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The problem isn't Hearts, or Dundee United, or any other club. It's the system

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hislopsoffsideagain

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It is not fair that Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer were relegated from their respective divisions without having played out the full season, nor that as a consequence they face significant financial pressures going forward. They are quite right to legally challenge this decision.

It is outrageous that there is any question of Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers being denied promotion. It is also outrageous that these clubs are having to fund legal teams of their own to defend this, at considerable cost to them.

The above statements are both true.

And that is the problem for Scottish football right now.

These clubs can all reasonably claim that they are in the right, yet it is impossible to see how an SFA arbitration panel can come up with a solution that isn't catastrophic for either the M8 Alliance (as some papers have dubbed Hearts and Partick) or the East Of Scotland Massive (which absolutely nobody except me is calling Dundee United, Raith and Cove).

Unless reconstruction is resurrected, of course. But that train has left the station. Arguably, it never arrived.

Which brings us onto another important point. Reconstruction did not fail because the other clubs were determined to screw Hearts, Partick and Stranraer, or to deny Kelty Hearts and Brora Rangers their shot in the SPFL. It failed because too few clubs were convinced the risk of change was worth taking. I'm not even sure what Ann Budge's plan was in the end - 14-10-10-10? 14-14-14? 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21-34? (I knew I should have made a bet with someone that I could fit the Fibonacci sequence in a blog) Then there's the uncertainty of promotion and relegation places, whether it was permanent or temporary, plus the sneaky suspicion that if Hamilton Accies or St. Mirren had been bottom nobody would have given the tiniest of s**** about expanding the top flight to save them.

Clubs acted not out of cruelty, as some blinkered fans suggest. They act, of course, in their own self-interest. That has brought just as much criticism, but what do you expect? They are all businesses, and almost none of them are profitable at the best of times. They can barely deal with certainty; no wonder most ran a mile at the thought of the Budge Plan and the clear unknowns that came with it.

Ultimately the issue is not the behaviour of the clubs. It is the system that they operate in.

For example, for reconstruction to pass, the plan needed the support of thirty-two clubs including eleven Premiership ones (out of twelve!), six Championship ones and fifteen from League One and Two. Agreeing to end the season early - a far less debatable decision, whatever some say - required the same level of support and only went through because of the infamous Dundee vote. Carrying a resolution that might upset more than a quarter of clubs is pretty much impossible. Compromise is but a pipe dream.

As for the Dundee vote, the one boon of this arbitration is that the details of this grisly saga should finally see the light of day. It seems very possible that they and other clubs were offered certain carrots in order to vote for 2019/20 to end early. Were the Dark Blues given assurances of a future friendly in the USA with Celtic? Were they, Hearts and others duped into believing a 14 team top flight was well supported when it was anything but? We'll find out soon enough.

What I suspect we'll discover is what we already suspect; that the governance of the SPFL is dodgy to say the least, that Doncaster and others relied on unkept promises and/or threats to force things through.

Unfortunately for Hearts and Partick, 'ethically dubious' and 'illegal' are not the same thing. In the same vein the Dundee vote stinks like a pile of dog poo but it is an oddity of law that in these situations 'no' votes can be changed whereas 'yes' ones cannot. At this point, I think they will most likely lose their case. A close friend who is a solicitor - though not an expert in company law, I might add - suspects the same.

Instead it will be laid plain for all to see that this is how the SPFL board operates, and has to operate, to get anything actually done. Until this setup changes, we are essentially stuck.

But in order to change the setup, the SPFL would have to get thirty-two clubs to agree to it. Good fecking luck with that...


Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.

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