Hearts continue to mull legal options as SPFL ends Premiership season

Liam Boyce of Hearts goes down with an injury during the Scottish Premiership match between Hearts and Hamilton (by Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) has concluded the 2019-20 Premiership season, with relegated Heart of Midlothian still hoping for a reprieve amid potential reconstruction plans for the top tier of the domestic game.

The SPFL made its decision in consultation with all 12 top-flight clubs, granting Celtic the title for the ninth consecutive season. As with the Championship, League One and League Two competitions, which were called off last month, final season placings have been determined by points per game in league matches played to March 13, when the campaign was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Celtic were 13 points clear of nearest challenger, Glasgow rival Rangers, when the season was suspended, having played one game more. SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “This decision now enables us to pay out around £7m [€7.8m/$8.6m] in fees to help clubs stay afloat during this incredibly difficult time. We will begin processing these payments immediately.

“The focus of all those involved in the game will now turn to how we get football up and running again safely as soon as possible.  Next season’s Betfred Cup first round group stage is scheduled to begin in mid-July, with coverage from Premier Sports. The 2020-21 League Season in all four of our divisions is due to commence on August 1, which coincides with the start of our new and exclusive five-year broadcasting deal with Sky Sports.”

Hearts were four points behind Hamilton Academical at the foot of the table, with a possible 24 points left to play for.

Hearts chair Ann Budge had been given approval to work on a plan for temporary league restructuring, which would involve expanding the Premiership. This would grant Hearts a potential lifeline but appears increasingly unlikely and the club has underlined its intention to challenge relegation if it is enforced.

A club statement read: “We have stated from the outset that we don’t believe it is right that any club should be unfairly penalised because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was previously indicated that league reconstruction would not generate enough support to pass a vote between member clubs. In recent days a number of positive talks have been held with both the SPFL and member clubs and this topic is currently being revisited.

“Hearts will shortly submit a member’s resolution that we believe is a pragmatic solution to the issues the game currently faces and a way forward that the clubs can unite behind. It is our belief that this resolution, if supported, will provide an opportunity to avoid disproportionately disadvantaging – financially and otherwise – any club…

“…as previously intimated the club has been taking legal advice throughout this process and are continuing to do so. We hope that the resolution being prepared will avoid the need to go down this route. Legal action would be both time consuming and expensive. However, the cost to the club of relegation would outweigh these considerations.”

French Ligue 1 football club Amiens SC recently readied itself for legal action over its relegation from the top-tier competition.