Borders teams relishing chance to play Old Firm colts in Lowland League
The Borders’ two Scottish Lowland Football League sides, Gala Fairydean Rovers and Vale of Leithen, say they’re relishing the chance to compete against Rangers and Celtic colts’ teams next season.
The Glasgow giants are to be invited to field B teams in the fifth-tier league after a vote this week by its member clubs came out 11-5 in favour of that move, with champions Kelty Hearts abstaining.
Both Gala and Vale believe that controversial plan will benefit not only them, their league and the Old Firm sides but also Scottish football as a whole.
“I’m really happy about it,” said Ryan Cass chairman of the Galashiels side.
“The way I look at it is that change needs to happen and the Lowland League can be a catalyst for that change.
“We’d welcome having Rangers and Celtic at Netherdale for pre-season friendlies or whatever, and I wouldn’t believe anyone who says they wouldn’t.
“It’s great for the town, it’s great financially, it’ll attract more people to games and it’s great for our youth players to get to play against potential Premiership stars of the future at Netherdale.
“It will raise the league’s profile, making it easier to attract sponsors and there’s potential television coverage, so for me it’s a no-brainer.”
Cass is also optimistic about the move boosting Scottish football’s prospects internationally in the long term.
“I’m sure having colts’ teams in the league will be a success,” he said.
“You only have to look at Croatia. It’s a country the same size as Scotland and it’s got B teams in its leagues and Croatia made it to the last Football World Cup final.
“This isn’t just about clubs – it’s about the whole game in Scotland and developing young players for the national team.
“We can see the benefits of this. It’s a huge positive for us and for Scottish football.”
John Anderson, vice-chairman at the Innerleithen club, agrees, saying: “I think it's a great idea.
“It will promote the league to a wider audience, attract new supporters to our matches who would not otherwise attend and provide an income boost for the league and clubs.”
The current plans are for the colts’ sides to play in a league expanded from its present 17 teams to 19, or 18 if Kelty go up, for one season only, and any continuation of that arrangement would have to go to another vote.
It is understood that welcoming the Glaswegians’ B teams would yield a £50,000 windfall for the league.
League chairman George Fraser said: “With all proposals of this type, everyone has an opinion on it, and rightly so.
“Our board discussed this proposal last week and, as we are a members’ organisation, it was entirely correct that this was put to members to vote on.
“As a league, we have allowed our clubs to decide based on facts and not several pieces of misinformation being actively disseminated across many social media platforms.
“Our league is fully committed to the integrity of the pyramid and we have shown this time and time again, so any suggestion we are not is ill judged and misplaced.
“The majority of our clubs have voted in favour of this proposal, and we need to respect that, therefore we will progress this and have further discussions with all parties in the coming days.
“Since the start of this pandemic, the league has operated with a view that no club should be adversely affected by the decisions we make, and we believe that this is the case with this proposal.
“With all the tier-six leagues opting to go null and void, this meant there was no champion club put forward to join our league.
“If there was, then the champion club would be taking part next season.
“We have made Rangers and Celtic aware of the outcome of the vote.”