The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
WARZONE: Embattled clubs have fought among themselves since the Scottish seasons were called off – legal action from Hearts and Partick Thistle is just the latest episode of the sorry affair
Just more than a hundred days have passed since the worst health crisis in living memory forced the suspension of Scottish football.
Since that decision on March 13, the Scottish Professional Football League has appeared intent on ripping itself apart.
The pandemic has impacted every business in the country and Scottish football is no exception.
Further evidence of the financial difficulties facing Scottish clubs emerged in recent days.
Aberdeen have entered into discussions with players and management over wage cuts with chairman Dave Cormack predicting the crisis to cost the club £10 million.
Hibernian have begun a consultation period over wage cuts, potential jobs losses and whether they will be able to maintain their youth academy.
Dundee’s managing director John Nelms admitted his club are facing some tough choices as they wait for a truncated Championship season to begin in October.
At this period in time more than ever, Scottish football needed its clubs to unite and work together for the greater good to ensure all 42 member clubs survive this unprecedented situation.
Instead, the game appears more divided than ever with the gloomy prospect of a courtroom battle to determine the fates of Hearts and Partick Thistle on the horizon.
Last Monday’s indicative vote on a permanent change to a 14-10-10-10 structure appeared to be the last throw of the reconstruction dice but only 16 of the 42 clubs chose to support the motion.
Hearts and Partick feel they have been harshly treated to suffer relegation following an incomplete season and most observers will be sympathetic to their plight, particularly Thistle, who were two points adrift with a game in hand.
But the two clubs aren’t going down without a fight and opted for the nuclear option by lodging a petition with the Court of Session.
“Hearts and Partick feel they have been harshly treated to be relegated”
This was, in some ways, a surprising move given that Hearts owner Ann Budge had insisted in April that her club would accept relegation “if that is what the community of football clubs believe is right”.
Partick have also made a U-turn on their stance, having initially said they would not take the matter to court if they were relegated.
But their decision to serve legal papers to the three title-winners – Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers – in a bid to scrap promotion and relegation leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It has also plunged those three clubs into uncertainty.
Hearts and Partick Thistle are seeking £10m compensation and the best-case scenario may be for the SPFL clubs to agree enhanced parachute payments to mitigate the financial damage suffered by the Jambos and Jags as well as Stranraer, who were demoted to League 2.
The worst-case scenario? It doesn’t bear thinking about.