I have been told by two sources close to Hearts that Ann Budge is ready to move to the Competitions and Marketing Authority once all attempts at reconstruction fails. While many were bewildered that why Hearts did not move to the courts immediately once they were demoted based on PPG, it seems Ann Budge was planning the long game.
According to one person close to the club, ”She was trying to ensure that nothing was rash. If she went to court immediately, everyone would have castigated her for ensuring Scottish football fails. Now that we are on stable footing, this was the right thing to do for everyone involved.”
According to the other person who spoke with me exclusively, ”She has been continuously keeping her legal options open. She has one meeting today as well. She has been advised to move to the Competitions and Marketing Authority first as that seems to be the most viable way right now to stop relegation.
”However, going to courts is off course another option available. Given everything that happened after the vote, there is a substantial reason to believe that would be a viable route as well.”
It seems that Hearts have decided to go down the route Waasland-Beveren did where the relegated club went to the Competition Authority (same as the Competitions and Marketing authority in the UK). As you might remember from this article of our Belgian contributor, The Belgian Competition Authority’s ‘auditore’ (auditor) declared that the decision to relegate Waasland-Beveren constitutes an infringement of competition law.
That is a relevant precedent in today’s unprecedented situation, and it seems that the legal teams advising Hearts believes the same as well. I believe the club will raise the point that in Belgium, the auditore stated that ending the season with places declared on PPG ‘is a decision that has the effect of excluding a competitor and is, therefore, a decision to restrict competition.’
As stated by our Belgium contributor about the situation there, ”The thing that’s “good” in Belgium then is the fact that teams voted other teams out and that’s an infringement on competition law because nothing seemed to prevent a league with more teams to happen, so there was no actual need to relegate.”
Hearts will have an excellent legal leg to stand on going by that precedent as courts across Europe regularly listen to precedents from other European countries in the same subject matter. In this case, there is no precedent here in the UK.
Also, there is the option of going to the courts directly as well. After all, the supreme administrative court (Conseil d État) ruled yesterday that the relegation of Amiens and Toulouse was unlawful. While the initial spin of the French media (and by extension the English media) was that the ruling was based on a technicality based on point 23, that is not the case. As I laid it out on my Twitter account, point 24 (which has not been highlighted anywhere in the media as far as I can see) states that Conseil d État is of the opinion that relegation caused prejudices to Amiens & Toulouse that public interest and the interests of the other clubs can’t justify. That should not be a tough bar for Hearts to clear.
It seems Ann Budge is now ready to pursue the legal route finally.