Hearts and Partick Thistle have released a joint statement claiming their battle against relegation is with the SPFL and they did not intend to come into “direct dispute” with promoted sides, Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers.
The Jambos and Jags’ fight to avoid the drop following the curtailed 2019/20 season is set to come before an SFA arbitration panel after the Court of Session ruled it a football matter.
When the legal bid was launched, United, Raith and Cove – who won the Championship, League One and League Two – were served papers, because a ruling in Hearts and Partick’s favour could see all three miss out on promotion.
This led to the three champions entering the fight, and – last week – United, Raith and Cove issued a plea to other SPFL clubs to support them amid rising legal costs, citing the damaging consequences to “sporting integrity” should they miss out on promotion, as well as the burden on all clubs should Hearts and Partick win up to £10 million in compensation.
Today, a Hearts and Partick statement, sought to diffuse to the acrimony between the clubs, although they also claimed attempts to draw more clubs into the dispute was wrong.
The statement read: “As a matter of urgency, we would like to clarify our position in relation to the role being played by Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers in our case against the SPFL.
“Those clubs were named in the Petition, along with Stranraer, because they are the clubs most likely to be impacted by a decision in our favour. We are not, and have never been, in direct dispute with them.
“The SPFL is opposing our Petition and will do so at the forthcoming arbitration. Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers were not therefore required to litigate or arbitrate against us. However, they chose to do so.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we accept that was a choice they were fully entitled to make, no doubt having been fully advised of the risks and costs. We absolutely know and understand that was not a decision to be taken lightly.
“This is not about two clubs, Hearts and Partick Thistle, battling against other member clubs. This is about these two clubs battling against the organisation, which is meant to look after all of our interests, and holding them accountable for their prejudicial actions. We would contend that any club in our position would be taking similar action.”
However, the statement went on to suggest the three clubs’ plea for assistance from other sides could sow “further division”, adding: “Encouraging clubs to fund anyone’s costs in this process could create further division. We consider such an approach to be at odds with the fundamental requirement of the SPFL rules that the SPFL and each club shall behave towards each other with the utmost good faith. We cannot therefore let that pass without comment.”