Why Hearts & Partick Thistle lost legal relegation battle from Scottish Premiership
Following the decision by Lord Clark on 3 July 2020, the legal challenge brought by Heart of Midlothian Plc (Hearts) and Partick Thistle Football Club Limited (Partick Thistle), in relation to their respective relegations from the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) due to the early curtailment of the 2019/2020 season, was stayed and referred to arbitration proceedings. This was in accordance with the provisions of the Rules of the SPFL (SPFL Rules), the Articles of Association of the Scottish Football Association (SFA Articles) and the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010.
On 27 July, the SFA Arbitration Panel announced its decision, finding unanimously that Hearts and Partick Thistle’s challenges failed and that the SPFL’s written resolution of 15 April 2020 ending the season and deciding the league positions was entitled to stand.. While unfortunately no written reasons have been released, this article will analyse the legal arguments advanced by Hearts and Partick Thistle and touch on some of the questions that remain unanswered. Specifically, it looks at:
- Legal basis for the challenge
- Unfair prejudice
- Failure to provide / withholding information relating to the vote
- The vote
- Competitive fairness and sporting integrity
- Removal of granting of rights under the Articles
- Good faith
- Decision of the arbitration tribunal
- Potential for appeal?
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- Tags: Arbitration | Companies Act 2006 | Covid-19 | Dispute Resolution | Football | Scotland | Scottish Championship | Scottish Football Association | Scottish Premiership | Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL)
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About the Author
Gavin is a Partner, Digby Brown, one of Scotland's largest specialist litigation firms. He undertook a commercial traineeship at Dentons in Glasgow and Edinburgh before moving to his current firm where he specialises in reparation litigation.
Gavin maintains an interest in sports related legal matters and holds a Masters in International Sports Law from Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia (ISDE), in Madrid. Gavin is also a Disciplinary Panel Member of Scottish Athletics and England Boxing.
Gavin is a keen amateur footballer. During his time at Glasgow University, he played for the Glasgow University amateur football team that qualified for the professional Scottish Cup.