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Sir Kenny Dalglish: If the Hearts and Partick win relegation case, what’s to stop other clubs fighting for league titles to be declared null and void?

© SNS GroupHearts owner Anne Budge
Hearts owner Anne Budge

The independent hearing into Hearts and Partick Thistle’s joint fight against being relegated by the SPFL is expected to start this week.

An arbitration panel set up by the SFA will sit in judgment after the clubs’ case was referred back to football by the Court of Session.

I’ve stated from day one that I wasn’t in favour of going down the legal route, but I do accept that clubs are entitled to act in their own best interests.

It’s never pleasant to see any side relegated, and it’s a sad state of affairs to see a footballing decision in the hands of three legal experts.

If the judgment goes in favour of the clubs, then good luck to them.

Their endeavour and fight against the SPFL will have led them to getting the result they wanted.

But such a ruling may well open the door to many, many decisions in the SPFL’s four divisions being called into question.

For example, if the relegation of Hearts from the Premiership, and Thistle from the Championship, is ruled to be unlawful, what’s to stop a club challenging the outcome at the top of the table as well?

What’s to stop them asking that any titles given before the fixture schedule had been completed should also be ruled null and void?

The argument would be that the same rules must apply to every place in the league, and not just the issue of relegation.

The same applies to the handing out of European places.

The past few weeks have been bad enough for the reputation of Scottish football.

But this scenario could lead to our game becoming absolutely chaotic.

Everything could well all end up in the air, and lead to even more legal challenges.

It would leave the Premiership’s scheduled start date of August 1 in serious doubt.

Aberdeen’s opener against Rangers could be in doubt

The final decision on Hearts and Thistle’s relegation will come down to a point of law.

I’m sure it will be a complicated process, and people far more qualified than me will make the decision.

They will leave no stone unturned as they bid to reach the proper outcome, and that’s the way it should be.

The investigation will stretch all the way back to the vote on Friday April 10, the one in which Dundee cast theirs and were then allowed to change their mind.

So what if the arbitration panel rules against the SPFL?

Would they take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland?

The reaction from SPFL chief executive, Neil Doncaster, and their top legal counsel, Rod McKenzie, will be very interesting.

Honestly, at his stage, you couldn’t rule anything out.

One thing that I’d be really interested to learn is the final bill of the legal costs incurred by Hearts, Partick Thistle, the SPFL and the other clubs involved – Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers.

How would it compare to the total financial bill for Scottish football holding off calling the season early, and instead providing Covid-19 testing kits for all to allow the season to be restarted, as has happened in England and elsewhere across Europe?

At some point, someone will be able to provide that information.

As this all rages on in the background, the 12 clubs in the top flight are back in serious training and closed-door pre-season games are now under way.

Managers, players and supporters have been in hibernation for best part of four months, the longest lay-off they’ve ever had.

The month of August has thrown up some cracking fixtures for Sky Sports, starting with Aberdeen versus Rangers on August 1.

I’m certain Sky, as the exclusive broadcaster for the SPFL, will also be keeping a close eye on the outcome of the arbitration tribunal, and will not want to see their schedule being ripped up.

The ramifications of that could also be extremely damaging in so many ways.

It has you on the edge of your seat for so many reasons and the legal experts do not have an easy call.

Both parties’ legal representatives believe they have a strong case, but only one can come out feeling satisfied.

This can’t be a draw.

Tynecastle supremo, Ann Budge, and her Thistle counterpart, Jacqui Low, have been relentless in their pursuit of what they believe is justice.

This is now the last throw of the dice – and they need a double six.

The odds are usually against that coming off, but you can never rule anything out – especially in Scottish football.