Cove Rangers say they “were not prepared to stand by and watch” the achievements of their League Two-winning squad be “undermined” by Hearts and Partick Thistle’s fight against relegation.
Hearts and Partick’s challenge against demotion to the Championship and League One, respectively, appears to finally be at an end after the Scottish FA’s arbitration panel ruled against them. They had asked for relegation and promotion from last season, curtailed due to the coronavirus crisis and after a controversial SPFL vote, to be cancelled.
This would have meant Cove, who welcomed the ruling in their favour, staying in League Two.
The Court of Session in Edinburgh had earlier deemed the matter to be one for an independent SFA panel, and – as a result of the decision – Cove will be in League One next season, while Dundee United will be in the Premiership and Raith Rovers will be a Championship club.
In statement yesterday, Cove defended their right, alongside United and Raith, to get involved in the proceedings and “protect their position” – something which Hearts and Partick Thistle had publicly questioned.
Cove said: “Over the last six weeks, questions were raised as to why we felt it necessary to actively participate in this matter. Whilst legal proceedings were ongoing, we considered it inappropriate to comment or respond in detail. We can now advise of the reasons for our participation.
“Firstly, the Court of Session petition was formally served on us as ‘respondents’ (defenders). Indeed, it was the petitioners who specifically named us as one of the respondents.
“The service copy petition was accompanied by an order of the court stating that any answers (defences) on our behalf were to be lodged within seven days.
“Secondly, the primary ‘remedy’ sought in terms of the petition was, in effect, to prevent promotion and relegation across the entire SPFL in the 2019/20 SPFL season.
“That would have deprived us of the promotion we had fought so hard to secure last season.
“We were not prepared to stand by and watch the achievements of our League Two-winning squad being undermined in that way.
“Thirdly, the nature of the claim advanced by the petitioners included matters which the SPFL itself, as the company at the centre of the claim, was not in a position to fully address.
“Specifically, the motivations of member clubs when voting to bring the season to an early conclusion could only be fully addressed by members clubs.”
Cove and the other two promoted sides earlier estimated their combined legal costs to preserve their promotion would be in the region £150,000, with supporters helping them to bear the financial burden.
Ian Yule, a Cove fan, joined club legends and staff on a walk from the Balmoral Stadium to Tannadice in one such initiative and the club have praised their supporters for showing “unconditional loyalty”.
Cove insisted any suggestion they had become embroiled in the legal fight to “stoke division” was “insulting”, saying: “To be clear, we had absolutely no desire to enter into costly legal proceedings raised by the petitioners.
“Like any responsible organisation or business served with notice of legal proceedings, we sought and obtained specialist legal advice. On considering that advice, we concluded that we had to enter the proceedings to protect our position.
“Any suggestion that we entered proceedings without justification or to stoke division is both unjustified and insulting.”
Cove’s statement said they can now begin to plan for the League One season, which is expected to start on October 17, having secured promotion in their debut SPFL season and winning promotion from the Highland League in the previous campaign.