SFA member clubs Hearts and Partick Thistle are “incredulous” that the SFA charged them for breaking SFA member club rules. In a joint statement of 83 words, which surely indicates that Ann Budge has lost her ability to both type and dictate, the clubs do not dispute the clarity of the rules, or that they broke the rules, or that when they raised an action at the Court of Session, the Court affirmed the action was against the rules.
In going to the Court of Session, Hearts, claiming £8m and Thistle, claiming £2m, wanted next season stopped, holding the Sword of Damocles over the game, hoping to force the SPFL to cave into their demands or see a scorched earth landscape for Scottish football.
I can only assume the plan sounded plausible when it was hatched by Hearts chief exec Budge and Thistle’s Jacqui Low, but before embarking on any action, you should always run through all options available to the other side, not just the fanciful ones you hope will happen. Is a bit of Game Theory too much to ask?
The plan was brutally flawed from the off. Had they read the rules, they could have gone straight to SFA arbitration, instead of incurring an unnecessary threat of expulsion from the SFA on the road to SFA arbitration.
Today, they complain about “escalating legal costs”. If only they had spent money earlier on a lawyer, asking for advice on how to proceed within the rules. Hearts and Partick Thistle were relegated for two reasons: Covid-19 ended Scottish football early and both clubs were outclassed on the field by every other team in their division, many of whom did so on a fraction of their resources.
They are possibly the two worst run clubs in Scottish football, and given some of the competition, that’s an incredible achievement. This fiasco was an unnecessary self-inflicted wound. It shows a lack of insight, poor forward planning, insufficient experience of the industry and a failure to take appropriate advice; features that are common in failing organisations. All the polite media coverage of these two clubs has done them no good, it just emboldens them to ever-more dangerous positions. It is easy and the popular thing to sound like a fan and act without consideration of the consequences, but when you are in charge, if you don’t run every scenario before acting, I can guarantee you will lead your club into turmoil. The Budge and Low legacies will not be the fawning retrospectives you have heard until this point.
In taking their action, Hearts and Partick threatened the viability of the entire Scottish game. Sanctions should be appropriate: suspend them from the League for one season. I would let them continue in the Scottish Cup, four years on, Hibs fans deserve another fun day at Hampden.
And I’ve not even started on Jim Jefferies’ new position at Hearts, as they postpone the search for a sporting director. A recent heart attack survivor who was sacked by Hearts nine years ago and went on to manage Dunfermline to two consecutive relegations, clearly demonstrates Ann Budge knows what she is doing.