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Hearts reject SPFL proposal and back Rangers plan

Ann Budge says the coronavirus crisis means clubs have to be pragmatic and not sticklers for the rules.

Hearts are to vote against the SPFL’s proposal to end the Premiership early and will back Rangers’ motion to free prize money up for clubs as they struggle due to the coronavirus crisis.

The league body spoke with all 42 clubs on Wednesday and put forward a plan that would see the Championship, League 1 and League 2 ended now and the Premiership given more time to complete the season but to be called if that proved impossible.

Hearts are adrift at the bottom of the Premiership and would be relegated if that were the case.

The SPFl say the move allows prize money to be funnelled to clubs who are being forced to live without matchday revenue. Hearts say they back Rangers, who believe the two matters are separate and have put forward a resolution to release funds and settle the competition problem at a later date.

In a statement released on Wednesday night, Hearts chair Budge said that Scottish football had to pull together and look at practical measures rather than get caught up in the details of the rulebooks.

She also said that league reconstruction should be considered and given time to be explored fully.

Budge said: “Following the SPFL briefings held today, and having now had the opportunity (post meeting) to read the written resolution being proposed, I can confirm that Heart of Midlothian will not be voting in favour of the proposal as it stands.

“Over the past 24 hours, in advance of today’s meetings, a number of clubs have been discussing possible options and sharing ideas.  Many of those clubs believe, as we do, that a decision of such magnitude requires significantly more discussion and debate than has been made available to us.

“I absolutely understand that finding an equitable outcome for all will not be easy.  However, I firmly believe that we must try to find a solution which ensures that no club should be penalised as a consequence of these exceptional circumstances.  

“It was emphasised today that some clubs, particularly those in the lower leagues, need funds to be released to help them navigate their way through this exceptional situation.  I do not accept however, that this resolution needs to be passed in order to release those funds.  If the government can change the laws of the land, within 24 hours, to cope with this crisis, then surely it cannot be impossible for Scottish football’s governing bodies to modify rules to get things done.  This is a time for pragmatism, not rules.  There are other ways of addressing the current financial challenges and as such we will be supporting the Member’s Resolution being put forward by Rangers.

“I wrote to the SPFL on the 15th March, asking that all 42 clubs be given the opportunity and time to discuss this situation fully.  That has not happened and we now find ourselves once again in apparent disarray.  For the avoidance of doubt, I am not pointing fingers at the SPFL executive, nor indeed at the board, as I know how much effort has gone into trying to find a way through this totally unprecedented situation.  However, an issue of this scale was always going to demand full involvement of the member clubs.

“I also asked that we try to see this as an opportunity to look at whether a league restructure, so often talked about, could help us through this difficult time.  I was disappointed to read in the papers issued today that it will be considered, but it was also stated that “…it is very difficult to achieve consensus behind any restructuring proposal, let alone quickly”.  This is an emergency situation, and clubs acknowledge and many accept that it needs actions befitting an emergency situation.  Decisions taken to see us through this emergency do not have to be cast in stone.  We need to look at the restructuring option with belief that it will help and not with negativity.

“This is a time for all clubs and SPFL partners to pull together to find an equitable solution for all. If something is right, it is right:  if it is wrong, it is wrong. We will continue to lobby for doing the right thing, both for clubs and for Scottish football.”

Falkirk, one point behind Raith Rovers at the top end of League 1, are also opposed to the plan though they welcomed the idea of league reconstruction and are open to an improved proposal.

A spokesperson said: “The Falkirk FC board is in unanimous agreement that we cannot support the SPFL resolution in its current form.

“We do draw some comfort from the SPFL’s desire to consult with clubs over league reconstruction for next season – something which Falkirk FC has long advocated – but the warm words in the statement do not go far enough in our view.

“If the SPFL were to formally commit to the introduction of a suitably restructured setup effective from next season, then Falkirk FC would seriously reconsider our opposition to the SPFL’s resolution.  We are also of the view that such important decisions should not be rushed, and that there remains time to consider the best way forward.

“The current situation makes it extremely difficult to play this season’s outstanding games and while we are confident that we would have had a successful end to the season, we accept that a decision has to be made to draw matters to a conclusion.

“We will continue to discuss matters with the SPFL and other clubs, and will keep you informed as matters develop.  Rest assured we will always represent the best interests of Falkirk FC, our supporters and the wider community.”