Coronavirus: Hearts would seek legal advice if relegated

By Brian McLauchlinBBC Scotland
Hearts owner Ann Budge speaking in March about the prospect of the season finishing early

Hearts owner Ann Budge says she would consider legal action should her club be relegated from the Scottish Premiership with eight games left.

The SPFL is discussing potential options should there be a lengthy suspension of action due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hearts are four points adrift at the foot of the Ladbrokes Premiership.

"I would certainly go to a stage further than where I've gone to so far," she told BBC Scotland.

"I would definitely take further legal advice if we were to go down the automatic relegation route."

The SPFL announced on Monday that no football would be played "pending any Government order and/or further direction from the Scottish FA", with the Tunnock's Caramel Wafer Cup on 28 March also postponed.

Various suggestions have been put forward to solve the problem currently facing the game, including voiding the season, ending it prematurely or finishing the season early with no relegation, leading to a 14-team top flight.

Budge admits she is in favour of the latter, but insists it should be a decision for all 42 clubs, and not simply an SPFL board decision.

"In terms of decision making, how widely should this be being discussed? Is it just a board issue, or given we are a member organisation, should it be all members involved? I have expressed a view it should be the latter," she said.

"We would challenge [relegation] on the grounds of sporting integrity as much as anything else because clearly the rules of the league competition are that we play 38 games.

"We haven't played 38 games through nobody's fault and I fully accept it's an unprecedented situation, but I think we can't ignore the fact that these rules were written for a different situation and we have to explore the implications of that.

"We are only four points adrift of Hamilton and six points of both Ross County and St Mirren with 24 points still to play for. I think that should remove any suggestion the club should be further penalised by being relegated.

"Hand on heart, I believe I would be saying the same thing whether we were in this position or not. It doesn't make sense to me."

Football fans have their say as to what should come next in the Scottish game.

'Friday wiped £1m off our income'

Budge admitted she "is looking at" staff perhaps taking extended or unpaid leave to try and get Hearts on a steady financial footing.

The Tynecastle club do have business interruption insurance, however, the Hearts owner said it "will be an interesting one" to see what happens.

"The decision on Friday morning basically wiped £1m off our income in April," said Budge.

"That has been in our cashflows. That, plus spending money on the infrastructure here, and the reason we did that was to build another stream of income. But right now we can't hold events.

"The supporters really need to understand if it is at all possible to continue [to donate] please do because this is not a trivial problem, it's a serious one.

"It will be a fight, it will be a struggle."

Budge also revealed some players and staff members have offered to hand salaries back, adding: "It gives me hope that if we all genuinely pull together we can get through this."

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