Stranraer join Hearts in fight against relegation by the SPFL

Stair Park chairman ‘not great at lying down and shutting up’

Stranraer chairman Iain Dougan intends to challenge the SPFL over his club's relegation.
Stranraer chairman Iain Dougan intends to challenge the SPFL over his club's relegation.

Stranraer have joined Hearts in the fight against premature relegation enforced by the Scottish Professional Football League.

Iain Dougan, chairman at Stair Park, is seething that his club have been demoted to League Two as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and refuses to accept their fate.

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Last month's well-publicised vote brought an end to the Championship, League One and League Two, deciding title winners and relegation based on average points per game.

That sent Stranraer down to League Two even though they were eight points adrift at the bottom of League One with nine games remaining. Partick Thistle were similarly relegated from the Championship at the same time.

Hearts also face demotion from the Premiership if and when the SPFL officially end the top-flight campaign. Officials at Tynecastle Park are currently weighing up options to challenge any such decision, which could come in a matter of days.

Thistle have said they won't pursue legal action so as not to delay end-of-season prize money being released to the other clubs.

However, Hearts are Stranraer intend to fight back. Dougan stressed he is "not great at lying down and shutting up and being told what is happening".

“I’ve heard calls that it’s time to move on and put it behind us for the greater good of Scottish football and to heal wounds," he told the Galloway Gazette.

“That’s easy to say if you’re not one of the affected clubs or you don’t feel wronged by the decisions made. From our point of view we still feel very much affected, both financially and from a sporting point of view.

“When the resolution was taken, Partick Thistle and Stranraer were the only teams in Europe to be officially relegated because of the pandemic.

“Since then France has called their league and has unofficially relegated clubs, but there has been intervention from the French government to push for this to be reversed because they feel it is wrong.

“For two clubs in Scotland to be the only ones currently affected with automatic relegation, it feels wrong to me.

“We’re in talks with other like-minded clubs to see where we go from here. I’m not great at lying down and shutting up and being told what is happening.

“All avenues will be explored to see if there is anything further we can do.”

Dougan declared his dismay that league reconstruction talks collapsed last week, although he was not overly surprised.

The Hearts owner Ann Budge and Hamilton vice-chair Les Gray led a task force of 15 people looking at ways to expand leagues which could have prevented relegation at all levels.

Their attempts were in vain as a number of Premiership clubs stated they had no desire to discuss reconstruction during the coronavirus crisis. Any proposal would have needed approval from 11 of the 12 top-flight teams.

“I would have thought that before a task force was put together, there would have been at least a green light or a nod from the Premiership clubs – who ultimately could be the ones to scupper any plans – that reconstruction would have been palatable,” said Dougan.

“It’s them that would be most affected with extra clubs going into [the Premiership] and revenues going out to other clubs.

“If these soundings weren’t taken, what was the point of it? Without the backing of the [Premiership], which effectively didn’t come, it was scuppered and the people who had joined the task force were basically giving up their time for nothing.”

Hearts, Rangers and Stranraer were also defeated earlier this week when trying to force through an independent inquiry into the decision to end the three lower tiers of the SPFL.

All 42 clubs were asked to vote at Tuesday's EGM, with 27 going against the call for an inquiry into league officials. Two clubs abstained and 13 voted in favour.

"I don’t think we were ever under the impression that we would get sufficient votes," explained Dougan.

“Probably the most disappointing thing was the amount of Championship clubs that didn’t go with the resolution. The only one was Inverness Caley Thistle - Partick Thistle were counted as a First Division club.

“I didn’t anticipate that. I thought with the failure of reconstruction there might be a few more.

“Ultimately the resolution failed, but it’s still roughly a third of the clubs are not satisfied with the way Scottish football is governed, so we make no apologies about joining with Rangers and Hearts.

“It wasn’t a case of loyalty to Rangers or anybody else, we were just in complete agreement with them.”

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