Club Statement on proposed “Conference League”

Having now received full details of the SFA’s plans for a new “Conference League” at Tier 5 of the Scottish football pyramid, Pollok FC wish to make it clear that we are totally opposed to this proposal. Whilst we accept the intent to improve the development pathway for footballers is sincere, this proposal is not the solution.

We believe that this proposal would be to the detriment of the vast majority of the remaining 200+ clubs in the football pyramid and at the same time is highly unlikely to achieve its stated aims.

The main purpose of a football pyramid system is to allow its member clubs, through promotions and relegations, to progress towards a level at which they are competing more or less equitably, and this proposal completely undermines the integrity of that structure.

In recent years a significant number of non-SPFL clubs, including Pollok FC, have shown their commitment to the pyramid philosophy by pursuing and acquiring a SFA club licence. To do so they have developed and improved the facilities at their grounds, trained staff and implemented policies required to show that they are ready. This has taken a huge amount of work, mostly by unpaid volunteers, and has also cost considerable sums of money. To then have another League hurdle imposed is needlessly insensitive to those efforts.

We are more than ready, should we earn promotion, to move up from our current Tier 6 to compete at Tier 5 for another promotion to Tier 4 and League 2 of the SPFL, continuing to develop and improve our infrastructure as necessary along the way.

The proposal would place four Lowland League and two Highland League teams in the new Conference League, the criteria for this selection has not been specified, alongside four B teams. This is not an attractive proposition for the six “competing” teams who would receive £40,000 compensation for having to play almost half of their matches against ‘B’ teams of youngsters along with increased travel and fewer competitive rivalries. Also, depending on what positions the ‘B’ teams who cannot be promoted or relegated finish in at the end of the season, a non-B team in 5th place could find themselves in either a promotion or a relegation play-off. It is entirely possible that after a couple of seasons were the two Highland League teams to be relegated, this Conference League would look like the present Lowland League but with fewer teams.

Recently Aberdeen FC have said that they are not going to put a B team into this League and Rangers manager Michael Beale has said, “I don’t think the Lowland League is a good bridge, so we need to look at other games,” and yet the Conference League would look just like the Lowland League but smaller. Unless there is a hidden agenda, which may not be that well-hidden when the office bearers for the company behind this new League are taken into consideration, then on the face of it this proposal is without merit.

It is overtly the only option that does not require a vote that would be against the self-interests of the majority of SFA member clubs eligible to vote at the AGM on the 6th June. Because it is the only option is not good enough reason for it to become a reality.

Pollok FC is wholly opposed to the formation of this Conference League and although, as a recently licensed SFA member, we are not ourselves able to vote at the SFA AGM, we would urge as many other voting clubs as possible to reject the proposal.