SPFL clubs say no to league reconstruction

The SPFL now faces a legal challenge from Hearts.The SPFL now faces a legal challenge from Hearts.
The SPFL now faces a legal challenge from Hearts.
The vast majority of Scotland’s football clubs have turned down the chance to vote for league reconstruction.

The Scottish Professional Football League have confirmed only 16 of the 42 teams were prepared to vote for a 14-10-10-10 format for next season.

It leaves Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer as relegation candidates as it stands, but, in a further twist to the ongoing saga, the Jambos immediately announced that they have begun legal action in a bid to have their expulsion from the Premiership ruled illegal.

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If all three clubs push for compensation, the total claim would reach more than £6million.

SPFL officials held an indicative vote this morning to determine whether there was enough interest in altering the league structure.

They say the response from all four divisions is not sufficient to progress to an official vote – thus confirming Hearts, Thistle and Stranraer are all relegated.

Additionally, next season’s Championship will involve only 27 games for each team instead of the normal 36.

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Clubs have agreed a start date of October 17 for the second tier.

The league’s board put forward a proposal to expand the Premiership from 12 teams to 14 by reinstating Hearts and promoting Inverness Caledonian Thistle from the Championship.

As part of the plan, Partick would have been returned to the Championship and Stranraer restored to League One, with Lowland League winners Kelty Hearts and Highland League champions Brora Rangers invited to join League Two.

This would have required 11 of 12 Premiership clubs to vote in favour, with at least 17 from the Premiership and Championship combined. Overall, it would need 32 of the 42 SPFL clubs to agree.

However, that idea is now dead due to a lack of backing.

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Previous restructuring ideas from Hearts and Rangers also failed to garner enough appeal and the governing body are preparing to continue with the existing 12-10-10-10 set-up.

“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.”

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Hearts owner Ann Budge confirmed she has taken steps to begin legal proceedings after league reconstruction plans collapsed, and she could be joined in court by fellow relegated clubs Partick Thistle and Stranraer.

A Hearts statement read: “The SPFL Board has today announced that any reconstruction proposals for season 2020/21 will not proceed to a vote due to a lack of support from other member clubs.

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

“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.”

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