Hearts and Partick Thistle insist they harbour no regrets about taking the Scottish Professional Football League to court despite today’s arbitration verdict.
An independent three-person panel dismissed the clubs’ appeal to have relegations from last season overturned, and refused to award any compensation.
That left Hearts and Thistle angry and they issued a joint statement stating they were unrepentant about initially petitioning the Court of Session, which in turn referred the matter for arbitration.
The statement read: “As all parties have been requested not to comment on the tribunal’s decision or reveal details of the hearings on the grounds of confidentiality, all we can only say is how disappointed and surprised we are at the outcome.
“We don’t regret taking this action as it was the right thing for us to do. There were better ways to deal with ending the season, fairer ways other than putting the burden of a pandemic on to three clubs.”
Hearts and Thistle launched a joint legal case against the SPFL after April’s vote to end the 2019/20 campaign early based on average points per game.
The poll hinged on Dundee after the SPFL published results before all votes were in, with the Tayside club allowed to change what became the casting vote from ‘no’ to ‘yes’.
The decision relegated Hearts, Partick and Stranraer, with play-offs cancelled and promotion from the football pyramid below the SPFL also stopped without agreement.
Hearts and Thistle petitioned the Court of Session claiming relegations were unlawful and that rules were changed by the SPFL. They argued that Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers should not be promoted, either.
However, Lord Alistair Clark QC referred the matter to arbitration as per Scottish Football Association rules on football disputes. An independent panel spent several days hearing submissions from both sides before reaching its conclusion.
Part of the tribunal verdict read: “The tribunal appointed in terms of Scottish Football Association Article 99 issued its decision today.
“It unanimously held that the challenges to the Written Resolution of 15 April 2020 failed, and that the SPFL were entitled to pass, and give effect to, the Written Resolution and all that flowed from it.
“Accordingly it refused to grant any of the orders sought by Heart of Midlothian FC and Partick Thistle FC and continued the arbitration for submissions about expenses.”
In an additional message to their supporters, the Partick chair Jacqui Low said: “The last four months have been an emotional rollercoaster for all of us who are part of the Partick Thistle family.
“No-one expected a pandemic on the scale that hit the country in March. It’s been difficult at times to feel that football was important in the face of so much loss.
“But we could not ignore what was happening. Relegation isn’t just about what league you play in. It’s about everyone who plays for us, the staff who work at the club, our partners and sponsors, volunteers and, most importantly, our fans.
“With a 144-year history, we had a responsibility to ensure that if there was a chance to overturn an unfair situation, we had to do all we could.
“At every turn, we tried our best to get involved positively to ensure that no club would be left worse off as a result of an early end to the season. We tried to find a way through by making our views clear but decently and respectfully.
“Having exhausted every avenue, when we were presented with the opportunity to join with Hearts to fight this injustice, at no cost to the club, we took it. But it was not to be.
“So we draw a line, we have taken the fight to its conclusion. Our sole focus and our energy is now on the season ahead. Our key word for the year ahead is “success” not ‘survival’.
“The Board has already approved a financially responsible and balanced budget for season 2020/21 that gives the manager what he asked for to achieve everyone’s desire for an immediate return to the Championship. The fightback has started.
“But I ask everyone associated with Thistle to never forget today. To never forget how it feels to be relegated unfairly.
“To never forget that there are many good decent people and clubs in Scotland who stood with us, publicly and privately – but there are some whose fear and self-interest got in the way of doing the right thing.
“The Board, CEO and I are grateful for the unwavering support as we have navigated our way through this crisis. This is now a defining moment in our history, it’s time to stand together and make season 2020/21 a winning one regardless of what the rest of football says or does.
“We have every right to be angry. So let’s use that anger as the fuel that drives our campaign in 2020/21. This is now about Thistle, no-one else. Our fate and our success once again lies in our own hands and our hands only.”
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