Prospects of Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer being spared relegation are dead after the vast majority of Scotland’s clubs indicated they would not support league reconstruction.
The Scottish Professional Football League have confirmed only 16 of the 42 teams were prepared to vote for a 14-10-10-10 format for next season.
SPFL officials held an indicative vote this morning to determine whether there was enough interest in altering the league structure. They say the response from all four divisions is not sufficient to progress to an official vote – thus confirming Hearts, Thistle and Stranraer are all relegated.
Additionally, next season’s Championship will involve only 27 games for each team instead of the normal 36. The ten clubs have agreed a start date of October 17 for the second tier.
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Hearts have now begun legal action over their demotion. Partick and Stranraer today decided against doing likewise due to the six-figure cost involved, but all three feel their treatment is unfair after the 2019/20 campaign was ended prematurely due to coronavirus.
The league’s board put forward a proposal to expand the Premiership from 12 teams to 14 by reinstating Hearts and promoting Inverness Caledonian Thistle from the Championship.
As part of the plan, Partick would have been returned to the Championship and Stranraer restored to League One, with Lowland League winners Kelty Hearts and Highland League champions Brora Rangers invited to join League Two.
This would have required 11 of 12 Premiership clubs to vote in favour, with at least 17 from the Premiership and Championship combined. Overall, it would need 32 of the 42 SPFL clubs to agree.
However, that idea is now dead due to a lack of backing. Previous restructuring ideas from Hearts and Rangers also failed to garner enough appeal and the governing body are preparing to continue with the existing 12-10-10-10 set-up.
Neil Doncaster, the SPFL chief executive, commented: “In recent weeks, we’ve been consulting closely with our clubs regarding possible reconstruction and, based on the feedback we received, the board decided to ask all 42 clubs to give their views so that we could have absolute clarity, which we’ve achieved today.
“Whilst a number of clubs were in favour of a new divisional set-up, the support for it was insufficient and we will now move forward with a fixture programme for Season 2020/21 based on the current 12-10-10-10 structure.
“Due to the restrictions forced upon us by the coronavirus outbreak, the Championship clubs also voted overwhelmingly to play each other three times next season, rather than four, which enables a later start to the Championship league season.
“Now that we have a confirmed structure for next season, the SPFL’s fixturing team will begin work on the Premiership fixture list, which will start on the weekend of 1 August, and the Championship fixture list, which will start on the weekend of 17 October.”
The SPFL face a potential multi-million-pound compensation claim from Hearts via a civil court case. They Edinburgh club are prepared to sue for between £4m and £5m in lost revenue.
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