UPDATE: Partick Thistle has said that the club will not pursue a legal case over their relegation.
Thursday's soccer news starts with an update to yesterday's lead story, Dundee voted to end the Scottish Football League season. With 81% of the clubs voting for the resolution, the lower divisions ended immediately with the Scottish Premier League remaining suspended. Ending the season now allows the Scottish Professional Football League to pay out end of season bonuses based on finish.
“It is no exaggeration to say that this was an existential matter for Scottish clubs, with many of them telling us they were at real risk of going under unless the situation was resolved very quickly, so I’m pleased that the game has moved decisively," SPFL chair Murdoch MacLennan said. "Whilst more than 80% of clubs agreed with the directors’ written resolution, it’s clear that others were strongly opposed. There has been talk of voiding the season, making emergency loans and so on, but what has been agreed today is not just the best way forward, it was the only realistic way forward and I now call on all 42 clubs to move forward in a constructive and positive way.”
It should come as no surprise that at least one relegated club is threatening legal action over the quick end to the 2019-20 season and the odd scenario that played out over Dundee's vote. Partick Thistle, relegated from the Championship by the vote, had argued prior to the resolution passing that there was no reason to link the payments with the vote to end the season.
"To secure a vote to end the season, the SPFL linked it to releasing funds to hard-pressed clubs, making it clear there was no alternative," according to a statement from Partick Thistle's board. "However, as it now transpires, there was a vehicle to release monies in the shape of loans, quite apart from the possibility of changes being made to the SPFL Articles to allow the payments normally made at the end of the season to be made now. We would urge the SPFL to move immediately to approve loans to clubs against the monies owed to them at the season end, based on their current position in the league. With that urgent situation dealt with, there can then be considered discussion involving all clubs to address the way forward for Scottish football in this unprecedented season. The SPFL presented to clubs (in 25 pages of briefing note and resolution and with 48 hours to consider it) that there was no alternative. It is now apparent that that is not the case."
Stranraer, relegated from League One, agreed with Partick Thistle's board. "Stranraer FC fully support the legal submission shared by Partick Thistle with all member clubs and the SPFL on Tuesday 14th April in that the current SPFL proposal is legally flawed, and the SPFL’s failure to adhere to a proper process to date is most definitely subject to legal challenge. Our Chairman, Iain Dougan has consistently stated that Stranraer would be in favour of no team being relegated in Scotland, and league reconstruction as a fair and positive way forward to include all member clubs, inclusive of our Highland & Lowland League colleagues as part of any potential agreed resolution. Finally, we remain committed to working alongside all member club colleagues, via meaningful and purposeful consultation, to best agree the most suitable way forward for Scottish Football - without any remedy being introduced whereupon it’s only the few that are to be penalised."
Along with agreeing on a potential end to the Scottish Premier League season while waiting on UEFA and not losing out on European places, restructuring is also on the table. The SPFL also has "committed to consult on possible league restructuring in time for season 2020/21 around an expanded Premiership model." In other words, adding clubs to the topflight and reorganizing the 42 clubs into three leagues instead of four.
What is happening in Scotland is an obvious problem for other leagues in Europe. Calling an end to the season means figuring out promotion and relegation. With that, there is a competitive issue of leagues ending with games on the schedule and the chance for the table to change.
Also in the soccer news, Pro Soccer USA's Julia Poe on the US Soccer Federation closing its Developmental Academy. Major League Soccer announced its own youth developmental league. ESPN's Tom Hamilton talks to Josh Sargent about the young USMNT players.
AP's Rob Harris reports on FIFA potentially facing legal issues over extending player contracts due to suspended seasons. The Telegraph's Jason Burt with Premier League clubs wanting answers over player contracts. The NY Times' Rory Smith explains the situation for professional soccer as a business. The Liverpool Echo's George Smith with some English clubs also pushing for an end to the 2019-20 season.
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Logo courtesy of Partick Thistle