FOOTBALL fans love a protest. Apart from winning away from home and scoring a late goal, protesting is one of the great attractions of the modern game and is part of the lifeblood of being a fan.

In years gone by, it tended to be a highly local affair, aimed at sacking the manager or the board – but with modern social media and easier communication on the internet, protest movements are now a mainstay of football.

Last week’s most virulent campaign has been a reaction against the idea of a new Conference league being installed within the current and still relatively new pyramid system.

It is opposed by the “No to B Teams” group who argue that one of the barely hidden agendas within the proposed new league is the inclusion of B teams from within the Premier League – namely Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Hearts.

The division would sit below League Two and relegate both the Highland League and Lowland League into tier-six level. The campaigners argue that the new ­Conference would effectively relegate 200 teams in one go; would allow four teams to buy a place ahead of others in the pyramid; and would create an anomaly where the fifth-ranked team can be ­promoted and sixth relegated.

Perhaps more importantly, against the grain of previous controversies about so-called “colt teams”, all of this has been rush-released without ­consulting fans and has the whiff of a stitch-up ­designed to strengthen the richest clubs in the land, irrespective of the fortunes of those well below them.

The issue of colt teams – which is code for ­bringing Celtic and Rangers B teams into the league – is a lightning rod. There are those that want to see the power of the big two ­extended and use the Spanish league where B teams feature as an argument, then there is a bank of opposition that questions the motives behind the idea.

One of the primary arguments in ­support of B teams being in the league is the holy grail of youth development – that Scotland’s best youngsters will push ­forward in a notoriously difficult career path. It is a noble ambition pitted with contradiction – what about talent not part of the gilded four? Why, if ­developing Scottish talent is the ­objective, do the clubs that have been privileged sign so many players from elsewhere?

Highland League club Nairn County are typical of the resistance. “What we are against is changing the pyramid ­model to cater to four clubs,” the club argued on their website, “so they can parachute their B teams into tier five on a permanent basis and essentially relegate both the Highland and Lowland leagues and all other tiers below.

“At what point does four become six or eight other ­Premiership clubs wanting a B team ­parachuted in? There are plenty of ­ambitious non-league clubs who want to further themselves but are finding that an additional hurdle is forcibly being put in place to prevent clubs at our level and ­below from being able to progress in a fair manner.”

It is this final point that drives to the heart of the matter – the dispute over the new Conference League is symbolically a dispute between ambition and ­avarice.

Scottish football is witnessing ­significant and very welcome change within its grassroots. Many small clubs from local communities are thriving and shaking up the established order, in part motivated by the opportunities of the ­pyramid system.

The National: Darvel celebrated a huge upsetDarvel celebrated a huge upset

One of the most astonishing results of the season was Darvel knocking ­Aberdeen out of the cup on live television. Last season, Kelty scalped the defending cup champions St Johnstone. Neither ­result would have been thinkable in days gone by.

What these unpredicted results tell us is that there are micro-communities across Scotland that have galvanised around the local football team and ambitiously ­supported the town’s development.

It is an instinct that goes beyond sport and is connected to the ­rejuvenation of local businesses, the success of a ­multi-purpose sports complex and even a social club that can take the place of ­declining and moribund public houses.

Running a successful football club ­within a small community is tough and the requirements placed on clubs by ­national associations and by general health and welfare are limitless. To meet all the demands and be demoted is hardly fair. One of the likely victims of change is Turriff United, the tiny Banffshire club who said: “We, along with many other clubs, worked extremely hard to get to where we are now, striving to meet the various ­requirements required to gain an SFA club license and all the financial ­implications that that entails.

“Many ­hundreds of hours of work ­every year are also poured into our club to maintain that license, be it through the ground ­maintenance we need to keep it to standard or the regulations we need to adhere to to keep it.

“To have that work done only to be moved down a level through no fault of our own to ­facilitate an extra league that isn’t ­needed being added in above us is pretty soul ­destroying.”

THIS is ultimately a dispute about ­football-in-the-community at a time when television exerts such a disproportionate role in fixtures, kick-off times and financing the already wealthy peak of the football pyramid.

At times, last week, it felt as if the ­authorities were playing into the hands of the complainants, by shifting the kick-off time of the Scottish Cup final – one of our national showpiece events – to ­accommodate the cup final in England. The Scottish final will now kick-off at 5.30pm and end probably too late for Inverness fans to travel home by public transport from Hampden.

Quite apart from the sheer ­humiliation of changing the kick-off time of a long-established national event to suit ­another country’s fixtures, it is an ­unambiguous statement of television’s often parasitic influence on the game. This year’s final will be shown on BBC ­Scotland and via the pay platform ­Viaplay.

Moving the kick-off time has been a chronic own goal and consultation was thin on the ground. Celtic, who are a win away from retaining the league title, said: “We are hugely disappointed that the Scottish Cup final has been moved from its traditional 3pm slot, something we don’t believe was necessary or in the best interests of both sets of supporters.

“Additionally, there was no ­meaningful consultation with Celtic on this matter, in terms of assessing the many issues ­affecting supporters attending the match – something which is also extremely ­regrettable.”

We can only assume that if Celtic felt in the dark, then Inverness were in a deeper wilderness, neither consulted nor cared about, with their fans treated ­contemptuously.

The unpopular plans to allow B teams to compete in a new Conference league has been enabled by the Scottish Pyramid Working Group and if successful would be introduced for the 2024/25 season.

There is a deeply uncomfortable irony in this given that the pyramid system has been one of the standout successes of ­Scottish football and this weekend alone we have been treated to a ­nail-biting ­climax at the top and bottom of our leagues.

It is a shame that the outstanding ­success of the pyramid system has once again been compromised by overreach and flawed thinking.