SPFL chief Neil Doncaster on Hearts/Partick Thistle challenge, 'imperative' Premiership starts in August & 19/20 season could not be finished

The league chief has spoken following the release of the fixture list

SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster says it is "absolutely imperative" the league starts in August. Picture: SNS

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has said it is “absolutely imperative” the 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season kicks off on 1 August despite the legal challenge from Hearts and Partick Thistle.

The league chief “welcomed” the decision by Lord Alistair Clark QC last week to refer the duo's legal action against relegation from the Premiership and Championship respectively to the Scottish FA for arbitration.

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With the SPFL having released the fixtures for the 2020/21 top-flight campaign on Monday morning and the league kicking off in around four weeks, time is of the essence.

The SFA will now arrange a three-person independent panel.

“We welcomed the decision last week that made it clear the case would be decided by the Scottish FA arbitration,” Doncaster told Sky Sports. “We’re committed to that process and we’ve instructed our lawyers to progress that as soon as possible and create as much clarity as soon as possible.

“We’re planning on a 1st of August start, that’s absolutely imperative. That’ll be the earliest date we're allowed to get competitive games back underway. Clearly we will deal with whatever eventuality arises.”

No possibility of 19/20 season resuming

With the Premier League and Championship having resumed in England, there have been plenty of queries as to why Scottish football couldn’t have done similar ahead of the new season, preventing the fallout from the SPFL’s resolution to terminate the leagues on a points-per-game basis.

Doncaster refuted such claims, stating there was no alternative.

“I think it is important to note that none of this is of anyone’s making,” he said. Covid-19 has come along. The suspension of the game in Scotland which started on the 13th of March, we’ve not been able to play games since then, there’s been a complete shutdown of football and not even any contact training. It was not until last week clubs were able to return to full contact training.

“Anyone who has suggested there was an alternative that somehow we could have postponed games and get them played before the start of the next season is just not real. I think the start was vindicated, there was no alternative but to curtail season 19/20 and we’re now very much looking forward to the season starting on the 1st of August.”

Servants of the board

Hearts and Thistle are seeking for either their relegations to be overturned or for compensation totalling £10million.

Doncaster confirmed the 42 member clubs would be required to pay any such expense.

“The league is the clubs," he said. “We don’t hold any reserves. All of the money that comes into the league each year after the cost of running the league are netted off, that gets distributed between the 42 members. Whatever expense, whether it comes from litigation or any other source, ultimately the cost of that will be borne by all 42 clubs.

“We’re here at the pleasure of the clubs and the board. We're servants of the board and we're here to serve the interests of all member clubs. Over 80 per cent of member clubs voted for the resolution that led to the curtailment of last season. All 12 Premiership clubs last season accepted the season needed to be brought to an end. There was no viable alternative so we are where we are and we just need to make the very best of the situation we find ourselves in.

“I think we have got an opportunity in August with so little other sport going on. Scottish football has an opportunity to be shown in its best light and we’re looking forward to the return of the passion, drama and excitement that Scottish football is so renowned for.”

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