Berwick Rangers FC has been asked to consider a proposal to admit two ‘Colt’ teams into Ladbrokes League Two for a two year pilot project, commencing next season. The concept has been put forward by representatives of Rangers and Celtic, and we understand that other Premier League clubs are supportive of the proposal, as are the SFA. It is intended that the pilot project would run alongside other proposals for league reconstruction, a new reserve league, and changes to the system of loans.
The case for the introduction of the Colt teams is primarily illustrated by the drop-off in performance of the Scottish national team from comparative success at U16, U17 and U19 levels, to poor performance at U21 and above. Several other European countries such as Germany, Spain, Holland and Norway have employed Colt systems to good effect.
The pilot proposal would affect League Two clubs as follows:
League Structure: Two Colt teams added to create a 12 team league, with a preferred option of three games against each opponent, making a 33 game season.
Promotion/Relegation: It is proposed that Colt teams would not be promoted or relegated, and their final league position would be discounted from play-off positions with the place allocated to the next eligible League Two team.
Venue: It has been suggested that the Colt teams would play all their fixtures away from home.
Squad: Colt teams would have a distinct squad of predominantly U21 players with no movement between Colts and First Team permitted outside transfer windows.
Management: Colt teams would have an identifiable Manager and backroom staff separate to those of the First Team.
Finance: The Colt parent clubs would purchase 250 ground admissions for ‘away’ support for each game, with the tickets being distributed through their own allocation systems. Admissions on match day would be entirely to the benefit of the home club.
It is likely that the proposal will be considered by the SPFL later this Spring, and will need a substantial majority of the 42 clubs to vote in favour. The Board of Berwick Rangers has discussed the proposal and would make the following comments:
League Structure: It is clear that many fans would welcome a change from the current ten team division, and seeing the same opposition on at least four occasions. The Board would welcome any discussions to review and alter the current structure.
Promotion/Relegation: It is a concern on the grounds of sporting integrity that at the start of a season, some teams are not competing for the same rewards as others. However, we would accept that Colt teams are likely to be comprised of young players aspiring to extended professional contracts or promotion to their First Team squad, and as such, would prove effective opposition regardless of their league position.
Venue: The suggestion that Colt teams play all games away from home would see BRFC having one or two more home games each season, and a minimum of four less away games. This is an important consideration is increasing revenue from home fixtures, including hospitality and sponsorship, and decreasing travel costs to away fixtures. We also note that facing Colt opposition on six occasions at Shielfield is not such an attractive option for fans.
Squad: The proposal to ring-fence Colt squads to U21 with the addition of possibly two specific older players or player-coaches is acceptable.
Management: The proposal of an identifiable Management structure for Colt teams is welcome. It has also been suggested that at least two Directors of the parent club will be present at all games.
Finance: The proposal to guarantee 250 admissions for each game is an important consideration for Berwick Rangers. This alone would increase gate admissions by £15,000, over 50% of our current budgeted figure. When put in the context of recent seasons, where the Club has declared losses of £81,000 and £89,000, and another substantial loss likely for 2017/18, the Directors must look to the financial security of the Club outwith the rewards associated with a Scottish Cup run. As it stands, League Two attracts only 2% of the cumulative wealth of the Scottish game, and in future we must hope for a restructure of financial distribution, as well as league reconstruction.
The Board would welcome constructive comment and opinion from supporters of the Club, particularly through the medium of e-mail, letter and Facebook.