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Hearts and Partick Thistle lose bid to avoid relegation

The clubs lost arbitration proceedings against the Scottish Professional Football League.

Hearts and Partick Thistle lose bid to avoid relegation SNS

Hearts and Partick Thistle have lost their arbitration proceedings against the Scottish Professional Football League.

A three-person panel found in favour of the SPFL after a hearing in private last week.

The result means the clubs will definitely begin next season in October in the Scottish Championship and League One respectively.

The promotions of Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers stand, with Stranraer’s relegation also confirmed.

Hearts and Thistle said they were “disappointed and surprised” by the ruling.

The clubs added in a joint statement: “We don’t regret taking this action as it was the right thing for us to do.

“There were better ways to deal with ending the season, fairer ways other than putting the burden of a pandemic on to three clubs.”

Hearts and Thistle had taken the governing body to court after weeks of discussion over league restructuring – a proposal that would have seen no team relegated for the season ahead – failed to gather enough support from the 42 SPFL clubs.

The sides relegated from the Premiership and Championship respectively went to the Court of Session with a petition calling for last season’s relegation and promotion to be reversed or else to award Hearts £8m in compensation and Partick Thistle £2m.

The legal basis of their claim was a contention that the SPFL members vote held on April 10 this year was conducted in a fashion that was unfairly prejudicial towards them.

The vote was to end the season and decide placings based on a points-per-game basis for the Scottish Championship, League One and League Two. It also granted the SPFL permission to end the Scottish Premiership in a similar way.

The resolution passed by a single vote, which was received five days later, by Dundee FC.

In the legal documents Hearts and Partick Thistle referenced the contentious vote from Dundee, which arrived prior to the 5pm recommended deadline but was not counted, allowing the Dens Park club to cast the deciding vote on April 15.

They also alleged that the SPFL had held back key information from members regarding the financial impact of voting to curtail the 2019/20 season early.

Lord Clark presided over a procedural hearing at the start of July and came to the conclusion that Hearts and Partick Thistle’s case must be heard under the SFA’s arbitration process.

However, Lord Clark did grant the clubs’ motion to allow them access to documents including SPFL legal advice and correspondence around the April 10 vote.

SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan said: “No-one should be under any illusion about the rigorous and challenging nature of this process. I would fully expect all those involved to agree that no stone was left unturned, no allegation left unanswered.

“Every aspect of the various arguments put forward by both Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle was examined minutely, with full access to all relevant documents, records, emails and telephone logs. 

“The panel heard from many witnesses, including senior figures from across our game and three members of the SPFL executive team. Thousands of pages of evidence were considered.

“I’m therefore very pleased that the tribunal unanimously held that the challenges to the written resolution of 15 April 2020 failed, and that the SPFL were entitled to pass, and give effect to, the written resolution and all that flowed from it.”

Meanwhile, the clubs are to answer a Scottish FA notice of complaint regarding their petition to the courts.

Hearts and Thistle have been charged with breaking disciplinary rule 78 – “No member or Associated Person shall take a dispute which is referable to arbitration in terms of Article 99 to a court of law except as expressly permitted by the terms of Article 99”.

The clubs responded with a joint statement which read: “We are incredulous to have received a Notice of Complaint from the SFA in the circumstances.”

A hearing is scheduled for August 6.