Championship duo confirm support of Hearts in reconstruction plans as ICT chief issues liability warning

Hearts and Partick Thistle have already started their legal challenge

Dunfermline Athletic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle have both confirmed they backed plans to prevent Hearts from suffering relegation to the Championship.

Only 16 of the 42 SPFL member clubs supported permanent league reconstruction to a 14-10-10-10 structure.

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The revamp would have seen Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts promoted into the league as Highland and Lowland League champions, while keeping Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer in the Premiership, Championship and League One respectively.

Dunfermline and Inverness backed league reconstruction. Picture: SNSDunfermline and Inverness backed league reconstruction. Picture: SNS
Dunfermline and Inverness backed league reconstruction. Picture: SNS

Due to the lack of support the SPFL Board “agreed to draw a line under reconstruction talks” on Monday.

Since the decision was made Hearts and Partick Thistle have launched a joint challenge, lodging papers at Edinburgh’s Court of Session on Wednesday to begin a civil case against the SPFL.

They want either the relegations overturned or compensation totalling £10million.

In addition, some Hearts fans have made it known they would be boycotting away games next season with the possible exception of Inverness.

The Highlanders were one of the teams to back league reconstruction.

Surprised by lack of support

Ross Morrison, ICT chairman, said: “We have said our piece on most of the off the field problems our game has faced since the ill-advised SPFL resolution in April which saw three of our fellow clubs unfairly condemned to a lower division. We have consistently advocated that no club should suffer any additional hardship due to Covid-19. We never wavered in this view but we live in a democracy and as the body of the kirk did not agree with us, we have to abide by the decision of the majority. We feel we can hold our heads up in the knowledge that we tried to do the right thing, however stressful that was.”

The confirmation of their stance came on the same day Dunfermline chairman Ross McArthur railed against media reports that the Pars had voted against league reconstruction.

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In a statement, he made it known the club back reconstruction and have tried to support Hearts and Ann Budge as much as they could.

“Once again, it is very disappointing that our club appears to have been conveniently targeted by those who wish to spread misinformation on social media,” it read. “This has subsequently resulted in a number of things happening today which are extremely regrettable.

“The DAFC Board were unanimous in voting in favour of both of the recent resolutions relating to reconstruction. We stated that we would support Ann Budge’s plan to increase the Premiership to 14 clubs, but the idea of having a 14-10-10-10 split would also allow the pyramid to be maintained, to allow our friends at Kelty Hearts, along with Brora Rangers to join the SPFL.

“It was our view that this would provide the most equitable resolution to the issue of promotion and relegation, in the best interests of Scottish football. We were very surprised by the lack of support on Monday, but have to accept it is a members decision.

“Despite what others might be trying to suggest, I have tried to be as supportive as I could be towards Ann [Budge], in a very challenging situation, and respectful of Heart of Midlothian as a football club.”

Sporting integrity

In recent days, League One duo Forfar Athletic and Peterhead have also confirmed their support of league reconstruction.

“We could not vote through any proposal that was going to punish clubs in the middle of this pandemic,” said Peterhead chairman Rodger Morrison.

“I felt that there was enough sporting integrity, and indeed goodwill, in the football ranks to make sure that the pain everyone is feeling just now was not amplified.”

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“We voted for the change and I still believe that it was the right thing to do however not enough clubs felt the same and I find that really hard.”

Inverness chair Morrison, in an update to fans, also noted that certain projects at the club have been put on hold due to “uncertainty related to the SPFL finances and liabilities”.

The SPFL face a bill of around £2.5million to BT Sport in compensation for games missed following the early termination of the 2019/20 season. It follows an agreement with Sky Sports, while BBC are set to seek their own compensation.

Morrison said: “Due to the current financial uncertainty related to the SPFL finances and liabilities, our Chief Executive and I have put a hold on certain aspects of the club’s development plans while we evaluate what we can practically afford to do, that won’t put the long term viability of the club at risk but believe me, the future of the club has to be our priority at the moment.”

He also spoke of his delight that manager John Robertson had signed a new deal with Inverness until 2023.

“I will end with a bit of great news by saying that we are all thrilled that manager John Robertson has agreed a new contract with the club,” Morrison said. “John lost his chance to take us back up into the Premiership when the pandemic struck but with your support, we can give him sufficient backing to make sure that we have the best possible chance to return to the Premiership next season.”