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‘SHAMEFUL’: HEARTS LAUNCH ATTACK ON SPFL

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HEARTS owner Ann Budge has launched a bitter attack on the SPFL and rival clubs after the legal challenge from the Tynecastle club and Partick Thistle against their relegation had been dismissed.

The Edinburgh outfit  and the Firhill side had fought their corner after the football league bosses decreed their fate when the decision was taken to halt football in mid-March and bring the curtain down on last season in May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Budge’s side were four points adrift of Hamilton Accies when the top flight was halted and the decision was made to demote them while awarding a ninth successive title to Celtic.

The businesswoman described the decision to decide final placings on a points-per-game basis and relegated Hearts, Partick and Stranraer as “shameful”, despite the panel unanimously agreeing the SPFL had acted appropriately.

The club supremo then took aim at opposing clubs and fellow-owners for standing by and allowing the “unfairness” to happen and for doing nothing to address the “lack or leadership” and “lack of commercialism” in the Scottish game.

In a statement on the official Hearts website, she said: “The SFA Arbitration Panel has found against us in our “unfair prejudice” challenge, following the relegation of Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer, as a consequence of the early termination of Season 2019/20.

“For those of us involved throughout this process, sadly once again, we cannot say we are totally surprised at the outcome, despite firmly believing in the power of the arguments and evidence we put forward.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank our legal team, who despite the result, were quite simply first-class. They acknowledged from the outset that this would be an uphill battle, but nonetheless it was a battle we felt we had to fight. We could not simply sit back and accept the unfairness that was being meted out to us.

“What has been allowed to happen in Scottish football, where fellow member clubs and our governing bodies have stood back and allowed totally disproportionate financial damage to be imposed on three of its members, can only be described as shameful – as indeed, should the SPFL’s recent self-congratulatory statement.

“For too long, chairmen and owners have stood on the sidelines bemoaning the decision-making processes, the perceived lack of leadership, the lack of commercialism; the general shortcomings, as they see it, of Scottish football. However, if they really want things to change, it will take more than words. They will have to stand-up and be counted.

“We tried to do just that. Unfortunately, the very fact that we tried and lost, will cause many others to be even more wary. I can hear them now. You can’t fight the rules. You can’t fight the establishment. We must support the centre. Sadly, I see little cause for optimism that things will improve any time soon in Scottish football. I hope I am wrong.”

Budge added: “My rant is over for now. While frustrated, disappointed and angry with much that has gone on over the last four months, we must now move forward.

“We will suffer serious financial losses as a consequence of losing this particular battle, but we will survive and we will come through this stronger than ever. We have suffered a series of blows over recent months, but our spirit has never been stronger. We will continue to run our club with honesty, transparency and integrity. These are the values we have always adhered to and we will continue to keep them front and centre of everything we do.

“We will also lead with strong financial management and importantly, with confidence. We look forward, once again, to celebrating a successful year, culminating in winning the Championship and getting back to where we belong. Robbie (manager Neilson) has done it before and with your support, we can make this a year to remember for the right reasons as well as the wrong.

“I make these statements, confident in the support I know we will have from our incredible fans and sponsors. The messages of support that I, personally, have received throughout this enormously difficult period have been absolutely amazing. Let me say ‘thank you’ to each and every one of you. I am sorry we did not win this battle but as we all know, it is winning the war that counts.”

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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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