Hearts tribunal ‘tainted’ by SFA charges, says Leslie Deans

Disciplinary case amid relegation fight is like ‘contempt of court’

Former Hearts chairman Leslie Deans.
Former Hearts chairman Leslie Deans.

Leslie Deans has accused the Scottish Football Association of behaviour akin to “contempt of court” after the governing body issued Hearts and Partick Thistle with a notice of complaint for taking legal action to overturn their relegations.

The former Hearts chairman was aghast at the news earlier this week that both clubs were being charged for seeking recourse beyond the channels of the football authorities.

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The case was referred to an independent arbitration panel after a hearing at the Court of Session earlier this month.

Lord Clark decided that the rules of the football authorities meant the matter had to be heard by an independent tribunal set up through SFA rules. Hearts and Thistle have been asked to file submissions before Monday by the SFA, a timescale both clubs have described as “oppressive” given their commitments elsewhere.

Deans believes that, because the arbitration process is still ongoing the SFA are guilty of interfering with the administration of justice.

“It is with complete astonishment that I learn the SFA have charged the clubs with having the temerity to defend themselves in the Court of Session,” said the solicitor. “This action is nothing more than a blatant and unsubtle attempt to influence the outcome of the arbitration tribunal.

“The SFA are attempting to pressurise the tribunal members to find against the clubs. Have the clubs accepted there is a breach of article 99?

“Even if such a breach has taken place, why are the SFA attempting to interfere with administration of justice?

“Do they think they are above Scotland’s supreme civil court?

“Why could this not have been left until after the proceedings are terminated?” he added. “It would seem that their actions are an attempt to undermine the court’s authority and the judicial process. That is tantamount to contempt of court, which is a criminal offence.

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“Any finding against the clubs will inevitably be viewed as tainted. One wonders what kind of message that sends about Scottish football and Scotland as a whole?”

The SFA have acted according to its disciplinary rule 78, which states: “No member or associated person shall take a dispute which is referable to arbitration in terms of 
Article 99 to a court of law except as expressly permitted by the terms of article 99.”

Two potential punishments open to the SFA are temporarily suspending the clubs or expelling them altogether.

The governing body has set a date of 6 August for the disciplinary case to be heard. The new Premiership season is due to kick off on the weekend of 1-2 August.

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