Hearts will take the Scottish Professional Football League to court over their enforced relegation from the Premiership.
Ann Budge, owner of the Edinburgh club, confirmed she has taken steps to begin legal proceedings after league reconstruction plans collapsed this morning.
She could sue for upwards of £5million in lost revenue, although Partick Thistle and Stranraer today decided against joining her due to the seven-figure cost of raising a civil case.
All three clubs are upset at being demoted from their respective divisions after more than 80 per cent of SPFL clubs voted to end the 2019/20 campaign early when coronavirus struck.
The SPFL had proposed a 14-10-10-10 restructure which would have spared Hearts, Thistle and Stranraer the drop, but only 16 of 42 member clubs indicated support for such a move.
The governing body confirmed they will now proceed with the existing 12-10-10-10 format for next season. That prompted Hearts to announce court action.
Budge has closely watched developments in France and Belgium, where teams had their relegations halted thanks to legal appeals.
The national court in France ruled against the decision to demote Toulouse and Amiens from Ligue 1, and Waasland-Beveren’s demotion in Belgium was ruled illegal by the country’s ‘competition authority’.
A Hearts statement read: “The SPFL Board has today announced that any reconstruction proposals for season 2020/21 will not proceed to a vote due to a lack of support from other member clubs.
“To say we are disappointed, yet sadly not surprised, at this outcome is, of course, an understatement.
“We have, from the outset, worked tirelessly with fellow clubs and the SPFL Board to try to find a solution that would right the most obvious wrongs that have been caused in Scottish football by decisions taken as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hearts, along with many others, have stated repeatedly that no club should be disproportionately disadvantaged because of this crisis.
“This was the final opportunity for kinship to prevail and for Scottish football to stand together in an emergency. It is an unfortunate condemnation of Scottish football that this was not possible.
“We thank those who were open minded, pragmatic and willing to come together to try and reach a fair outcome for all. Sadly, there were too few of us. Now that all other avenues are closed, we are left with no choice but to proceed with a legal challenge.
“The club has tried throughout these last few months to avoid this course of action but we must now do the right thing by our supporters, our employees, our players and our sponsors, all of whom have been unwavering in their commitment and support.
“We can hold our heads up high as we have acted at all times with integrity, common sense and with the best interests of Scottish football at heart.
“We have stated from the beginning that the unjust and unfair treatment of Hearts, Partick Thistle, Stranraer and indeed other clubs cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
“While many weeks have been wasted in trying to find a solution, we must now formally challenge this outcome.
“The club can confirm that the necessary steps have been taken to begin this legal challenge. Given that this is now an active legal matter, the club will be offering no further comment at this time.
“To our amazing fans we say that we cannot, and will not, sit idly by and watch the decisions made in the past few months further damage Heart of Midlothian Football Club.
“Thank you for fighting for us, now allow us to do the same for you.”
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. In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper. Our journalists are highly-trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis. With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper. Thank you. Joy Yates, Editorial Director.