RANGERS have withdrawn their B side from the Lowland League for next season after proposals for a fifth-tier Conference League stalled.

The Scottish FA had planned to have B-sides in a new fifth tier with some Highland and Lowland League clubs but a lack of support meant that the proposals were withdrawn ahead of a planned vote.

Rangers and Celtic have competed in the Lowland League for the past two season and last year they were joined by Hearts.

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The games against these teams attracted larger than normal crowds at Netherdale.

Rangers issued a statement on the club’s website which read: “Firstly, Rangers would like to put on record our sincere thanks to the Lowland League for hosting a Rangers B team in their league for the past two seasons, and to the clubs for their fantastic hospitality and sporting challenges during that time. Rangers wishes each and every one of them the very best for the future.

“Rangers has long been a strong advocate for the introduction of B Teams in the professional leagues of Scottish football, with a Conference League being an excellent step in that direction. Nations across Europe operate similar B Team systems with strong evidence of their development of players at club and national level.

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“Indeed, all 10 teams who contributed most to the development of players for last year’s World Cup have B teams operating in national senior leagues. The desire from all at Rangers to have a B Team in the professional leagues remains as strong as ever.

“Our view on B Teams was also strongly supported by the Scottish FA and its CEO Ian Maxwell, who recognise the clear, beneficial impact B Teams have on top international sides. For 18–21 year-old footballers, our research and the evidence clearly shows the best path for their development is playing professional football in professional leagues. A Conference League would have been a positive move towards that.

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“As matters now stand, there is no suitable, governing body-led development structure for players between 18-21 in Scotland. The club has, however, enjoyed positive dialogue with a number of key stakeholders in recent days, including the Scottish FA, and looks forward to continuing such discussions to map the best possible direction for the development of the country’s top young players.

“Alongside the club’s participation in the Lowland League in the last two seasons, a challenging ‘best v best’ games programme has provided our young players with matches against clubs from the highest levels of British and European competition.

“This has proved a success, with 10 recent Academy players featuring in the Rangers first-team last season.

“Matches with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool are among the fixtures to have featured and that programme will continue and indeed be enhanced alongside the club’s commitments in the SPFL Trust Trophy, City of Glasgow Cup and, hopefully, the UEFA Youth League, which provided an outstanding environment for our players last season. This will ensure our young players in that crucial 18-21 age group are given regular tests of a varied nature.

“Rangers remains committed to finding the most innovative and challenging environments for our young players, not only for the benefit of our club, but also for the benefit of other clubs and the Scotland national team. We look forward to continuing our positive engagement with the Scottish FA and other bodies in the drive for young player development.”

The Lowland League say they are still planning to have 18 teams in the division next season.