Hearts chairwoman Ann Budge
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JUNE 30: Ann Budge, Owner, CEO and Chairwoman of Hearts (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

It feels so much has happened in the space of around six days. First, on 5th June, The Belgian Competition Authority’s ‘auditore’ (auditor) declared that the decision to relegate Waasland-Beveren constitutes an infringement of competition law. With this finding, the Auditorate will provide an analysis of the complaint and the requested interim measures and will also give its advice to the Competition Court.

In the words of our Belgian correspondent, “The fact that their investigation unit made the conclusions above is quite a shock. Because people are used to the CAS just following everything the federation does/taking the easy way out by not making big decisions.”

Well, we were in for some more shock (the right kind) today! The supreme administrative court (Conseil d État) ruled today that the relegation of Amiens and Toulouse was unlawful. The decision was fairly technical as pointed to me by our French friend FabV405 of @LaL1pourAmiens. Find the relevant portion of the judgement in the image below.

The relevant portion of the judgement concerning Amiens

Basically what the judgement says about the relegation is that since the rules of the LFP were valid only until the end of this particular season (June 30), so using those rules to decide on the future of relegated teams like Amiens and Toulouse was not lawful. However, the issue is that this does not ensure the guaranteed safety of these two teams.

As FabV405 told me, LFP can decide in their new rules for the next season to relegate Amiens and Toulouse anyways. Of course, that would provoke a massive backlash but when have football federations ever been known to be fair or even-handed? However, there needs to be a vote about these new rules. Also, today’s decision was based on ‘En réfèré’ (urgent proceedings). Later this month results on Au Fond (proceedings on merits) would be out where a decision on the merits of the case is expected to be made. That would certainly be interesting.

Also, Conseil d État decided that the decision to end the league was lawful as Lyon’s appeal on that front was overruled. However, that is NOT the end of the matter. As in Belgium, it seems competition law might have been infringed in France as well. Lyon have already filed a complaint in Autorité de la Concurrence (the French equivalent of The Belgian Competition Authority which ruled in favour of the relegated Waasland-Beveren). We expect a judgement by the end of this month at the latest on that front. There have been allegations of multiple wrongdoings by Jean-Michel Aulas, the president of Lyon as can be read here.

So that wraps up what was a really eventful day in France.

So what happens in Scotland now?

There are two legal institutions (France and Belgium) which have ruled the action of their federations unlawful. There is a good chance Lyon gets their way in Autorité de la Concurrence as well. No legal institution (which includes courts and tribunals) in Europe has yet (anywhere there has been a legal challenge) sided with the football federation of the country. What happens if Lyon get their way? I know that is unthinkable for many, but it will actually force the federation to either resume the league again or declare the season null and void (both have their own risks). This is a mess of their own making.

We all know what went down in Scotland starting from the deadline of votes must be submitted by 5 pm to Dundee’s missing vote to their vote subsequently flipping giving SPFL the exact amount of votes required to end the season on PPG. Apart from the great precedent in other European countries and substantive laws like competition law on their side, clubs like Hearts have a great case to make regarding how everything was handled from start to finish. Honestly, this is a layup for Ann Budge.

Also, other clubs can theoretically at least challenge the end of the season under competition law. Remember Belgium? Guess what was one of the main reason why the relegation of Waasland-Beveren was deemed as a violation of competition law? Because it is the fact that teams voted other teams out and here in Scotland the same happened to decide not only relegation but also Championships. It is time for some clubs in Scotland to take the mantle and get it done, no matter how much spin SPFL puts out in the media that this would harm the game here.

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