10.05.2020 18:53 h

Scottish chief urges unity after reconstruction row

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster has pleaded with clubs to work together to get through the coronavirus crisis after reconstruction talks collapsed.

Several Scottish Premiership clubs decided to block any plans for reforming the leagues in the aftermath of the vote to cancel the Championship, League One and League Two seasons because of the pandemic.

Partick Thistle's relegation to League One now looks certain, while Falkirk will be denied promotion after finishing a point behind Raith Rovers when the pandemic stopped play.

Hearts will be relegated if, as seems likely, the Premiership is also abandoned.

The fall-out has been bitter, with Falkirk claiming Scottish football had become an "utter shambles", Partick Thistle calling Premiership clubs "thoughtless and selfish" and Hearts accusing their rivals of "appalling disrespect".

Doncaster wants a show of unity to halt the fighting and on Sunday he told BBC Radio Scotland: "This is a passionate game and clearly when football is not being played and businesses in general are under massive pressure, you can expect passionate comments to be made.

"I think it's unfortunate because passionate claims don't help the cause.

"The more we have criticism and infighting, the more difficult that is because instead of working on a plan to get games back up and running, me and my team are appearing on programmes like this trying to defend rather than getting on the front foot and getting games back on as soon as possible.

"Clearly nobody expected a line would have to be drawn under the lower-league season at this stage because of the Covid-19 crisis but we have to deal with the consequences."

Hearts have threatened a formal challenge if they are consigned to relegation and Doncaster responded: "Clubs must do what they feel is right for themselves but ultimately legal action against the league is legal action against the clubs."

Doncaster also denied Rangers' claims that there had been bullying by the SPFL ahead of the vote to cancel the lower leagues.

"No club has reported bullying to me and as far as I'm aware to (chairman) Murdoch MacLennan either," he said.

"Clearly there are robust exchanges between clubs. We were aware particularly in the Championship that these robust conversations were ongoing but nobody reported any bullying to me."

But Inverness, who finished runners-up in the Championship but will likely be denied promotion, insisted they had evidence of bullying.

"Without going into the specifics at this time, please know that we will testify to the bullying and threats made against our club on Friday 10th (of April) by an SPFL board member and the threats against others by the same SPFL board member," the statement said.

"These threats were 'reported back to the centre' and to the SPFL CEO directly on the day with evidence at any genuine independent investigation with the proper and appropriate scope, should there be one, or at any further subsequent action thereafter.

"These were threats and not robust conversations."