Saturday, May 25, 2024

COVID-19: Scottish League Voting On Season End

The Scottish League is rocking with claims, consternation and accusations set to echo as Scottish clubs prepare to vote on the preferred way to end the season, with Celtic set to be declared Champions and Hearts preparing to be relegated.

The standing proposal for Premiership, Championship, League One and League Two clubs is that the season standings are decided on average points per game. This would mean that, for example, Dundee United would be promoted to the Premiership.

The knock on effects for the top league are that Celtic would be declared Champions, and that Hearts would be relegated. This would be financial disaster for Hearts, and their plans to hand over the club to the fans.

A number of clubs have indicated that they wouldn’t support this proposal, including Hearts, Rangers and Partick Thistle, among a few others.

While Celtic have yet to make a public statement, it’s understood that they are broadly supportive of the current plans.

Not All Scottish League Clubs Agree

Ann Budge, the owner of Hearts, has been particularly vocal about the prospect of a vote that would consign her team to relegation.

Scottish league team owner Ann Budge
Ann Budge, owner of Hearts

She said: “I’ve talked to a number of clubs in the Premiership and I’ve talked to a number of clubs in the Championship; I haven’t talked to League One and League Two clubs, because I haven’t got the ready contacts, if you like.”

“And I don’t believe this will be supported.”

Scottish League Board Member Stewart Robertson
Stewart Robertson of Rangers, who is a member of the SPFL Board.

Rangers have also submitted alternative proposals that would see clubs being advanced prize money to keep them going while looking to complete the season, which seems to also have been rejected on a legal technicality. They have said that they’ll re-submit this proposal for clubs to vote on.

There is reasonable prospects of some clubs bringing legal challenges should the current “average points” proposal come to pass

There is certainly much discussion – most of which is focussed on clubs who may be relegated despite having a number of games to play. There is reasonable prospects of some clubs bringing legal challenges should the current “average points” proposal come to pass, and these sorts of actions have reasonable prospects of causing disruption.

The vote for the lower leagues has a deadline of Friday 10th April at 17:00 BST, and failure to vote down the resolution to terminate the lower leagues season would be ominous for the Gorgie club.

While there are no immediate plans to call a halt to the Premiership, there is provision to do so at a later date, and that decision would also utilise the points-per-game metric, consigning Hearts to the second tier unless they can find a consensus for league reconstruction.

Failure to agree a timetable or a plan moving forward would call in to doubt the viability of many clubs, particularly in the Premiership and Championship – many of these clubs are fully reliant on the prize money at this stage of the season to keep going, not to mention to loss of valuable gate receipts and potential TV money.

The picture at the top of most leagues is reasonably clear cut, most teams with the exception of League One have a comfortable lead at the top, and so in principle even the most hard core of fans wouldn’t totally have a problem with titles being awarded – but for clubs who are facing real cuts and real job losses as a result of relegation, this situation is far from clear, and is, to many, massively unfair and aribitrary.

For me, at least, I’d want to ensure that real people don’t lose jobs. I’d be in favour of at least the prize money being distributed on the standings as of now, and a decision being made closer to June on ending the season, and how that might look like.

However, others will argue as players’ contracts come to an end, combined with other clubs’ decision to furlough players and staff, that the season has effectively ended.

There is merit in both arguments, and that is at the heart of the current debate – we’ll see what gets decided!

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