Winners write history. Great moral causes on the losing side are not remembered no matter how valiant. Jean-Marc Bosman would have been a footnote if he had lost his case against UEFA. Instead, having won against the UEFA in a landmark trial, everyone would remember Bosman for a long time in the future. Although his personal story was sad (you can google this), his perseverance meant that in future similar injustice would not happen.
We are on the precipice of history. It’s just that a lot of people don’t realise it yet. If anyone thinks it will be easy, they have simply not been paying attention yet. In this instance, the law maybe on the side of Hearts and Partick Thistle. That does not mean that they won’t have to fight tooth and nail for every hearing, proceeding, and anything else. They will be pulled down at every instance, but this fight needs to happen. For the greater good. For sporting integrity.
Yesterday’s news hit all of us like a ton of rocks. Having covered this since the very start, even I must admit the news of Hearts & Partick Thistle being hit with a notice of complaint by SFA for taking SPFL to court caught me off guard. The timing stank but the whole process of one-upmanship that is so prevalent in Scottish football had another example.
SFA are alleging that Hearts and Partick broke the Articles of Association of the SFA by dragging SPFL to court. It seems the Compliance Officer of the SFA hit the two clubs with a notice of complaint for taking this matter to the Court of Session without first asking permission from the SFA board. This rule breach carries the ultimate threat of being kicked out of the game. In fact, check the image below.
Seems ominous, does it not? The media which were pushing this for so long have been reporting on this with bated breath. Infact, check this late-night article from yesterday on The Daily Record by Keith Jackson (apologies for linking to them). A Hampden source conveniently dropped this piece of info to Mr Jackson, “It’s obviously a sensitive issue but the SFA had no choice but to stick to the letter of the law where its own rule book is concerned.
“The fact that this matter has already been taken to the Court of Session is in itself a prima facie breach of the SFA articles of association. As awkward as the timing might be, the Compliance Officer was really left with no option but to be seen to be applying the rules.”
Now while the Record article to its credit talks about how Lord Clark questioned the legality of clubs being expelled for going to court, it falls far short while fact-checking this ludicrous claim. For the record yes, Lord Clark questioned the legality and wondered if this can be viewed as contrary to public policy and hence unlawful. You should read this article I did on Patreon where I dissected Lord Clark’s order. It was much more interesting than the MSM let on.
However, the Daily Record (or indeed any other MSM outlet I came across) failed to question the underlying reason why SFA cannot actually do this. Infact just going through the Articles of Association of the SFA would have helped them with this task. Here is what Article 99.15 of SFA Articles of Association says, “A member or an associated person may not take a Football Dispute to a court of law except with the prior approval of the Board. For the avoidance of doubt, this article 99.15 does not prevent a member or an associated person from raising proceedings for time bar purposes, subject to such proceedings being sisted at the earliest opportunity for resolution in accordance with this article 99.”
See how everyone is quoting the first part of Article 99.15 (or even 99.12) but not the second part. If you didn’t know any better, you would think someone had an agenda. So the SFA Articles of Association DOES NOT prevent Hearts and Partick Thistle from going to court after all if it is to raise proceedings for time bar purposes. So what is time bar purpose? Something that needs to be resolved before the claim period expires.
So starting a new season on August 1 is something which needed an immediate resolution for prima facie time bar purposes. It’s not as if Hearts would have been helped with an arbitration result in September. Only compensation would have been available to them then. Atleast with Lord Clark’s order, the arbitration matter has to be done in a timely manner. I am sure now the MSM can start asking SFA and SPFL those hard questions now. I wish I could say ‘ah-ha’, but this was not a gotcha investigation; just a plain reading would have led anyone to this conclusion.
Oh, and btw, even without this clause, SFA cannot bar anyone from going to court. In a previous Patreon article, I described how European Competition law forbids this. You can read it here. I hope you do.
Now, that you are aware, don’t fall for the tricks and half-truths. Ann Budge and Jacqui Low are absolutely in the right here. It is time the governing body of Scottish football faces the consequence of how they conducted the initial vote to finish the season on PPG with only 75% of the season done.
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