Ann Budge has labelled the treatment of relegated clubs as “shameful” but promised Hearts will fight back stronger despite heavy financial losses.
Angry after an independent arbitration panel rejected Hearts’ and Partick Thistle’s attempt to overturn relegations from last season, Budge issued a scathing statement on the Edinburgh club’s website.
She admitted enforced demotion will hit Hearts hard having previously stated they could lose up to £3million spending a season in the Scottish Championship.
She also took aim at the Scottish football hierarchy after the joint case against the Scottish Professional Football League collapsed earlier in the day.
Hearts and Partick initially took legal action arguing relegation was unlawful when last season was cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak – a decision more than 80 per cent of SPFL clubs voted for.
The Court of Session referred the dispute to the Scottish Football Association’s arbitration process. A three-person panel found in favour of the SPFL and dismissed a £10million compensation claim from Hearts and Thistle.
Budge stated her dismay at the outcome and voiced concern that little will change when it comes to the governance of the game in this county.
Her statement on the Hearts website read: “By now, most of you will know that the SFA Arbitration Panel has found against us in our ‘unfair prejudice’ challenge, following the relegation of Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer, as a consequence of the early termination of Season 2019/20.
“For those of us involved throughout this process, sadly once again, we cannot say we are totally surprised at the outcome, despite firmly believing in the power of the arguments and evidence we put forward.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank our legal team, who despite the result, were quite simply first-class. They acknowledged from the outset that this would be an uphill battle, but nonetheless it was a battle we felt we had to fight. We could not simply sit back and accept the unfairness that was being meted out to us.
“What has been allowed to happen in Scottish football, where fellow member clubs and our governing bodies have stood back and allowed totally disproportionate financial damage to be imposed on 3 of its members, can only be described as shameful…. as indeed, should the SPFL’s recent self-congratulatory statement.
“For too long, Chairmen and Owners have stood on the sidelines bemoaning the decision-making processes, the perceived lack of leadership, the lack of commercialism; the general shortcomings, as they see it, of Scottish football. However, if they really want things to change, it will take more than words. They will have to stand-up and be counted.
“We tried to do just that. Unfortunately, the very fact that we tried and lost, will cause many others to be even more wary. I can hear them now... ‘You can’t fight the rules; you can’t fight the establishment; we must support the centre.’
“Sadly, I see little cause for optimism that things will improve any time soon in Scottish football. I hope I am wrong.
“My rant is over for now. While frustrated, disappointed and angry with much that has gone on over the last 4 months, we must now move forward.
“We will suffer serious financial losses as a consequence of losing this particular battle but we will survive and we will come through this stronger than ever. We have suffered a series of blows over recent months, but our spirit has never been stronger.
“We will continue to run our Club with honesty, transparency and integrity. These are the values we have always adhered to and we will continue to keep them front and centre of everything we do.
“We will also lead with strong financial management and importantly, with confidence. We look forward, once again, to celebrating a successful year, culminating in winning the Championship and getting back to where we belong.
"Robbie has done it before and with your support, we can make this a year to remember for the right reasons as well as the wrong.
“I make these statements, confident in the support I know we will have from our incredible fans and sponsors. The messages of support that I, personally, have received throughout this enormously difficult period have been absolutely amazing.
“Let me say “thank you” to each and every one of you. I am sorry we did not win this battle but as we all know, it is winning the war that counts.”
A message from the Editor: Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you. The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our advertisers – and consequently the revenue we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism. Subscribe to the Edinburgh Evening News online and enjoy unlimited access to trusted, fact-checked news and sport from Edinburgh and the Lothians. Visit https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.