Raith Rovers chief wants to 'build bridges' with Hearts after 'tainted' relationship - and would be surprised if fans boycott
Rovers chairman Bill Clark admits to having sympathy for the Tynecastle club
Raith Rovers chairman Bill Clark has sought to “build bridges” with Hearts after admitting the relationship between the clubs has been “tainted”.
The Tynecastle side, along with Partick Thistle and Stranraer, had their relegation confirmed on Monday.
An independent tribunal reached a verdict on the Hearts and Thistle v SPFL legal challenge, rejecting the bid for the demotions to be overturned. A decision which Ann Budge admits will cost the club a significant amount of money.
It meant Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers all had their promotions upheld.
The SPFL's resolution for the termination of the 2019/20 season on a points per game basis was supported by 81 per cent of the SPFL member clubs after a controversial vote in April.
The situation has led to rancour and division within Scottish football across the past four months.
Clark, speaking on BBC Sportsound podcast, said he had sympathy for the three relegated teams but that Raith had to fight their own corner.
“Eighty one per cent of the clubs voted to stop the leagues and I think that figure is significant," he said. “If you get 81 per cent of people or organisations agreeing to something that is a pretty significant majority. I think that is important and that’s where I start from.
“We had sympathy for Hearts and for Stranraer and for Partick Thistle. We’ve had a long, very positive relationship with Heart of Midlothian in particular, and I go way back to the days of Tommy Walker in the 1960s and even further back than that.
“I think it’s very sad that those kind of long-term relationships have now been, I’ll not say destroyed, but certainly tainted by what’s been happening and I’m really, really sorry about all of that. But as things went on it became clear to us because we were served with the papers on this unfair prejudice position.
"It’s like a juggernaut coming towards you. What do you do? Do you just lie down in front of it and just get run over or do you have to take some action to defend your own position? I think it became very clear early on that if Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer were to be saved from relegation it meant that three other clubs had to be prevented from getting their promotion.
“Whatever way you looked at it there was going to be clubs harmed in this and that's sad. No doubt about it. We felt like we had to get involved to protect our own promotion because we had been declared public by the SPFL promoted to the Championship.”
Hearts fans have talked of a boycott of certain clubs during the 2020/21 season, which could be of concern to some when fans are allowed back in grounds considering the potential size of the away following.
Clark said: “I would be very surprised if Hearts supporters did that because that one incident, okay it’s been a nuclear incident if you like that’s happened this season, if that was to spoil a good relationship as we’ve had for 60-odd years with Heart of Midlothian I think that would be a very sad thing for both clubs and supporters and for Scottish football in general.
“I hope it is coming across in terms of conciliation that I am very much in a position as chairman of Raith Rovers where I want to build bridges.”