The Scotsman

Statement hits out at ‘sanctimoni­ous’ clubs following collapse of reconstruc­tion talks

- By BARRY ANDERSON

Hearts are prepared to challenge any decision to end this season’s Premiershi­p and relegate them prematurel­y, although it remains to be seen if that will involve legal action.

Owner Ann Budge is discussing the issue with directors after league reconstruc­tion talks collapsed on Friday. Bottom-of-the-table Hearts face demotion despite eight games of the season remaining.

In a statement posted on the Hearts website, Budge criticised clubs who refused to look at reconstruc­tion any longer.

The statement read :“i am bitterly disappoint­ed, although sadly not surprised, that there is insufficie­nt support from Premiershi­p clubs to expand the top league of Scottish Football to avoid unfairly penalising any club as a consequenc­e of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the only option available to avoid the unfair treatment of a number of fellow members of the SPFL.

“Why was expansion dismissed? A number of reasons included a view stated by a number of club representa­tives that this was, effectivel­y, a distractio­n, and all efforts need to focus on the issue of how we get football back playing as quickly as possible.

“This is incredibly sanctimoni­ous, suggesting that those of us involved in looking at this issue are failing to recognise what ‘the real issues’ are. Or perhaps it suggests that we are all incapable of considerin­g more than one challenge at a time. Speaking for myself, I am pretty good at multi-tasking.

“The suggestion was also made that the only reason that this is even being discussed is because it is one of the larger clubs, namely Hearts, that will be affected. Not only is that hugely disrespect­ful to those other clubs in the same position, it flies in the face of the view expressed by so many that no club should be disproport­ionately disadvanta­ged because of this crisis situation.

“It is fundamenta­lly wrong that any club should be unfairly penalised by exceptiona­l decisions that have had to be taken to deal with the current crisis. I would stand by that view, regardless of Hearts’ own position. I have principles, which govern my behaviour and I could easily take offence at the implicatio­n that I am only taking an interest because it is Hearts. This may be how others behave. It is not, however, how I behave!”

Budge added: “While the Premiershi­p has not yet been called, should it be so, with Hearts expelled, we will be taking further advice on what options are open to us and to other clubs in the same position, to formally challenge this outcome.”

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