Rangers withdraw B team from Lowland League after Conference League plan fails - with Celtic still to make decision

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The Ibrox club released a shock statement on Wednesday night to confirm that they will pull out of the league.

Rangers have withdrawn their B team from the Lowland League amid frustration over the failed long-term Conference League plans - with all eyes now awaiting Celtic’s decision moving forward.

The Ibrox club confirmed the decision to pull their youth side from the division for next season and beyond in a shock announcement on Wednesday night following the controversial Scottish FA vote on the introduction of a new set-up was axed.

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Rangers, along with Glasgow rivals Celtic, had entered B or ‘Colts’ teams in the Lowland League for the past two seasons after paying a fee to enter the set-up. They were joined by Hearts last term, with the guest clubs required to play at least seven players in every game who are eligibile to play for Scotland national teams, and to provide funding to the league and other clubs.

Rangers have a team in the Lowland League but Michael Beale would prefer a Reserve division.Rangers have a team in the Lowland League but Michael Beale would prefer a Reserve division.
Rangers have a team in the Lowland League but Michael Beale would prefer a Reserve division.

A proposed vote on a new professional league at the fifth tier of the Scottish football pyramid to accommodate B teams along with sides from the Highland and Lowland League was scrapped from the governing body’s agenda on the eve of the Hampden AGM. The SFA cited their main reason behind the decision was to avoid a split between clubs after it became clear there was widespead opposition to the idea.

After the vote was pulled, the Light Blues claim there is “No suitable, govering body-led development structure for players between 18-21 in Scotland,” but they remain committed to finding a long-term solution to aid the development of younger players and have held “positive dialogue” with the SFA which remains ongoing.

A club statement read: “Rangers can today announce the club will not be entering a B team in the Scottish Lowland Football League in season 2023/24 and beyond. This follows the Scottish Fa’s decision to withdraw a vote on the proposed introduction of a ‘Conference League’ at tier five in the national football pyramid.

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“Firstly, Rangers would like to put on record out sincere thanks to the Lowland League for hosting Rangers B team in their league for the past two seasons, and to the clubs for their fantastic hospitality and sporting challenges during that time. Rangers wishes each and every one of them the very best for the future.

“Rangers has long bee a strong advocate for the introduction of B Teams in the professional leagues of Scottish football, with a Conference League being an excellent step in that direction. Nations across Europe operate similar B Team systems with strong evidence of their developmentof players at club and national level.

“Indeed, all 10 teams who contributed most to the development of players for last year’s World Cup have B teams operating in national senior leagues. The desire from all at Rangers to have a B Team in the professional leagues remains as strong as ever. Our view on B Teams was also strong supported by the Scottish FA and its CEO Ian Maxwell, who recognise the clear, beneficial impact B Teams have on top international sides.

“For 18-21 year-old footballers, our research and the evidence clearly shows the best path for their development is playing professional football in professional leagues. A Conference League would have been a positive move towards that. As matters nw stand, there is no suitable governing body-led development structure for players between 18-21 in Scotland.

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“The club has, however, enjoyed positive dialogue with a number of key stakeholders in recent days, including the Scottish FA and looks forward to continuing such discussions to map te best possible direction for the development of the country’s top young players. Alongside the club’s participation in the Lowland League in the last two seasons, a challenging ‘best v best’ games programmes has provided our young players with matches against clubs from the highest levels of British and European competition.

“This has proved a success, with 10 recent Academy players featuring in the Rangers first-team last season. Matches with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool are among the fixtures to have featured and that programme will continue and indeed be enhanced alongside the club’s commitments in the SPFL Trust Trophy, City of Glasgow Cup and, hopefully, the UEFA Youth League, which provided an outstanding environment for our players last season. This will ensure our young players in that crucial 18-21 age group are given regular tests of a varied nature.

“Rangers remains committed to finding the most innovative and challenging environments for our young players, not only for the benefit of our club, but also for the benefit of other clubs and the Scotland national team. We look forward to continuing our positive engagement with the Scottish FA and other bodies in the drive for young player development.”

Hearts have confirmed their intention to continue in the Lowland League next season, with the club insisting they saw the value for youngser players by competing in the division over the last 12 months and have no plans to end the arrangement, while Celtic have yet to make their decision.

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A statement released by the Lowland League added: “We can confirmed that Rangers B will not take part in the SLFL next season. We were notified of their decision earlier this evening. The SLFL will continue to play for the 2023/24 season with 18 teams.”

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