EXCLUSIVE: SPFL beaks draw up League Three plans – which could see four Highland teams taken into new fifth tier

Formartine United v Heart of Midlothian Colts in the Irn-Bru Cup.
Formartine United v Heart of Midlothian Colts in the Irn-Bru Cup.

Plans are afoot in the corridors of power to dramatically overhaul the structure of Scottish football by adding a fifth division to the SPFL.

The Evening Express can reveal that a draft proposal has been circulated among some clubs which suggests the creation of a fifth tier – to be known as League Three – below the Premiership, Championship, League One and League Two.

At present the idea is that the new division would be made up of four sides coming up from the Highland League, four from the Lowland League and up to four colt sides to create a league of 12.

The plans are at a very early stage with clubs just starting to be sounded out about the proposals with the issue to be discussed in more detail at a meeting in the coming weeks.

It is understood that those behind the blueprint see the idea as potentially ticking a lot of boxes for a lot of clubs.

The plans would give ambitious Highland and Lowland League clubs more chance of progressing into the SPFL, with four potentially moving up and promotion and relegation between the new division and the Highland and Lowland Leagues.

Since the introduction of the pyramid play-off in 2015, Cove Rangers (twice), Brora Rangers and Buckie Thistle have all attempted to get into League Two as Highland League champions but have been beaten in the play-offs.

Cove narrowly missed out in the SPFL play-offs last term.

The proposals would also give League Two clubs fearing relegation the safety net of still being under the SPFL umbrella in League Three.

Talk of getting Premiership colt teams into the SPFL league structure has been mooted for a number of years.

Celtic and Rangers have driven the agenda over this issue, but this plan opens up the potential for more than just the Glasgow sides to have colt teams in the pyramid. At present, Premiership colt teams feature in the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup, but the idea has been heavily criticised by people throughout Scottish football.

This season is the third year colt sides have been in the tournament and so far only one team has reached the quarter-final stage – Motherwell – who face Ross County this afternoon.

The current blueprint for League Three would see a promotion system similar to set up between the Championship and League One and League One and League Two, whereby the champions go up and the three teams who finish below the champions are involved in play-offs against the side that finishes second bottom in the league above.

Although the plans are at an early stage and a long way from ever being put into action, if the idea did gain support it could be damaging for the Highland League.

Four teams moving up would weaken the league and there are not many Junior sides who would be prepared both financially or have the infrastructure to make the step up.

However, the possibility of colt teams featuring in the Highland and Lowland Leagues has been mooted in the plans, with Ross County and Inverness Caley Thistle being viewed as two exampes who could field colt teams in the Higland League.