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Colt Idea Doesn’t Seem To Have The Right Answers

Date: 30th January 2018

By Scott Johnston, Editor of The Footy Blog & DP for Full Time Films.

In the past month, it has been reported that the SPFL want to push plans through that will see Under-21 teams from both Rangers and Celtic playing in League Two. It’s even been suggested that it could happen as early as next season.

For me, it all seems very rushed. Clubs in Scotland’s bottom tiers have, so far, given the proposal a lukewarm reception.

To be fair, I can see why they’d be uneasy about the move as there doesn’t seem to be many benefits in it.

The SPFL have tried to curry favour by stating that each of the Glasgow giants will have to purchase at  least 250 tickets per away game, thus giving their opponents a £15,000 windfall.

Having an extra two sides in the league campaign would also give each side in League Two more
home fixtures, allowing them the possibility of generating more match day income.

It should be noted that Colt teams from the Scottish Premiership have being taking part in the IRN
BRU Challenge Cup in recent seasons and it hasn’t been an overly successful move. The young Celtic team lost 3-1 to Annan Athletic in Round One in front of only 278 supporters, while the Gers youngsters went out in the same round away to Dumbarton and the attendance for that game was a meagrely 389.

I’m failing to see any other positives for those teams that will be forced to take on the Old Firm
youngsters.

Peterhead boss Jim McInally seems to share my thoughts:
“I don’t see why we should need to try to do Celtic and Rangers’ work for them – where we are
trying to improve their kids.”

“Well, what benefit is that to any lower league club?”

Many of the Scottish League Two clubs have decide to consult their own fans as well as speaking to representatives from Rangers and Celtic before deciding on what to do next.

I’m not sure supporters will back the idea.

Last summer, SD Scotland consulted over 1,000 Scottish football fans about the idea of integrating
Colt teams into the league set-up. Just over 74% of those that voted said they were against the idea, 24.3% said they were happy to see it happen and a further 1.2% stated they didn’t know if it was a good or bad idea.

When SD Scotland then asked the supporters about watching their teams if they played Colt sides, 64.3% said they wouldn’t go. If that number is representative of how the average fan feels then there is clearly no appetite in the stands to see these games nor will there be much in the way of gate money going to the lower league club’s coffers. In fact, the League Two clubs will have to guard against the decision going the wrong way and fans walking away from more than just the Colt fixtures.

In truth, I don’t even think that the Glasgow giants will benefit from the proposed pilot scheme either.

Yes their youngster will get first team football on a regular basis but the proposals mean that they will be unable to be relegated or promoted. That would mean that in reality their games will offer no real pressure or competitive edge.

Those in the Colt squads would be restricted to playing in that squad and not in the senior side for the duration of a transfer window. So will the top youngsters play in the bottom tier? I doubt it.

Premiership sides should use the lower leagues as they currently do, as a place to loan their youth players in a bid to get them used to proper first team football.

I’d urge the SPFL look again at a reserve league system.

Surely we can find a system that works. We’d need to monetise it and have every top young side in Scotland involved. When I say monetise it, I’d say that we don’t include the two Old Firm sides (in terms of getting prize money), then they will have competitive opposition to play against and a trophy for everyone to aim for!

Let’s make a big deal of it and have games covered free on Youtube, so we can get eyes on it and then maybe supporters will turn up too.

Why can’t our governing bodies then show some initiative and try to start up a reserve cup competition with various European nations of a similar football standard?

Let’s say you have eight nations putting forward their top four placed sides, then having either a simple two-legged knockout tournament consisting of five rounds or a Champions League like format. Surely countries like The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark would be interested in such a tournament if Scotland brought a proposal to them.

In the end, the SPFL have to show that they are listening to supporters of every team at every level and not just satisfying the bigger fish in the pond! Other ideas are out there and some of those ideas could give young Scottish footballers a better chance of developing into well rounded stars..

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