While Celtic, Rangers and the ill-fated ‘Colts in the SPFL’ saga reached a predictable end, both clubs might’ve figured out a better way.
According to STV journalist Raman Bhardwaj, Celtic are in talks to introduce a Colt team to the Lowland Leagues. It’s a very different proposition from SPFL membership, but it could still reap dividends for the club.
As early as next season, Celtic Academy players could be introduced to competition like BSC Glasgow, East Kilbride and Spartans [SLFL]. Match experience is match experience, after all, and it’s not something that supporters should turn their nose up at.
The SLFL have released a statement on the plans, saying:
“The SLFL Board made it clear at the outset that no current member club would be adversely affected in any way by the proposal, in fact the opposite, and ultimately as a member’s organisation the clubs would need to vote in favour of this. All of our clubs have the exciting proposal and consultation will be with them first and foremost.”
The danger with SPFL membership for a Celtic Colts team are numerous. For one thing, SPFL clubs don’t tend to love the idea, while the SFA and SPFL would have to figure out how to shoe-horn two sides into a structure that already disadvantages lower-level clubs, to a degree. It would’ve been a bit of a mess.
This way, though, seems generally advantageous for all concerned. As Bhardwaj reported earlier tonight:
Celtic and Rangers in discussions with Lowland League for Colts teams to play in their league next season.
— Raman Bhardwaj (@ramanbhardwajTV) May 5, 2021
Surely Celtic Colt side in the SLFL is a go-er?
The advantages for both the league and Celtic are numerous. Since Reserve football doesn’t really have much of a life these days, it’s the perfect remedy for fringe players and promising youngsters. Academy talents could still go on loan to SPFL clubs, should both teams reach an agreement, but for those who are still on the margins, Lowland League opposition represents a physical and technical test.
For the Lowland League clubs, it’s potentially a few hundred more through the gates. There will be some objections, and some clubs will feel it cheapens the experience to a degree, but their coffers would presumably benefit from a couple of matches against a Celtic or Rangers team.
What would have to be ensured, though, is that the Colts teams wouldn’t be allowed into the SPFL if they win the league, and that’s where the same arguments as the SPFL drama persist. It’d be a difficult scenario if Celtic and Rangers Colts came to the Lowland League and dominated.
How you ensure a level playing field is hard to ascertain, but in the same breath, it’d be doing a disservice to clubs at that level to assume the worst for them against Academy players and fringe squad members.
What would work even better is a revamped Reserve league. For whatever reason, Celtic aren’t in the SPFL Reserve League. Surely, on paper, that would be the automatic answer to the conundrum about a pathway to the first-team? No doubt, it served some historic Celtic legends well.
In any case, it’ll be interesting to see if this meets the same opprobrium we saw from SPFL clubs, or if it’ll be a smooth process.