IT was never going to be a one-time deal. When the Old Firm colts sides were introduced to the Lowland League at the start of the season, the concept was widely touted as a pilot scheme. Every effort was made to stress the temporary nature of the trial to assuage the concerns of disgruntled supporters as Celtic and Rangers finally realised their long-term ambition of getting their B teams’ foot in the door further down the pyramid.

Their inclusion brought with it a whole bunch of caveats – the Glasgow clubs couldn’t be promoted or relegated, for instance, and would be excluded from the final league table – but truthfully, there were 50,000 reasons for their inception.

The two rivals would each pay a cool £25,000 for their entry into the fifth tier of Scottish football – the sort of sum the Old Firm can find down the back of the sofa, but a game-changer outwith the professional set-up. The money talked, the Lowland League clubs put it to a vote and in came Celtic and Rangers.

The backlash was angry and immediate as supporters of lower league clubs made their feelings known. Clubs in the sixth tier felt aggrieved and the general perception was that Glasgow’s big two had got the chequebook out and skipped the queue to gain entry to the Lowland League ahead of others who have been fighting for promotion for years – something that is currently very, very difficult. But we’ll get to that later.

Accusations of a disregard for sporting integrity abounded. It was said that the scheme only really benefitted Celtic and Rangers but above all, supporters of Lowland League clubs were angry that they had not been consulted about the decision. Bonnyrigg Rose were the exception to the rule and asked punters what they thought about the idea. Ninety-five per cent were against it.

That might have only been the result of one vote amongst one fanbase but it was telling nonetheless. No one wants to see their team play competitive football matches against a B team or for their league to be seen as little more than a training exercise for two of the best-resourced sides in the country. Not to mention the fact that many supporters of lower league clubs choose to support such teams precisely because they feel disillusioned about and isolated from the modern professional game.

The fuss eventually died down and as the campaign nears its conclusion, the Old Firm clubs will both surely feel the experiment has been a resounding success. Their teams have performed well – Celtic are currently third with Rangers lagging a point behind in fourth – demonstrating that the Lowland League has provided a worthy challenge. Promising youngsters from both halves of the divide have received valuable game-time and some have even gone on to feature for their respective first teams, too.

It's for these reasons that last month, Celtic and Rangers approached the Lowland League asking for their colt teams to once again be included for next season’s competition. The same rules around promotion and relegation would apply and they still couldn’t compete in the Lowland League Cup. They would not be member clubs; instead, they would retain their status as guest clubs.

It was put to a vote and once again, it seems that many of the clubs involved were more interested in the money on offer than canvassing their supporters or wondering what Tier 6 teams might make of all of this. This time, the lump sum was upped to £40,000 per team. Eleven clubs voted yes, four said no and one abstained.

We know the identity of two of the clubs that said no. Bonnyrigg Rose asked fans what they thought and over 90 per cent were against it, as did East Stirlingshire. “Our support was clear that this was NOT something they would wish to see continue,” a club statement read.

There is plenty of opposition to colt teams amongst Lowland League supporters and almost all of them have been excluded from the decision-making process. And it could hardly have come at a worse time.

You see, a week before Lowland League clubs voted in favour of keeping the colts, another ballot was held. The route into the fifth tier is notoriously difficult to navigate – there is only one automatic relegation spot in the 16-team division, and the winners of the Eastern, Western and Southern Leagues (the sixth tier) all have to fight it out for one solitary place in the Lowland League.

Given that the route from the fifth tier to the fourth is equally laborious – the Lowland and Highland League champions have a play-off to see who will face League 2’s tenth-placed team in a two-legged tie for a place in the SPFL – you would think Lowland League clubs would be sympathetic to sixth-tier clubs’ plight. And you’d be wrong, too.

When asked to vote on increased promotion and relegation spots – something that punters have been crying out for for years – clubs voted by nine to seven in favour of maintaining the status quo. The motion was shot down as self-interested clubs cast their ballots for self-interested reasons. Voting for an increased threat of relegation is turkeys voting for Christmas, after all.

Lowland League chairperson Thomas Brown appeared on the Official Catchup podcast earlier this week and he was at pains to point out that if it were up to the board alone, more promotion and relegation spots would be introduced. The decision was a democratic one made by member clubs and as such, the league body had no choice but to accept it.

The two votes demonstrate a disregard for what supporters – and clubs in the sixth tier and below –have been asking for and the whole sorry mess reflects poorly on the league as a whole. Barring a few notable exceptions, Lower League teams have ignored legitimate concerns from their fans in order to protect their status and get a few extra quid.

Supporters are right to voice their frustrations. And it’s about time their clubs finally listened.