Two prominent Hearts supporters groups have written an open letter to Scottish football calling for the SPFL to establish which clubs can complete a full season for the 2020/21 campaign.
In an extensive letter, the Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs and the Heart of Midlothian Share Holders Association made it known that it shouldn’t be Hearts leading league reconstruction talks, instead the league body should be the one “taking ownership and leading clubs through this time”.
The group also called for a “complete revamp” of how the game is governed suggesting that the SPFL should “club owned, but not club run”, while noting that there should be recognition for the fans who are the “biggest contributors (or sponsors) of the game in this country”.
The open letter to Scottish football in full:
We understand that 2020 is a year that will long be remembered for the tragedy and loss of life that has afflicted this country, as almost every across the world. Our organisations pay tribute to the frontline workers who have given everything to help give others hope; we mourn with those who’s loves ones are now gone.
To talk about Scottish football at this time feels very difficult, and it is for that reason we’ve chosen not to comment publicly, until now.
It isn’t a surprise that as Heart of Midlothian supporters we feel strongly that the club currently faces demotion to the Scottish Championship.
But, as football supporters and in effect the largest sponsors of our game, we call on everyone in the game to come together and ensure that the game we all love survives long beyond Covid-19.
To that effect we call Scottish football, and in particular the SPFL to take a number of steps:
- We believe that the SPFL executive (both chief executive and independent directors) should be taking ownership and leading clubs through this time; they should be the arbiter of fairness and genuine guardians of the game
- We do not believe it is for clubs such as ours to be heading up our ‘own’ reconstruction talks – because when discussions are framed in this way, they will fail, because the vast majority of clubs only consider themselves, and consider Heart of Midlothian to be doing likewise. When this happens, rancour will continue, and our game will continue to suffer
- Club leaders would be wise to consider carefully public pronouncements right now, because words last long, even if it might appear that cheap throwaway remarks are simply tomorrow’s chip paper.
As custodians they bear an enormous responsibility, too
- We call upon the SPFL to formally ask every member club to submit assurances that they can start and finish season 2020/2021, by which we mean participating in:
1. A full league programme (i.e. at least 36 games before play-offs, and 38 in the Premiership)
2. The Scottish League Cup
3. The Challenge Cup (where clubs play in the Championship, League 1 and League 2)
- Clubs that can formally declare that they are in a strong enough financial position to fulfil that obligation should be allowed to do so at the earliest opportunity when the Scottish Government permits
- Only then, can the set-up of any league structure be decided upon, depending on how many clubs can make that unequivocal commitment
- Clubs who cannot should be allowed to “mothball” without incurring any form of further punishment, until fans are allowed back into stadiums and we can resume something resembling normal match day experiences.
These seem pragmatic next steps, but beyond that as supporters we believe our view should be heard (and we don’t believe we are alone for the longer term).
Once there is some normality in the world, we believe a complete revamp of how our governing body is structured and operates is essential.
We suggest an independent support is secured to look at the current set up of the SPFL, with the power to drive significant change such as:
- Robust, transparent governance
- Clear, focused plans which are supported by key metrics to determine success (or otherwise)
- A board and executive which does not include club representation and operates independently against the above clear, focused plans – and which is judged robustly by shareholders (i.e. the clubs on the success of their delivery)
Ann Budge quite rightly talks about Heart of Midlothian becoming ‘fan owned, but not fan run.’ On that same basis we believe the SPFL (as a limited company) should be ‘club owned, but not club run’.
We believe that the biggest issue at this time is that the clubs run the SPFL, enabling an easy get out for the SPFL executive and its board. How often do we hear the phrase, “we’re a members’ organisation?”
This means politics and self-interest becomes a huge part of managing the SPFL, rather than looking outwardly, seeking new ideas, engaging with supporters and creating an amazing league competition, which are celebrated by supporters, broadcasters and sponsors.
This is probably the hardest period our game has experienced and the very existence of a lot of clubs is in danger. We need positive action now to safeguard that future for all and move forward.
Heart of Midlothian means the world to us, but this is far bigger than anything down at Tynecastle Park right now.
Yours in sport,
Stevie Kilgour, secretary of Federation Hearts Supporters' Club, & Bill Alves, chairman of Heart of Midlothian Shareholders Association