Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers have geared up for a legal battle with Hearts and Partick Thistle.
The three clubs, who won their respective divisions and consequently secured promotion, have been served with a petition lodged in the Court of Session by Hearts and Thistle who are fighting against the decision to relegate them when the season was halted early.
United, Raith and Cove claim that, if successful, Hearts and Partick’s legal action could prevent the three clubs’ promotions, and “potentially have catastrophic financial implications for every SPFL member club as well”.
Hearts and Partick want reinstatement to the leagues they played in last season – the Premiership and Championship respectively – and if the court reject that appeal they want compensation.
Hearts are claiming £8 million and Thistle £2 million.
In response, the three league winners have now instructed lawyers to act on their behalf and have vowed to robustly defend their position.
A joint statement from United, Raith and Cove said: “On Wednesday 17th June 2020 Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers were served with a petition lodged in the Court of Session by fellow SPFL member clubs, Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle which, if successful, could prevent our clubs’ promotions, and potentially have catastrophic financial implications for every SPFL member club as well.
“Whilst we are extremely unhappy that we have been drawn into this legal action, we can confirm that we immediately instructed external lawyers to act on our behalf and to protect our clubs’ interests. Since the SPFL resolution was passed by 81% of member clubs on 15th April 2020, which confirmed us all as title winners who were to be promoted, we have undertaken extensive and costly preparations for a new season in new leagues, including obtaining major financial commitments from our supporters, business partners and stakeholders. Our removal from those leagues would be ruinous on and off the field.
“We have each had a highly successful season, brought to a premature end by something bigger than our clubs and bigger than our sport. Our status as champions of our respective leagues is not being contested, and nor should the promotion which has always, and should always, come with it.
“The legal action that has been raised by Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle not only threatens the financial stability of the SPFL, but also its individual member clubs.
“For all of these reasons, we must and will robustly defend our position.
“As legal proceedings are now underway, we intend to make no further comment on the matter at this time.”