Last night I had the privilege of representing our club at the Lowland League meeting to discuss the potential entry of Rangers and Celtic B teams in the league for next season. All seventeen Lowland League clubs were represented along with Stewart Robertson and Craig Mullholland of Rangers and Chris McCart of Celtic.
For over two hours we debated the pros and cons of the proposal, with both Rangers and Celtic being afforded the opportunity to explain their desire to join the league and how it would help with the development of their young players playing weekly in a competitive environment.
As the discussions drew to a close and we were asked to vote on the proposal, I wrote YES and sent it to league secretary David Baxter.
I voted on behalf of the 68% of fans who voted yes to the proposal via our app at the weekend and along with 10 fellow member clubs, the vote passed 11-5 (with one abstention).
Proud to have carried out the will of the vast majority of fans, it was also a vote which I agreed with personally.
Of course anything relating to Rangers and Celtic has a tendency to polarise opinion in Scotland, though my thoughts are that it can only be positive for the league and our club. It affords the league commercial opportunity and as well as raising the profile of our league internationally, it will also help the clubs financially - much needed on the back of the coronavirus pandemic.
To suggest however that this decision was made purely for financial reasons, at least in our case, could not be further from the truth. Realistically the commercial incentive is helpful, though will change very little in the grand scheme of things.
For me, the accusation that the vote raises concerns over sporting integrity, is a non-starter. The proposal is for one year only and there are guarantees that neither Rangers or Celtic will be promoted or relegated. Promotion and relegation will remain open to all other clubs within the pyramid and the fact that no champion was declared in Tier 6 this year underlines the fact that Rangers and Celtic’s inclusion into the Lowland League is in no way detrimental to any specific team in Tier 6, therefore ensuring as a result, that sporting integrity is intact.
As the first club in the history of Scottish football to be promoted from the bottom tier of the pyramid after being refused SFA membership and Lowland League membership through application (twice) we would never endorse a proposal that directly and unjustly disadvantaged another club.
For me, this is about football. It’s about player development and offering an opportunity of a fresh and exciting approach. For years I have read that Scottish football requires change. I have read about league reconstruction, hidden agendas and suspicion and seen a growing apathy towards the sport we love year after year.
If this proposal can act as a catalyst for genuine debate, where two of our country’s top clubs feel it necessary to join another league to help develop their players, then surely this is a good thing? If we see more interest in local clubs, increased attendances and a more attractive, exciting product, then surely this can only be good.
At the end of the day, it’s a one year proposal with very little risk. Time will tell if it is to be successful.
I hope over time, those who oppose it will begin to understand that the clubs who voted for it, did so with good intentions,
There was no agenda or sell out - it is simply an opportunity for growth and for change.