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Club Statement: Conference League

Pyramids are stable structures lasting thousands of years.  Sadly the Scottish football version does not appear to be the same – similar only in that its architect has long since gone.  

It is a fundamental requirement that the sport is operated as a meritocracy where talent and ability are the key factors rewarded financially and with advancement through the Scottish Leagues. Clyde FC will support that principle and must be open to considering amendments which uphold it – provided that those amendments have a realistic prospect of improving the structure of our game whilst maintaining its integrity.  

On June 6th, the SFA AGM will vote on an amendment which, if carried will introduce a new Conference League at tier 5 of the Scottish game. The publicity on this proposal on recent weeks has focused almost entirely on the introduction of B teams. Indeed, it is true to say that it has focused almost entirely on opposition to the introduction of B teams. For many supporters, that in itself is a line in the sand. However the debate over the future structure of the Scottish Leagues deserves far greater examination of the pros and cons, and of whether the objections are entirely consistent with past actions.  

The Lowland Football League was founded by a vote at the SFA AGM in 2013 with clubs invited to join the new league.  Many clubs now in the pyramid chose not to apply at that time but nonetheless a precedent was set that on-field success would not be the sole, or indeed main criteria for entry to the 5th tier. Therefore, the surprise at the current process of introducing another tier into the Scottish game is forgetting precedent. At that time only three clubs were introduced solely on the basis of their achievement on the park.  

We also note the Lowland league itself welcomed B teams in exchange for funding and have done so for three consecutive years. Furthermore, they have limited access to their League from below – frustrating the rise of many clubs who have shown their quality in recent years in the Scottish Cup such as Clydebank and Darvel. It is regrettable that a consequence of the development of the current structure that clubs with much more in common have been put at odds with one another.  

The proposal that will be for the club to vote will be-

  • Creation of a 10-team Scottish Conference League consisting of four B Teams.
  • The first Season of the Scottish Conference League will be Season 2024/25.
  • Top two Highland League teams at the end of Season 2023/24 included.
  • Top four Lowland League teams at the end of Season 2023/24 included.
  • B Teams cannot be promoted or relegated from The Scottish Conference League.
  • The Scottish Conference League to be funded by a B Team participation fee: with six non-B teams receiving an estimated payment of around £40,000 each per annum.
  • Minimum five-year commitment required from B Teams.
  • Highest placed non-B Team at the end of the Season will enter a promotion/relegation Play Off with SPFL Club 42 as per current model.
  • Lowest placed non-B Team at the end of the Season will be relegated to the Highland or Lowland League, replaced by the winner of the Highland/Lowland League Champions Play Off.
  • Second-lowest placed non-B Team at the end of the Season will enter a promotion/relegation Play Off with the loser of the Highland/Lowland League Champions Play Off.
  • B Teams must include a minimum of seven Scotland eligible players in their starting XI, and their matchday squad must include no fewer than eleven Scotland eligible players.

In addition to the above, the three highest ranking non-Colt clubs in the Conference will also have access to the League Cup and the Trust trophy.  

As a supporter owned club, we believe that the club’s vote at the SFA AGM belongs to the owners, and will seek views through an online poll ahead of the meeting. We recognise that the inclusion of B teams will be the sole basis on which some will vote, but in the interests of balance, we are providing some alternative considerations which have received scant coverage in what public discourse there has been on this proposal to date.  

  • The establishment of a Conference league bringing the best of the Lowland and Highland League together is to be welcomed as it provides a better “destination” for clubs exiting the SPFL. No longer would falling out of the SPFL be a cliff edge – rather it would be a slope with some support.  
  • Successful clubs rising through the pyramid are rewarded with an increasing scale of benefits.
  • The conference is offering funding which, again, is better for clubs relegated from the SPFL
  • There is the potential of greater marketing and profile of league
  • It provides the potential to provide a level playing field in regard to financial regulations, stadium criteria and player registration

Although the proposal moves further along than any of its predecessors, concerns remain – such as the size of the conference. The proposal virtually makes it a league of six, and we have noted the inconsistencies in the performances of the B teams in the Lowland League and the impact this can have other clubs in the division who will experience real consequences regarding their final league positions. This issue is exacerbated in the proposed conference model when three of the six will be involved in either relegation, promotion or relegation play offs.  

All owners will shortly receive a link, by email, with instructions on how to cast their vote in our poll. Prior to the SFA AGM we will confirm our position to club owners.