SIX Premiership clubs joined forces last night to scupper plans for league reconstruction and relegate toiling Hearts from the top flight to the Championship.
The Tynecastle outfit, bottom of the league and four points adrift of Hamilton Accies, will now begin next season in the second tier, despite playing just 30 games before football went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A report in the Daily Mail indicates a decision by owner Ann Budge to sign up to a Rangers resolution calling for an independent investigation into the SPFL was a factor for some clubs.
The Edinburgh club’s supremo was placed in joint charge of a reconstruction group asked to look at implementing a 14-team top league in time for next season.
Critical of the SPFL processes, however, Budge’s public proclamations upset some of those she needed to vote for structural change. With clubs facing massive financial headaches over getting football back up and running, Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack claimed the timing was wrong to change the leagues around.
Hamilton’s Les Gray, co-chair of the Reconstruction Group alongside Budge, insisted reconstruction is not dead. He will now assemble a five-or-six-person working group to examine plans for a 14-team top tier in time for season 2021/22.
The Accies chief, speaking to the Daily Mail, said: “We gave it everything we had to try to make it work. In light of the current crisis, the clubs didn’t feel it was the right time to reconstruct the leagues.
“But they are happy to embrace change over the longer term and discuss it in detail and try to make it work in future.”
Aberdeen hosted the meeting of the 12 top-tier clubs. Despite expressing sympathy for the relegation plight of Hearts and Partick Thistle – with Stranraer also dropping down a league – Dons chairman Cormack pointed to more pressing matters than reconstruction.
He said: “The strong feeling of the group was that we must focus all of our energies on emerging from the crisis we face due to the pandemic, on getting back to playing football safely and getting fans back into grounds as soon as practicably possible.
“Whilst the group sympathises with the plight of the situation the relegated teams are faced with, it concluded that this is not the right time to consider immediate reconstruction in the midst of a crisis.
“But the group is willing to engage in and pick up on these discussions once we are through Covid-19.
“The group plans to meet again next week to fully focus on how we get through the financial crisis caused by the pandemic.”
Last night’s decision by the Premiership clubs could also impact on Tuesday’s EGM, where all 42 senior teams will be asked to vote on a Rangers resolution seeking an independent investigation into the Hampden chiefs’ handling of the vote to end the season.
Celtic, of course, are waiting to hear if they are to be awarded their ninth successive title following the SPFL’s decision to hand championships to Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers in their respective divisions.
The Hoops were sitting at the pinnacle of the Premiership, 13 points clear of Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit with eight games to play before football went into cold storage.