Saturday, 15 January 2011

A plaything of the SPL? No thanks

First published as SPL Colt Plan Under Pressure on the Sonstrust website.

It seems that some SPL coaches are rather less keen than Henry McLeish or Neil Doncaster about the idea of putting top reserve or ‘B’ sides into regionalised lower leagues.

The idea that Old Firm and other ‘big’ clubs might have colt affiliates carrying their name admitted into the Scottish Football League  to play against the likes of Dumbarton has been met with outrage and concern by the great majority of fans in the Second and Third Divisions, especially.

Now Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov has declared (in the Scotsman) that as part of the revival of the game in Scotland “it is obligatory that the tournament of [SPL] reserve teams is resumed. Without such reserves competition, the youths will have no chances to get into the main teams.”  He has also indicated opposition to a 10-team top flight. The number 14 seems to be the new 10 for at least six SPL sides.

The ‘colt’ idea is seen by lower league fans as demeaning, making their clubs mere playthings of the top boys. Questions have been raised about its impact on the meaningfulness of competition below SPL level, the security costs, and the issue as to whether it will really lead to a sustainable increase in attendances as backers of the idea claim. There are also structural questions about the potential relation of such ‘B’ teams to their sponsoring clubs and to a reconstructed SFL set-up.

Now backroom concerns are being expressed about whether a diminished, regionalised Scottish Football League could possibly offer the quality the SPL colts will need to make the plan viable from their viewpoint too. They are not keen on speaking out at this stage. But Romanov has never had such inhibitions.

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