Former Hearts chairman urges SPFL to reveal vote details

Leslie Deans fears something ‘sinister’ could be at play as reconstruction bid fails

Former Hearts chairman Leslie Deans says the club could delay the entire Premiership season. Picture: Gareth Easton
Former Hearts chairman Leslie Deans says the club could delay the entire Premiership season. Picture: Gareth Easton

Former Hearts chairman Leslie Deans has urged the SPFL to release details of who voted for what after the latest league reconstruction plan fell to a resounding defeat yesterday.

Despite some indications that clubs were prepared to consider a 14-10-10-10 format, which would spare Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer from relegation, the proposal was defeated by a margin of 26-16 in an indicative vote.

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Under the SPFL’s voting format, 
the resolution would require the minimum backing of 11 of the 12 Premiership clubs, six of the ten Championship clubs and 15 of the 20 League 1 and 2 clubs combined. But it did not get near to achieving these percentages yesterday, with the result that the SPFL board has now agreed to “draw a line under reconstruction talks”.

This was not what Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer had wanted to hear, nor Brora Rangers or Kelty
Hearts, who are thus condemned to another season in the Highland League and Lowland League respectively.

Deans composed an open letter published yesterday in which he called for the SPFL board to use their executive power to force through change even if the proposal had been backed by a simple majority of more than 21 clubs. This was something he claimed was within their rights to do. But in the final analysis support fell far short of even this total.

Deans has expressed his surprise at this outcome, which SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said provided “absolute clarity”. The former Hearts chairman has now called for more information to be released.

“In very simple terms I was privately expecting the vote to be somewhere between 25 and 30 in favour of the motion,” said Deans. “In other words we were going to fail but by the narrowest of margins. At which point I had publicly called for the board to exercise their executive powers and call for reconstruction.

“They have said it was 26-16. I would like the SPFL to come out and specify who exactly voted yes and who voted no. After all, we live in a democracy. It is not North Korea. It is Great Britain. So let’s get the details.”

“It does not quite sit perfectly with me what has been released today,” he added. “Other things have come out from the SPFL in the past that have, let us say, been economical with the truth. So let’s just nail this one and see exactly what was what.

“Does it mean some clubs have spoken with forked tongue, saying yes when they meant no, saying black when they meant white? Or is there something more sinister at play? Well, let’s get the answer.”

Deans, a solicitor, fully backs Hearts’ legal challenge, which owner
Ann Budge confirmed yesterday was already in process.

“The club have very clearly announced their intention,” he said. “The verdict is utterly disgraceful. It is scandalous. Hearts are the only top-flight club in the whole of Europe to be relegated on an incomplete season – the English, Spanish, Italian and Germans have all re-started.

“We have seen the results in Belgium
and in France, where the Belgium competition and markets authority
and the French Supreme Court kicked relegation into touch, saying no, you cannot do that.

“Only in Scotland do we choose to relegate a club on an incomplete season and, even worse, a club, namely
Partick Thistle, who were only behind because they had cancelled a game for a cup-tie the previous week. It actually beggars belief. But that is where we are at.”

Deans believes there is a very real prospect of Hearts delaying the start of the Premiership season, which is currently scheduled to begin on the first weekend in August, as they seek to secure compensation.

“If the action is raised before the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court, it would be competent to ask the court to grant an interim interdict, which, if it was granted, would have the effect of preventing the season from starting without Hearts.”

“There is no guarantee that it would be granted,” he added. “The decision is for the court. The test that is normally applied is the balance of probability.

“It would be for the court to decide. If that was granted, there are all sorts of ramifications. Would that cause Uefa to get involved. Would they exercise their powers, even to the extreme end of suspending the participation of Scottish clubs in European competition until the league irregularities issue is resolved?

“Even if that did not happen and an interim interdict is granted how would Scottish clubs fare in Europe when they have had no competitive matches in advance?

“That is not Hearts’ fault, that is a bi-product of the court’s decision if they make a decision in favour of Hearts.”

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