The backlash against Thistle and Hearts has begun, with a number of other club chairmen having briefed the media that they are furious over the legal claim and its alleged size, with some even saying they’d support both clubs being kicked out of the league.
It won’t come to that, but both sides are facing a mammoth fine and, I suspect, being banned from the Scottish Cup at the very least. A transfer embargo might follow as well, and it should. Indeed, short of with-holding their registrations, I don’t think the SFA – who will make the decision because UEFA will force them to – should be restrained.
Every club which makes up the SPFL knows what the big “no-no’s” are here, and going outside of football to the civilian courts is one of them. Threatening the rest of the game in the manner they have is simply not on and it has to come with an appropriate response.
Some parts of the media are backing this lunacy, of course, because they reckon there’s a chance to see Celtic’s ninth title whipped out from under us. After all, if Hearts and Thistle want to block teams from being promoted then they’re coming after us too.
But there are things here which shouldn’t be forgotten.
One of them is that the Scottish Government brought football to an end, not the SPFL, and they will ultimately decide if it re-starts in August and in what form.
The second thing to remember – and this is the hard part for some folk to get their heads around – is that the SPFL is simply following its own rules here.
This really is tough for a lot of people to understand, but it shouldn’t be.
Those of us who wanted to see Sevco start in Division Three were furious at the SPL and SFL because they wanted to torch their own rulebook to put them somewhere else. Whatever some folk believe, had the rulebook said that the season must be voided we’d have had to go along with that … but in fact, what it does is outlines exactly what should happen in circumstances like these.
The so-called “fight for justice” at these two clubs is a sham. Justice has been done. The rulebook has been followed. And the verdict isn’t harsh on either club either, not even on Thistle, who are two points behind the club above them but have a game in hand.
Whose fault is that? Whose fault is it that Thistle has won six league matches out of twenty-seven? That club has been grotesquely mismanaged, and that, I’m afraid, comes down to decisions taken inside their own walls.
How convenient now to be able to demand a Get Out Of Jail Free card and blame the rest of Scottish football for their plight? Where’s the evidence that they would have turned things around, having lost thirteen games and with a goal difference of minus fifteen?
They started the season with Gary Caldwell as manager; his win ratio at Chesterfield was 10%. What exactly did they expect to happen there? Their next appointment was Ian MCall, one of those guys in Scottish football who the press seems to love but who has a habit of leading teams to relegation. Those kind of appointments get you what you deserve.
And the state of Hearts is the fault of one person; Ann Budge. Her management of that club has been catastrophic. The decision to let Levein basically sack the manager and take his place himself was but one example of egotism run amuck and her complete lack of foresight.
Once again, how fortunate that she can turn this close-season into a battle against so-called bad governance and the unfairness of the meritocracy. Hearts has won four league games out of thirty. Their goal difference is minus twenty-one. They looked as doomed as any team I’ve ever watched in the top flight.
Hilariously, their two best results of the season were against Sevco, which should tell you how out of his depth Gerrard actually is.
Had the global health crisis not hit, this summer would have been a time of reckoning at both clubs and their boards would have been under immense pressure to answer for their disastrous campaigns. How good it must be to have escaped that scrutiny, to be able to focus attention somewhere else, and play the victim card with the support of the press.
This is not a fight for justice, it’s a chance to evade scrutiny.
It’s a chance to leverage a worldwide crisis for their own benefit instead of taking the medicine that’s coming their way.
All they’ve done here is ensure that there will be more consequences to come, for them and for the rest of the game.
If they play their ultimate card and try and delay the start of the campaign they are going to create conditions for a perfect storm, and if the SFA doesn’t deal robustly with both of them then what’ll happen next is that other clubs will consider suing Hearts and Thistle themselves … and sponsors and TV companies and others will undoubtedly follow suit.
This does not have a happy ending, whatever they might think.
But I reckon those running those clubs no longer really care about that.
They are focussed on survival, their own personal survival, and escaping the kind of attention from their own fans which would torch that.
I cannot muster one iota of sympathy for either club or the position they are in.
And what little sympathy existed elsewhere is draining away fast as they pull out their guns and stick them in the faces of other club chairmen, and the whole game.
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