Radio Scotland have done it right for once. I can’t believe I’m writing that.
Instead of relying on the usual, pig-ignorant, “expert opinions” of the likes of Tom English, who I wouldn’t bet on winning Mastermind if “Tom English” was the specialised subject, they decided that when it came to explaining what the verdict in the Hearts-Thistle case meant that they would go out and find an actual expert instead.
You could almost feel the weight of reality pressing down on them.
You could almost hear it in their voices as they struggled to embrace what he was saying.
Over in Sevconia they haven’t embraced it at all. They still believe what they want to.
But elsewhere, the hard truth of it was finally dawning on people. It was starting to sink in. What the two clubs are involved in here is not some gallant crusade for justice; it’s a kamikaze course of action which might yet have a dramatic, and disastrous, impact on the sport.
This is no longer a joke, or some jolly adventure the game here is on.
We have a provisional re-start date. Clubs are preparing for the coming campaign. Many of them are making necessary cuts so that they can stay afloat. Anything that derails or delays the start of the season, or which takes money out of their coffers, will be most unwelcome.
And on top of that, several clubs are preparing for their seasons, fully expecting to be in a higher division than last year. They have budgeted accordingly.
The decision by those two clubs to take this matter to the courts has ended as it was always going to; with the thing referred back to football, where it will be dealt with by an SFA appointed panel. The judge does not want it decided by “football people” but by those with a respect for the law; that’s a crucial pointer here, and I doubt it’s good news for the two clubs.
Nevertheless, it is being spun that way.
But those doing the spinning, most of them in the mainstream press, seem to have forgotten one important detail.
The SPFL held its own independent inquiry to make sure the vote was legally watertight. Sevconia might have placed a lot of stock in the precise time at which votes arrived, but the SPFL’s legal eagles scrutinised it all and said “we’re golden, so no need to worry here.”
It is easy to dismiss their internal investigation as an irrelevance, as the media has done, but in fact it was simply them asking their lawyers to take a look at all the materials which related to the vote and to come back with a report on whether it was kosher or not … and they agreed that it was.
Hearts can ask for all the documents they want … it’s nothing the SPFL in-house council hasn’t already seen and signed off on. Dundee’s own directors have explained this whole matter, so it really doesn’t matter what the two clubs involved in the suit believe.
The legal expert Radio Scotland called delivered the really bad news though; this is, as I suspected a final port of call for the case.
Breaking it down in a way that no-one could mistake, he first crushed the idea that this matter may yet be reverted back to the courts, by pointing out – as I said yesterday – that arbitration is not mediation … this isn’t the league equivalent of Couple’s Counselling here.
The panel will make a decision and that decision is final.
Sevconuts have been clinging to this idea that “arbitration” means that Hearts and Thistle have to agree with what the panel decides, or it’s back to court they go; this was a nonsense, and the expert demolished that hope completely yesterday when he pointed out that not only will the panel make a decision but there won’t even be a right of appeal.
On BBC Scotland the absolute truth of that sunk in hard. They understand exactly what that means; a negative result for the SPFL will derail everyone’s plans for next season and spark fury from the clubs which have been denied promotion. This is why reversing the relegation is not going to happen, even in the best case scenario for the two clubs.
If it did, oh what a can of worms that would open. At that point, Dundee Utd and others might raise a wholly separate case, and the precedent of the successful vote of the other clubs would be on their side. CAS would almost certainly have to hear it before the season started … or we’d be delayed and everything would be up in the air.
As I said, because all parties would technically be bound by the panel’s decision Dundee Utd and others would have to fight a bloody war of attrition to get heard at all … when the SPFL published the fixture list they are pretty much setting next season in stone.
Hearts will get relegated; I see no way that’s not going to happen.
No, it’s the possibility of the SPFL having to pay out millions of pounds that is really sinking in … no longer an abstract concept, the question of who can afford to pay if it comes to that is suddenly real and present and looming large.
Sevco fans appear not to realise that their own club is part of the SPFL collective, and that they will lose money out of this. They don’t realise that if the season is delayed that will be devastating for their own team. At least the reality, and seriousness, of this has sunk in at the BBC even if Sevconia is yet to grasp it in full.
This matter is almost at an end. With the SPFL’s legal team having told them they are on solid ground and the governing body’s own regulations supporting the course of action taken, with Dundee having explained themselves fully and said that they had sought to change their vote anyway, I don’t see that this petition has a hope in Hell of succeeding.
Sevconia is watching to see how the panel is chosen; that, too, was answered on the BBC show. It will be chosen from an approved list of SFA adjudicators … that has already raised the hackles in La La Land and, you wait and see, will form the basis of the next conspiracy theory.
It doesn’t matter; this has gone, so far, in almost wholly the way the sane people said that it would and it doesn’t matter how many of the hacks hanker for the destruction of the SPFL executive or how many think it would be a good idea.
Neither of those things is going to happen.
I suspect that Hearts relegation, and that of Thistle, will be confirmed.
The SPFL will be found to have acted within its own rules.
The clubs’ vote will stand.
The final report may be excoriating for certain individuals from a PR standpoint but nobody is going to resign and nobody is going to get fired over it either.
Because I cannot write this enough times; the governing bodies followed the rulebook here.
Even Dundee changing their vote was allowed.
Lobbying went on, but then it’s supposed to go on if the executive wants a motion passed.
Everything else is hot air … and in Sevconia they continue to produce vast quantities of it, to no gain whatsoever.
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