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Club Statement: Hearts' Proposal

Sat, 30th May 2020 10:39am

We have reviewed the current Hearts reconstruction document in detail and recognise the challenge faced by Ms Budge to deliver a solution that is appropriate across all 42 SPFL clubs.

The document raises the major points of relevance, in particular the underlying threat to Scottish Football from Covid-19. If we have a criticism, it is that it is a top down approach which fails to give due regard to teams outside the Premiership. It lacks the independence of thought that might have delivered a truly holistic solution across all of the leagues and those outside the SPFL. That criticism is not aimed at Ms Budge’s attempts, nobody who is not wholly independent can do other than have particular regard to their own club.

The core of the proposal - to a top 14 - seems to be the most urgent matter to be resolved, as we appreciate the central revenue generating league requires clarity for a number of commercial and practical reasons.

However, that clarity is critical for the other clubs across the leagues as well. The reality is that the landscape for returning to football remains uncertain, particularly for the clubs below Premiership level. The financial resources and sustainability of clubs when testing costs of perhaps £120,000 per season per club, perhaps with no crowds and no hospitality, are still unknown factors. These major factors might become clearer in the coming weeks or months, so it seems premature to enforce a structure across the rest of the leagues simply because it appears to work for the Premiership. 

In these special circumstances it would make more sense to find a way to resolve the situation for the Premiership, then allow the remaining teams to develop their own solution in the coming months, having regard to the factors that they find themselves facing. Of course, it is a fact that the rules do not currently allow for such an approach, but in special circumstances there has to be a way to deal with the challenges we face. 

The simple 3 x 14 solution proposed by Hearts implies that the teams below the Premiership could essentially look after themselves, but this should not automatically require a structure of two leagues of 14. It actually makes sense to allow those clubs to draw up their own solution and at that point factoring in the review of the pyramid structure below.

The Hearts paper points to the possibility that some clubs might not play at all in the coming season. That is a serious and concerning issue for clubs, so setting a new structure now, when clubs might decide to ‘mothball’ for a season, risks further disruption, and perhaps the loss of all football for all clubs below the Premiership. Far better to establish who can and cannot play with the clearest possible view of the future, with perhaps a deadline set for when clubs decide.

Decisions on the future structure of football in Scotland are being made unnecessarily quickly. This should not be a conversation about reconstruction as such, it should be a conversation about how we can structure football so that as many teams as are able can take to the field as soon as possible.

The information that should inform the structure of the leagues will be as much to do with how many clubs can play, and when the leagues can start. These decisions will be driven by the public health messages that clubs can respond to. At the moment, 3 x 14 is not necessarily a solution for the teams below the Premiership and any rush to put such a structure in place fails to recognise what the current public health measures and financial challenges mean for clubs.

Despite all the challenges our club faces and the difficulties which have been exacerbated by Covid-19, we continue to aspire to progress under the existing structure. On that basis, we have no intention of voting for a proposal that fails to resolve the issue in a manner that addresses the concerns of all clubs in membership of the SPFL.