowland/Highland League clubs. This option would also allow B teams to float up to (but not beyond) SPFL League 1.
- A new ten-team ‘Conference League’ to sit between League 2 and the Lowland / Highland Leagues, to include a number of B teams, Lowland League clubs and Highland League clubs. This option would not allow for B teams to be promoted out of the new league (but would allow for promotion and relegation of non-B teams in the usual way).
Clearly, every party involved in these discussions is going to have very different wants, needs and worries. The likelihood of everyone being happy with the eventual change is slim.
For me, it seems nonsensical that a team potentially finishing fifth can be promoted as champions.
The system change that I propose gets away from that.
A Better Way?
I believe that a fourth option may be more favourable for the majority.
By no means do I claim this proposal to be infallible. This is merely a suggestion that can be discussed and worked upon as a viable solution.
Teams in the West and East of Scotland Leagues have proven they can compete with and even beat, SPFL teams. This indicates to me that such teams have been held back by a shoddy system that needs an upgrade.
Therefore, I would suggest the biggest change needed in Scottish football, is point number one in the following proposal.
- Automatic promotion and relegation for the top/bottom two teams in each tier of the pyramid.
- The formation of a new league (for the sake of this proposal, to be known as the ‘Colts League’.
- To be formed of teams from any SPFL team that wishes to join. Any team entering must be willing to contribute to making it financially viable. Either through direct contributions or through raising commercial donations.
- Increase the size of SPFL Leagues One and Two to eleven member teams.
- Each week in Leagues One and Two, there would be just five fixtures (like there is now) which would leave one team in each League with a ‘bye’ week.
- Bye weeks will be used to allow the free team to compete against B teams in the Colt League.
- The same scenario would be implemented in the Highland and Lowland League, with a bye week incorporated into the fixture lists. Again, allowing clubs to compete against B teams in the Colt League.
- Guest U21 clubs could in England and Europe could be invited to participate.
- In order to participate, guest clubs would have to agree to play all four Colt teams.
- We are now in a position where each week we have four Colt teams, one League One team, one League Two team and the required amount of Lowland and Highland League teams necessary to complete a fixture list. Bonus English and European U21 teams can be added as guests each season.
For argument’s sake, we will include in this fixture example, the following teams:
- Celtic B v Brechin City
- Rangers B v Berwick Rangers
- Hearts B v Queen of the South
- Aberdeen B v Stenhousemuir
Benefits of Change
This allows for all Colt team players to get competitive action against players at a higher standard than they currently play against, plus fixtures comparable to the ones they currently play against in the Lowland League.
This ‘Colt League’ would also operate as a separate entity from the rest of the SPFL. It is therefore free to bring in its own commercial activities and sponsorship to help fund the league. The separate entity design would also mean teams in the other leagues wouldn’t be being “pushed down the system” by Colts teams.
At the same time, we now have a system that allows for greater promotion opportunities for aspiring and ambitious clubs from the lower tiers.
Should more Colt teams wish to join the league, there are 54 teams currently available in the combined pool of Leagues One, Two, Highland League and Lowland League.
In my opinion, this achieves the SFA’s goal of ‘Bridging the development gap’. Also, the ‘pyramid delivers for the whole of the game’ (including teams who have previously been held back).
It is very unlikely that the SFA will let things carry on as they currently are and to be honest, I agree that developing young players can only be for the good of Scottish football. However, this shouldn’t be done to the detriment of club football and I believe this fourth proposal solves both issues.
If you agree with this as a preferred option, please share this post and get the idea out in the mainstream.
If you don’t agree, add your thoughts below. (Try to keep the discussion constructive, please).
8 thoughts on “Opinionated – Proposed Change to the SPFL Pyramid”
No B teams should be in Lowland League. More Promotion and Relegation between LL and Tier 6. TBH dont know how it would be done but LL becoming more and more one for the boys as those teams dropping out not looking close to getting promoted back
Cowdenbeath have found the transition hard, for sure but it’s promising to see Berwick Rangers’ good run of form lately.
There definitely needs to be regular automatic promotion and relegation between all league tiers. Otherwise, what is the point of winning a league?
Ideally, runners-up should be promoted too. So long as the clubs can meet the required safety and ground requirements, of course.
I don’t think any one solution will suit everyone but there should certainly be a way to find a majority consensus.
Agree on the promotion and relegation, should be 2 up 2 down from Premiership to the lowest rung on the ladder.
Completely against any Colt teams in the Pyramid system, but if it happened it’s unfair to fit them in above the Highland and Lowland leagues and relegate over 200 clubs. Colts should start in the lowest league in their geographical area and work their way up like everyone else
Aberdeen – North Region Juniors Second Division
Celtic/Rangers/St Mirren/Killie/Motherwell – WoSL Division 4
Dun Utd/St Johnstone – Midland League
Hibs/ Hearts/Livi – EoSL Third Division
Ross County – North Caley
I agree that it’s unfair and that’s what drove me to come up with this alternative. Along with some extra ideas in these comments, it could just work to the overall benefit of Scottish football.
Definitely a better option although might be an argument that teams wouldn’t take those games seriously as nothing to play for. Feel we should add more promotion and relegation especially from league two and from LL league.
Need longer to see if the colt experiment works can’t see huge signs that these players are starting to come through better at the old firm
I agree about teams needing to take it seriously. Maybe a rule that they have to field 75% of the team that played in the last league match?
There does need to be some improvement to help develop younger Scottish talent.
In return for clubs agreeing to this, maybe there should be a rule in place for the Colt teams to field no more than 25% of overseas players.
That way, Scottish football is the winner overall. Just a thought.
Option 4 is imaginative and benefits hugely from (a) not harming the prospects of actual teams (as opposed to Colts), and (b) from giving something a little different. I’d say that overall I’m strongly against the idea of Colts teams full stop. They just give the bigger teams more eats to hoover up resources and players, which gives lesser teams less chance (who is a young player going to join, Rangers B or Cumnock, Aberdeen B or Locos?). However, Scottish football is run for the big clubs, and especially the big 2, so they’ll find a way of helping Colts teams.
Thank you for the feedback Andy!
As you say, there will be change, whether people like it or not. That’s just the way of the world.
Therefore it makes more sense to be a part of the change and try to influence it for the good of all and that’s my intention with option 4.
Thanks again pal!