It is used in Spain by many of the top La Liga clubs to blood their fringe players and youngsters, so why are Colt teams not welcome in the Scottish game?
The league system in Spain is quite different to that of the Scottish setup. There is no reserve league in Spain and therefore reserve clubs or B teams as they are called play in the same league system as the senior teams. Take for example Barcelona B or Atletico Madrid B sides, they cannot play in the same division as their main side, therefore if they won the Segunda Division they would be ineligible for promotion to La Liga and are also ineligible to compete in the Copa del Rey.
If it is good enough for Spanish football then surely it would be good enough for the Scottish game?
Well there are a number of huge obstacles in the way of such a plan. First and foremost the whole league system would need to be ripped up and started from scratch. With the reserve league defunct due to clubs – including Rangers – pulling their sides out to cut costs, not many clubs would be interested in entering a B side or Colt side into a new look system based on the Spanish model. Would they?
The Scottish Premier League, have created an Under-20 league, which doubles up as a reserve league of sorts. It is supposed to bridge the gap between the youth setup and the first team sides – allowing a number of older players access to game time while on the periphery of the first team.
Now I am of the opinion that several Scottish sides should be able to have reserve sides in the Scottish League system, but not at the expense of clubs such as Spartans. That is why a total revamp is needed, rather than the token one that the SPL, SFL and Scottish FA are trying to rush through as quickly as possible. And these teams could participate in the Ramsdens Cup and omitted from the other cup competitions.
SFL chief executive David Longmuir only touted the idea of Celtic and Rangers colt sides in the league system, if or when the two clubs leave Scottish Football. First up I do not think they will ever leave the Scottish game no matter how much schmoozing, threats and rhetoric is put out there – secondly why just Celtic and Rangers? In fact what is the point of having a Rangers Colts side currently? They are at the lower echelons of the Scottish game and their players are those what would have been in such a B side anyway.
Looking at the clubs in the senior game and finances as they are, only one side could seriously afford a Colts side – that being Celtic – with Rangers at a push. But with their youth system and the Under-20 team along with participation in the coveted NextGen series – why would Celtic be interested in ditching all that for a place in the Scottish Football League or whatever it would be called after the reconstruction?
Celtic manager Neil Lennon, however, is a fan of such an idea though. He commented: “Why not? I think it would be good for the game but from what I gather there is not too much support for that. I think it was mooted maybe a year or two ago but nothing was taken on with it. For us, it is a good idea. Ourselves and Rangers are probably the only clubs who could afford to do that. Whether it would bring crowds in, give our players experience, I don’t know.”
The Under-20 league system and the SPL reserve league before it rarely brought in the crowds, the only time they do or did was when Celtic played Rangers – just like in the Youth Cup Finals at Hampden Park. Other than those games you would be hard pushed to hit three figures and nigh on impossible to hit four. So the issue of Colt or B teams is not about the attendances, but the costs to the parent clubs.
Where would these Colt teams play? They would be in the same league system and therefore play on the same day as their parent clubs from time to time. So, for example Celtic, would they play at Barrowfield, Lennoxtown or where the Under-20 side play currently Firhill? Again there would be clashes if Partick Thistle were playing at home that day. So the issue of stadia is another issue that would need to be resolved – although not as much of an obstacle as financial limitations for most clubs.
With the SPL and SFL bickering over the proposed league formats of 12-12-18 or 12-12-10-10, while ignoring the fans pleas for a larger top-tier. Not to mention ideas such as regionalised lower divisions being thrown out the window. The idea of Colt teams just throws more fuel onto the fire when it comes to those SFL clubs seeing the governing bodies putting the needs of the few before the needs of the many. How about Spartans and Cove Rangers – both of whom have applied to the SFL in the past and lost out. They would be far from happy if after a league reconstruction, they were not given their ‘rightful’ chance to make that step up to the senior game because of two Colt teams.
With the SPL and SFL due to vote on the league reconstruction proposals next month, Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton hit out at the timing of the new proposal from the SFL and rounded on chief executive David Longmuir also.
Hutton said: “Who wants a league with colt teams in it? We’ve already got a colt team league. All the talk about Rangers and Celtic leaving Scottish football has been going on for the last decade and they are still here. This is all about Longmuir getting into bed with Rangers, and we will be rebelling against it.
“People need to get a grip and accept that the 12-12-18 proposal is the best deal that’s been around Scottish football for 20 years – sign up to it and move on. If we continue to try to cherry pick we’ll end up with nothing.”
Scathing to say the least when a club chairman claims that the governing body’s chief executive is pandering to one specific club rather than the majority.
Now if the idea of Colt teams are viable and clubs are interested then it could happen, but the whole makeup of the Scottish game must be changed and not just the structure of the leagues. However such a drastic and radical change will never take place and the Colts teams in the senior game is just another pie in the sky idea for the likes of Longmuir to wave in front of the member clubs as some wooing or foreplay tactic to get them to vote the way he wants them to vote. A bit like what the Scottish FA and the SPL wanted to happen with Rangers during the summer.
With the Scottish game certain to change its appearance and setup sooner rather than later – the likes of Doncaster, Regan and Longmuir have shown that they are not up to the task in running our game. So who would be the new chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League? Electing Turnbull Hutton as a candidate will surely be one of the smartest things you could do – a character like Hutton is what the Scottish game needs, someone who cuts to the chase who doesn’t pander to one team or another and who calls it how he sees it. Sadly the Hutton type of individuals are few and far between in the Scottish game.