Did you know we were in the football courts?
No, of course not because we weren’t. Instead there were two verdicts handed down in separate hearings in France and Belgium which apparently impact on us.
Except that neither of them actually does impact on us.
These were in relation to those leagues ending early, and the verdicts in both were surprising in that they over-turned the decision the leagues had made vis-à-vis relegation. This is what Hearts and Thistle wanted to see. This, some think, puts them on course for getting their own relegations reversed in Scotland. But the devil is in the details.
Let’s start with Belgium where the mess is absolutely epic. Their decision to end the top flight early was a landmark moment. UEFA stepped in and then stepped back. They have since accepted that the Belgian league had the right to act as it did.
Earlier this week, there was a shock as their local court of arbitration for sport overturned the decision. An initial reading of the 150-page verdict seemed to suggest that every decision made by their football authorities – including giving Brugge the title – had been reversed as well, pending another vote by the clubs. What an almighty shambles they made of it.
But the initial read-out was wrong. Promotion still looks like it will happen. Relegation is the only thing that’s being reversed, and the reason why it’s been reversed is that, bizarrely, the Belgian league is still doing promotion play-offs … work that one out if you can.
What’s clear is that Belgian football has degenerated into an utter shambles, and the whole thing is going back to the clubs again … the clubs which already voted, as we did, to end the campaign, to confirm the placings as they were and which, like here in Scotland, also ruled out a form of league reconstruction that would have changed the equation.
None of it is in any way relevant to Scottish football. Belgian football’s league system is a complex mess which makes the SPL split look like the pinnacle of sanity. It is unclear where it’s all going to end up, but don’t be surprised if there’s a twist or two to come.
In France, the situation is, if possible, even more chaotic. You see, in France the league answers to the football federation. And the football federation answers to the Minister of Sport, and the government. And for the past two months football and government have been bickering over who, and how, the decision to end the season was taken.
As in Belgium, the idea of league reconstruction was mooted so that no team would unduly suffer. It was roundly rejected by the governing body. That, at least, we know. It’s just not readily apparent that the football federation was in control.
By this week the whole thing was in meltdown. The league bodies wanted the leagues to resume, but the government said no. The players said no. The TV companies said that they weren’t interested in showing games when most of the key issues were decided and their own deals were coming to an end. A new TV contract is due to start with the next campaign and all the key stakeholders had already decided to prioritise that over a deal that was just about dead.
The highest administrative court in France declared the relegations illegal … but here’s the crucial thing; they agreed that the decision to terminate the season was legally sound and did not overturn it nor any of the other outcomes determined by it.
And that’s the thing; Sevconia is celebrating this but doesn’t know why.
For openers, both of the leagues in question have any number of questions to answer over the way the decisions were made.
There are circumstances unique to both which are unlike any we have to deal with here in Scotland. Nobody was hastily re-writing the rulebook as seems to have happened in Belgium, and the situation in France is shambolic if we’re being generous.
Of critical importance is the idea that both federations have been told to re-examine the issue of league reconstruction.
Like with Scotland, they have published the fixture lists already.
In France, the federation’s executive can, theoretically, push a change like that through.
I don’t know if that’s the case in Belgium, but here that issue cannot be made by executive fiat and has to be agreed up on by the clubs and the clubs have voted overwhelmingly against it several times already this summer.
No verdict which sent this back to them again would have any hope of a successful outcome; indeed, many clubs who may have once supported this cause would probably resent having to go over it again and vote it down on a point of principle.
In France there is no “firewall” protection for the leagues as a “members club” with their own private rules and regulations.
There are in Scotland and England and in most other European countries.
In short, the league bodies cannot be compelled to take decisions that the members don’t agree with and on the subject of reconstruction that one’s pretty much made.
If relegation is halted, and the clubs won’t vote in favour of reconstruction, then two options remain; promotion can be suspended, which would trigger its own legal challenges and would be one of the most grotesquely unfair outcomes I can imagine, or compensation can be paid to the teams who have allegedly been hard done by.
Nobody can argue that we should suspend relegation because of the unfairness of it whilst also arguing to deny promotion. What about the unfairness of that? It’s the argument the handful of clowns who supported voiding the league were never able to successfully get around; how is it better and fairer that instead of impacting on a small number of clubs that we impact on all of them? How is that more in line with sporting integrity than what we’ve done?
Those clubs who have had successful campaigns have earned the rewards for them, it’s as simple as that, and at the core of Sevco’s support for Hearts and Thistle’s court action you find a motive that has nothing to do with those sides or their plight.
These people want to unravel the whole of the last campaign, and see nine in a row declared void. But neither of those verdicts helps their case in any way. Neither of the league champions will see their titles set aside. The real case in point is Lyon, who dropped from 5th place in the table to 7th when the average points system was applied in France. They failed in their bid to over-turn that … the French court has upheld the decision the league made on that one.
Sevconia pretends to care about the integrity of the sport, but their objectives here are all about narrow self-interest and their desperation to halt the procession towards ten by any means they can. They will fail as they failed on the pitch.
Taking everything into consideration, even in the best case scenario for them here – one where Hearts and Thistle win at the SFA review – is that the panel agrees that relegation was unfair. As I don’t see any way it can be reversed or changed that panel will agree that they are due compensation … and some of that money will come out of Sevco’s own coffers.
Their supporters are banging the drum for an action which can only bring their club harm. They are so poisoned by their hatred of the other clubs, the league body itself and the state they find themselves in that they refuse to acknowledge that.
You think you’ve seen everything from them and then you see this.
As I’ve said before, these are the rivals every club wishes it had.
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