Neil Doncaster: SPFL chief Neil Doncaster expects cross-border competition

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'The SPFL must keep an open mind about structural changes to European football'

Scotland's senior clubs will "undoubtedly" play in more cross-border competitions in the future, says SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster.

Clubs from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic currently play in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

But BBC Scotland can reveal the SPFL have held talks about Scottish under-21 teams competing in a European league in as little as two years' time.

"I think it's the future," Doncaster said of cross-border competition.

Proposals had been made to change the structure of European club football from 2024. And from 2021, a third Uefa competition - Europa League 2 - will start.

"European League meetings continually talk about ways leagues could work better and closer with each other," Doncaster added.

"Whether it takes place from 2024 onwards or whether it's slightly longer down the line, who knows? But there is no doubt in my mind that over time there will be more cross-border competition."

In 2017, Rangers withdrew from the development league for a season to play friendly matches against other academy sides across Europe.

And it is understood that could develop into a format where the top four clubs in Scotland put forward colt teams to face opposition from western European leagues.

Doncaster said that the SPFL are "constantly in talks" with counterparts on the continent about developing talent.

"I wouldn't be at all surprised if we see something around the reserve or under-21 leagues at some point in the future," he added.

"Let's see where it goes but I'm optimistic about being able to put something in place in the future that gives more of our teams more of an international challenge."

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'European reserve league could be in place before 2024'

Doncaster acknowledges that any plans would need to "work geographically" to ensure teams were not having to travel thousands of miles.

And, when asked about the financial implications for clubs, he said: "The objective is that any format you come up with ends up washing its face and essentially bringing in enough broadcast sponsorship income to ensure there is no loss to the clubs.

"Initially there might be, but let's see what emerges. We are very early in the process and there's a long to go."

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