Hearts could take legal action against SPFL in event of premature relegation, says Ann Budge
By Andrew Dickson
Last Updated: 18/03/20 6:23pm
Hearts owner Ann Budge would consider legal action against the SPFL if her club was relegated from the Scottish Premiership as a result of a premature end to the season.
The Tynecastle Park side are currently four points adrift at the bottom of the table with eight games to play and the campaign suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Their form has been improving, however, and as well as reaching the Scottish Cup semi-finals, they have taken at least one point from seven of their last nine league fixtures.
With the league split coming, meaning Hearts will play each of the five teams above them directly above them once more, it is far from assured they would go down if the season ended normally.
Asked if she might pursue legal action in the event of relegation without all matches being played, Budge told Sky Sports News: "Yes, I would have to because I fundamentally disagree with it.
"Because there are so many options, it's difficult for me to say we would do this or that but I am not of a view that it's a reasonable thing to do, nor can I see who would benefit.
"How does that help anybody in a situation where we are all confronting issues that nobody imagined we would have to confront? Who benefits from it?
"I think if the season was deemed to be ended, you have to go back to the rules. The rules very, very clearly state that the competition comprises 38 games.
"Clearly, we all know we have not played 38 games so I don't think it's as simple as somebody can say: 'Let's just deem everything to be as it is and take it from there.'
"I don't think that's reasonable. If it was at all possible to finish the season, that's the easiest, most sensible thing to do.
"I'd love to finish the season but if we can't, I think we have to be pragmatic on it and take a view on a premature ending."
Of their eight remaining league fixtures, Hearts would have a minimum of four at home and potentially even five depending on how the post-split games were set out.
Not having them means a significant loss of revenue, although the SPFL is due to make an advance club fee payment next month and the the Scottish Football Association is exploring the possibility of advanced distribution money.
Budge has explained how stopping play for now has impacted on Hearts, who she helped to take out of administration six years ago.
She added: "In terms of income for the club, that is well over £500k. The semi-final, again in terms of income for the club, is worth well over £500k.
"In the blink of an eye, £1m that we anticipated having as income in April has gone. That has a huge impact on any club.
"All clubs will have similar problems, maybe not to the same extent, but that's money we thought we would have that we won't.
"Add to that the fact we've spent a lot on infrastructure. Why? So that we can actually run events and have an income stream outside of football.
"We can't run events now and from Friday, we were having all sorts of events cancelled, so our non-football income has also taken a hit.
"We've got the uncertainty on when we can put our season tickets on sale. There's no point in me pretending, this is a serious situation."