As reconstruction rejected...

Hearts launch legal challenge after relegation confirmed

Ann Budge

Costly: Ann Budge (pic: SNS Group)

Hearts have launched a legal challenge after their relegation to the Scottish Championship was confirmed today.

The Jambos’ fate was sealed after the proposal for a permanent 14-10-10-10 league set-up failed to win enough backing with just 16 of the 42 member clubs in favour.

“To say we are disappointed, yet sadly not surprised, at this outcome is, of course, an understatement,” said a Hearts statement.

“We have, from the outset, worked tirelessly with fellow clubs and the SPFL board to try to find a solution that would right the most obvious wrongs that have been caused in Scottish football by decisions taken as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hearts, along with many others, have stated repeatedly that no club should be disproportionately disadvantaged because of this crisis. This was the final opportunity for kinship to prevail and for Scottish football to stand together in an emergency. It is an unfortunate condemnation of Scottish football that this was not possible.

“We thank those who were open minded, pragmatic and willing to come together to try and reach a fair outcome for all. Sadly, there were too few of us.

“Now that all other avenues are closed, we are left with no choice but to proceed with a legal challenge. The club has tried throughout these last few months to avoid this course of action but we must now do the right thing by our supporters, our employees, our players and our sponsors, all of whom have been unwavering in their commitment and support.  We can hold our heads up high as we have acted at all times with integrity, common sense and with the best interests of Scottish football at heart.

“We have stated from the beginning that the unjust and unfair treatment of Hearts, Partick Thistle, Stranraer and indeed other clubs cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.  While many weeks have been wasted in trying to find a solution, we must now formally challenge this outcome.

“The club can confirm that the necessary steps have been taken to begin this legal challenge.  Given that this is now an active legal matter, the club will be offering no further comment at this time.

“To our amazing fans we say that we cannot, and will not, sit idly by and watch the decisions made in the past few months further damage Heart of Midlothian Football Club. Thank you for fighting for us, now allow us to do the same for you.”

As well as Hearts’ demotion, Partick Thistle dropped into League 1 with Stranraer relegated to League 2.

Clarity: Neil Doncaster (pic: SNS Group)

The SPFL said its board has ‘agreed to draw a line under reconstruction talks’, while confirming that the Championship clubs have voted to approve a 27-game programme, with teams playing each other three times, rather than four.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “In recent weeks, we’ve been consulting closely with our clubs regarding possible reconstruction and, based on the feedback we received, the board decided to ask all 42 clubs to give their views so that we could have absolute clarity, which we’ve achieved today.

“Whilst a number of clubs were in favour of a new divisional set-up, the support for it was insufficient and we will now move forward with a fixture programme for season 2020/21 based on the current 12-10-10-10 structure.

“Due to the restrictions forced upon us by the coronavirus outbreak, the Championship clubs also voted overwhelmingly to play each other three times next season, rather than four, which enables a later start to the Championship league season.

“Now that we have a confirmed structure for next season, the SPFL’s fixturing team will begin work on the Premiership fixture list, which will start on the weekend of 1 August, and the Championship fixture list, which will start on the weekend of 17 October.”

Discussions regarding arrangements for Leagues 1 and 2 remain ongoing.

As the proposed changes would have meant altering the SPFL’s financial distribution model and admitting two new member clubs in the shape of Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts, a change to the SPFL Articles would have been needed, requiring the support of 11 of the 12 Premiership clubs, 17 or more clubs from the Premiership and Championship combined, and 32 or more SPFL clubs overall.

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