The new Development League will "give younger players a pathway for progression” according to West of Scotland League (WoSFL) chairman Dave Mckenna.
Speaking exclusively to YFS, he said the new format is planned to give younger players opportunities within the current game.
Dave, who is also club secretary at East Kilbride, shared his insight on youth players: "There is a big gap from between when the kids come through at ages 16 and 17 and a lot of the teams start to struggle to attract and retain players because people at that age start to think, where is this going to go?”
“Unless the players get picked up which a number of them do and end up playing in the ‘Club Academy Scotland Pro Youth’ set up, which can lead to getting contracts to play in the senior leagues but there isn’t always huge numbers.”
“What this development league is planning to do is give players at that age a pathway that will initially be within their own club’s development ranks, playing on a Friday night to then eventually making their way to the first team to play on a Saturday”.
Once approval is given to the WoSFL from the government for training to resume following the Covid-19 pandemic, the plan is for the new Development League to start.
As a younger player starts to grow older they will become even more eager to be scouted by a better team, however if this move unfortunately doesn’t happen for them as they reach ages 16 or 17 they may begin to doubt themselves and wonder if they have a future in football.
Currently the Scottish Lowland Football League (SLFL) runs a development league whose format allows teams from the Lowland League and the East of Scotland Football League (EoSFL) to play each other and give younger players much needed experience for progressing their game.
When asked about the Development League’s structure, Dave said: “The plan is to have an East and West part to the development league and at the minute, it’s shaping up to be two conferences in the East and there would be two or three conferences in the West depending on the amount of teams.
“All of that would be situated under the Lowland Development League and run under the direction of the SLFL Board”.
Dave also confirmed exclusively to YFS that, as it stands, around 35 West Region teams have applied for their newly established development league.
“The Development League idea was very well accepted by clubs because it’s going to be a step-up to either the Lowland League, the South of Scotland League, the EoSFL, the WoSFL, or to more senior clubs because it’s a higher level of football, not only off the park but on the park as well,” Dave added.
One problem that faces the Development League however is travelling to and from different parts of the country on a Friday night for players and staff.
“For geographical reasons more than anything, these games will be played on a Friday night and travelling on a Friday night can be difficult for people leaving work or college etc, so what we will be doing is splitting into two geographical grouping of clubs from the East and clubs from the West,” Dave confirmed.
“But we are also planning to have an all in-cup so that teams from all divisions or conferences will get the chance to play each other, that’s our plan.”