Existing member clubs initially rejected the proposal of all three teams joining as ‘guest’ clubs - preferring only the Old Firm Colt sides to remain in the fifth tier set-up.
However, when faced with an ultimatum that it was all or nothing, clubs agreed to case their vote again.
Following “positive and collaborate discussions” between the Lowland League board and representatives from the Scottish FA, a revised propositionfor season 2022/23 has now controversially been agreed.
All 16 members clubs met on Monday evening having received assurances over several matters such as none of the clubs being able to gain promotion via the play-offs, should they win the title.
Entry fees have risen from £25,000 to £40,000 per club and rules have also been tightened on player eligibility and fixture schedulling.
Their participation, which will ensure a 19-team division next season, has still led to a split among Lowland League clubs.
In addition, the respective league bodies have agreed to participate in the Scottish FA’s pyramid working group discussions aimed at providing a longer-term solution to optimise the structure and aid the transition of talented players between the ages of 17 and 21.
The plan commits to the following:
- Celtic, Rangers and Hearts will join the Lowland League for season 2022/23, creating a 19-team league for one season only. This will result in a 36-game fixture calendar.
- Guest clubs are required to field seven players eligible for Scotland national teams in the starting line-up.
- Each guest club will provide funding to help develop the league and its clubs.
- The Scottish FA will lead on a review of the pyramid structure, with recommendations proposed ahead of the 2023/24 season.
Scottish FA chief executive, Ian Maxwell, reckons the move will help to “accelerate the development of the country’s most talented young players.”
He said: “We are delighted that the Lowland League clubs have approved the participation of three guest clubs for the forthcoming season.
“The Scottish FA supports the principle of elite player development and particularly providing opportunities for talented players in the key transition years from 17 to 21.
“The Scottish FA will oversee a discussion in parallel to propose and implement a long-term plan with the objectives of optimising the pyramid, which has been a resounding success in Scottish football, harnessing the player pathway and accelerating the development of the country’s most talented young players through the national youth teams to the full international stage.”
Thomas Brown, chairman of the Lowland League commented:“We were always open to the inclusion of guest clubs for a further season given the successful player development outcomes from last year’s pilot.
“We want to be a modern and progressive league and we are excited to be playing our part in the eco system that develops Scotland’s talent.
“Importantly, we now look forward to working with the Scottish FA, the SPFL and our friends in the pyramid to create some new solutions to some existing challenges which will provide a bright future at all levels of our game.”
SPFL chief executive, Neil Doncaster, added: “It is hugely encouraging to see such a joined-up and collaborative approach being adopted in such a vital area of our game.
“There are few more exciting things in football than watching the development of home-grown talent and it’s extremely encouraging that the Lowland League has agreed to assist our clubs on a temporary basis for Season 2022/23.
“The SPFL will commit our energies to a process that will explore options and, hopefully, allow us to move forward various aspects of our game for the benefit of our 42 member clubs and Scottish football as a whole.”
Rangers and Celtic entered ‘B’ teams last season, with both clubs finishing on 73 points behind league champions Bonnyrigg Rose.
Their inclusion was initially for one season only but clubs voted for their involvement to continue and now Hearts have also applied.
Jambos first-team manager Robbie Neilson previously backed his club’s inclusion in the Lowland League.
He stated: “I support a platform for the young players to go and play. We have not had a reserve league for a number of year and it’s really hindered the development of these players.
“We have had to find loan deals to put them out but we have no control over what happens there - how they play, how they train, the environment they are in.
“If we can get that (Lowland League) I would be delighted. I’d be all for it.”