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UEFA’S £50m EMPTY THREAT: TOP LAWYER HIGHLIGHTS LEGAL CHALLENGE

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DAVID WINNIE, the former St Mirren and Aberdeen defender who is now a top sports lawyer, insists UEFA’s £50million warning to Scotland’s football bosses is an EMPTY threat.

In the midst of the uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic worldwide lockdown, the European governing body’s president Aleksander Ceferin has ordered seasons to be resumed as soon as possible – or else!

The Euro supremo said clubs who are handed titles without completing campaigns face being blocked from next season’s money-spinning Euro competitions.

UEFA reacted vehemently to the news last week the Belgian authorities had scrapped their season and handed the title to Club Brugge, who were leading the Jupiter Pro-League by 15 points from Gent.

Celtic are similarly placed in the Premiership with a 13-point advantage with eight league games still to play before football was suspended in the middle of last month.

The European gaffers fired out the cautionary message to other associations who may follow the example of the Belgians who could now be faced with a u-turn.

But Winnie, now in the legal profession with Mayfair-based firm Charles Douglas Solicitors, told the Scottish Sun: “UEFA have left themselves wide open to legal challenge.

“In their statement they said that clubs are at risk of being effectively banned if they don’t complete a full season. Two words jumped out at me from that — one was ‘risk’ and the other was ‘full’.

“Saying clubs risk missing out on next season’s European competition is a veiled threat. They haven’t said: ‘You WILL miss out’.

“They have left themselves wriggle room with their statement and it’s clearly open to challenge.

“As I understand it, there is nothing in the UEFA regulations stating member associations, like the SFA, need their clubs to complete full seasons.

“The SFA are entitled to promote whichever clubs that they see fit to compete in UEFA’s competitions.

“UEFA cannot compel clubs, or member associations, to finish their leagues if it’s not safe and viable to do so.

“It’s a matter of public policy for each individual country — and UEFA know this, which is why they have only gone as far as to say clubs are at ‘risk.’

“We’re all in uncharted waters at the moment, but with this, UEFA has left itself open to a legal challenge if it tries to compel member associations, like the SFA, to complete the season before teams are submitted for the 2020/21 European competitions.

“If UEFA doesn’t back down, and clubs stand up against them, then in all likelihood a legal challenge would follow.

“However, if you think about this logically, taking into consideration the number of different leagues in the same situation as Scotland, with the likes of Belgium, Holland and Portugal all involved in this, where would it leave UEFA if they were all banned?

“Are they going to forbid all those clubs from taking part in European competition next season? Firstly, that would call into question the whole integrity of their competition, but secondly, who would take their places?”

However, Winnie also warned Scottish football chiefs that they could be challenged for deciding championship and relegation issues.

Rangers, in second place with a game in hand over Celtic, and Hearts, bottom of the Premiership four points adrift of Hamilton Accies, have already vowed to fight if the current league placings are used to determine titles and relegation.

Winnie added: “Those challenges could end up in civil court in Scotland. If Hearts were to be declared relegated they would have a good argument against that and could seek damages as they could possibly lose millions.

“It’s essentially breach of contract. However, it’s likely the SPFL would argue it’s either a ‘Doctrine of Frustration’ or ‘Force Majeure’, meaning that what’s happened has been an unforeseen event. That could be their get-out-of-jail card.”

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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