Dundee United have been given a deadline of 5pm on Wednesday to respond to the legal action that threatens their promotion to the Premiership.
That is the time by which the respondents, including the Tangerines, have to reply to the Court of Session case that has been brought by Hearts and Partick Thistle against the SPFL, which seeks to halt their respective relegations.
It is a tight framework to say the least but United, League One champions Raith Rovers and League Two winners Cove Rangers, who all been embroiled in the action, have vowed to launch a robust defence.
A court official confirmed the teatime deadline has been set and that if answers to the action were lodged by the court then the parties (Hearts and Thistle) would have to seek a further legal order, which would determine how the action would proceed.
The case has been brought because of a resolution that was passed by the majority of the 42 SPFL member clubs in April.
It decided final placings in the Championship and the other two divisions on a points- per-game basis.
The resolution also gave the SPFL board the power to take the same action in the Premiership, which they subsequently did.
Thereafter, a proposal to reconstruct the leagues to a 14-10-10-10 structure was rejected by the member clubs.
In the court papers, which have been seen by Courier Sport, the lawyers acting for the Jam Tarts and Thistle stress the need for a quick resolution because of the threat of fixtures being produced for the new campaign – the Premiership is due to start on August 1 – without their names included in the top flight and Championship respectively.
They are asking for an interim interdict to prevent such a restart, threatening the Premiership’s lucrative new broadcast deal with Sky Sports.
The papers also confirm that Hearts are seeking £8 million in compensation for any relegation, while Partick want £2 million.
If the Hearts and Thistle (the petitioners) win they will seek costs and expenses from United, Raith and Cove as respondents, as well as the SPFL.
The papers reveal: “An order finding the Company (SPFL) and any other respondent opposing the terms of this petition jointly and severally liable to the petitioners in the expenses occasioned by this petition.”
Of particular interest to United fans will be the section that argues the case to keep them down.
It reads: “That prior to the purported approval of the Written Resolution (to end the season), the first petitioner (Hearts) could only be relegated in the event that it occupied League position 12 at the end of 38 league matches played by it in the Premiership. The second petitioner (Partick) and Stranraer FC could only be relegated in the event that they occupied League positions 22 and 32, respectively, at the end of the season. Equally, member clubs were entitled to be promoted if they occupied positions 13 (United), 23 (Raith) and 33 (Cove) in the League at the end of the season (and not otherwise).
“The effect of the Written Resolution was (i) to remove from the petitioners and Stranraer FC rights to which they would otherwise have been entitled in accordance with the Articles and Rules; and (ii) to grant to member clubs in League positions in positions 13, 23 and 33 rights to which they would not otherwise have been entitled. The removal and grant of rights in that manner was contrary to the way in which members had agreed that the League would operate. It was unfair and arbitrary.”
Dundee’s controversial no-then-yes vote to end the season below the Premiership also forms a crucial part of the case.
Hearts and Thistle want the Dark Blues’ “no vote” to stand and therefore nullify the original resolution.
The action states: “That on 10 April 2020 at around 4.48pm, one member, namely The Dundee Football Club Limited (“Dundee”) submitted its vote on the Written Resolution by email. Dundee voted to reject the Written Resolution.
“The Dundee rejection vote was received by the Company (SPFL). In any event, in terms of article 185 of the Articles, it was deemed to have been delivered when sent. The Dundee rejection vote was executed when it was sent at 4.48 pm on 10 April 2020.”
The claim adds: “That notwithstanding, following the 5.00 pm deadline, the Company issued a statement at 5.44 pm, publicising the fact that all but one Championship club had voted. The allegedly missing vote was that of Dundee. The factual position in relation to discussions between the (SPFL) Directors and Dundee following the 5.00 pm deadline is unclear.”
It continues: “That although the Written Resolution has been rejected and, specifically, that Dundee had cast its vote against it at 4.48 pm on 10 April 2020, Dundee purported to recast its vote in favour of the Written Resolution on 15 April 2020. On that basis the second petitioner (Partick) was relegated to League 1. That on 18 May 2020, the Directors exercised their discretion under rule C53.1.2 of the Rules to determine that no further matches would be played in the 2019/20 Premiership season (the Board decision). The Board decision had the effect, inter alia, of relegating the first petitioner (Hearts) to the Championship.”