KELTY HEARTS will seek supporter opinion over proposals to allow Celtic and Rangers 'B' teams to enter the Lowland League (SLFL) next season.

Earlier today, the New Central Park club confirmed that they had abstained on an indicative vote on the issue, which league bosses said yesterday members had voted in favour of.

The plan would see Celtic and Rangers 'B' - or 'colt' - teams play in the league for season 2021/22, which the SLFL insist would be for one season only.

Clubs were notified about the proposals last week and given three working days to provide an indicative vote ahead of a general meeting of the SLFL last night.

A majority expressed they were in favour of the plan, which is to be ratified at the league's forthcoming AGM on May 27.

The news has angered the East of Scotland League, South of Scotland League and West of Scotland League - beneath the SLFL in the pyramid - and Kelty stated their position.

They said that due to their involvement in the pyramid play-offs - Saturday's win over Brora Rangers, which wrapped up a 6-1 aggregate win, will see them play Brechin City for a place in SPFL League Two - they did not have enough time to seek the views of their supporters.

In a statement, they said: "In line with our fellow SLFL clubs, Kelty Hearts FC were e-mailed a briefing document on the evening of Wednesday 5th May with the proposal of the addition of Rangers & Celtic ‘B’ teams on a one season basis for 2021/22. The club were given three working days to give an indicative vote on the proposal ahead of last night’s SLFL general Meeting.

"The timing of receipt of this proposal came as club officials were fully committed in the planning and preparing facilities, Covid testing and safe bubble arrangements for training on Thursday and the game on the Saturday for the return leg of the Play-Off semi-final.

"We felt we had insufficient time to fully consult our clubs’ season ticket holders, supporters, committee and sponsors.

"On this basis, and with the club still participating in the Play-Off competition, the board felt it best that the club abstain from the “indicative” vote. We are cognisant that there will be a further vote at the SLFL AGM on 27th May and, as we did prior to the decision to join the senior ranks we shall use the time between now and the AGM to engage with our stakeholders and canvass their opinions that will allow the club to place a vote at the AGM.

"We would like to place on record our eternal thanks to the East of Scotland FA and their member clubs for welcoming and accepting us into the EOS association and league in 2017.

"As the first club to leave the SJFA to join the pyramid we know it is a move that wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance, welcoming and professionalism of the EOSFA board and their clubs. We fully appreciate the EOSFL, the WOSFL and SOSFL association and their clubs more than have “skin in the game”.

"We shall be in contact with all our season ticket holders, sponsors and seat for life members with the proposal over the next few days and we shall follow the example of Bonnyrigg Rose and provide dates for Zoom group meetings to voice opinion over the next week or so.

"Any non season ticket holding supporters are invited to email to be added to the mailing list."

The news of the indicative vote of the SLFL clubs has prompted a furious reaction from the East of Scotland, West of Scotland and South of Scotland leagues.

They have accused the SLFL of having no consideration for clubs in the other leagues within the Scottish football pyramid; stated their belief that it carries no sporting integrity; and that there is "no benefit in this proposal other than self interest and a small financial reward for SLFL clubs".

In a lengthy, joint statement, they said: "The West of Scotland, East of Scotland and South of Scotland Football Leagues are disappointed and dismayed by the proposal from the Scottish Lowland Football League (SLFL) to invite Rangers and Celtic Colt teams to join their league at tier five of the Scottish football pyramid without any discussion or consideration for clubs in the other leagues within the pyramid structure.

"If this proposal goes ahead, it will have ramifications for clubs from tier five and below, clubs who are ambitious and committed to the scottish football pyramid and who have worked hard to meet the criteria to allow their club the opportunity to progress through the leagues.

"It is our opinion that there is no sporting integrity with this proposal, nor commitment to the pyramid from the SLFL should they permit the Old Firm Colt teams to join what will become the middle tier of the game, to play a series of friendly matches throughout the season with no prospect of either of the Colt teams gaining promotion or relegation.

"It is our understanding that this pilot is for one season only. But what happens thereafter?

"The three leagues supported the SLFL in its bid to ensure Kelty Hearts had the opportunity to play in the play-offs for a place in the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) next season.

"Now they propose a change that could potentially result in the success of the Old Firm Colts denying other clubs that same opportunity.

"It has been stated that the Colt teams could not be promoted next season, but no discussion regarding this has taken place with the SPFL. Should one of the Colt teams win the league, what guarantee would there be that the second placed club would enter the promotion play-offs?

"The SPFL would be within their rights to deny any runners-up the opportunity to play in the SPFL play-offs as they were not the champion club and, as a result, existing Lowland League clubs, plus in future clubs from the other three tier six leagues and below, could be denied the same opportunity that Kelty Hearts have been given this season.

"The three leagues see no benefit in this proposal other than self interest and a small financial reward for SLFL clubs, but we can see a serious risk to the future of the pyramid structure in Scottish football if this is allowed to go ahead, and ask all SLFL clubs to express their commitment to the pyramid by rejecting this proposal."

SLFL chairman, George Fraser, stated: "With all proposals of this type everyone has an opinion on it, and rightly so.

“The SLFL Board discussed this proposal last week and, as we are a members organisation, it was entirely correct that this was put to the members to vote on.

“As a league we have allowed our clubs to decide based on facts, and not several pieces of misinformation being actively disseminated across many social media platforms.

“Our league is fully committed to the integrity of the pyramid and we have shown this time and time again, so any suggestion we are not is ill-judged and misplaced.

“The majority of our clubs have voted in favour of this proposal, and we need to respect that, therefore we will progress this and have further discussions with all parties in the coming days.

“Since the start of this pandemic the SLFL has operated with a view that no club should be adversely affected by the decisions we make, and we believe that this is the case with this proposal.

“With all the tier 6 leagues opting to go ‘null and void’ this meant there was no champion club put forward to join the SLFL.

“If there was then the champion club would be taking part in the SLFL league next season.”