Hearts owner fears no more Scottish football 'this year'

Glasgow (AFP) –


Hearts owner Ann Budge questioned on Sunday whether Scottish football can "resume any time this year" even while talks continue over salvaging the country's top-flight Premiership season from the coronavirus pandemic.

Budge, who has warned her players to accept temporary wage cuts or receive nothing at all, told Scotland on Sunday: "I don't think any of us genuinely believe we are going to be playing football, especially in front of normal crowds, any time this year so deferring wages is simply pushing the problem further down the line."

With all major sport in Britain brought to a standstill by the virus, there is a growing realisation that any initial resumption of fixtures will likely have to be behind closed doors.

Leann Dempster, the chief executive of Hearts' Edinburgh rivals Hibernian, remains "more hopeful" of finishing the current Scottish Premiership season and suggested the final eight rounds could be played in July and August.

Scottish football's lower league campaigns for 2019/20 have already been ended and Budge is now also the co-chair of a task force on league reconstruction amid a bitter debate whether Premiership promotion and relegation should take place if their season is curtailed as well.

- Vote controversy -

Meanwhile Rangers are calling for a general meeting of the Scottish Professional Football League in a bid to force an independent inquiry into the vote that ended the lower league season -- a decision that could have a knock-on effect for the Premiership as well.

Budge has backed Rangers' move, saying the SPFL had "annoyed" clubs with the narrow scope of financial advisory firm Deloitte's review that cleared officials of "improper behaviour" over the handling of Dundee's vote into ending the lower league season after the Championship club seemingly rejected the plan only to back it days later.

Rangers have called for SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and legal advisor Rod McKenzie to be suspended and Budge said she expected the Ibrox club to provide more detailed evidence in support of their case "fairly soon".

Premiership leaders Celtic, bidding for a ninth successive Scottish championship, are currently 13 points ahead of second-place Rangers, with a 25 goal advantage over their arch Glasgow rivals.

But Rangers have insisted they "firmly believe that the 2019/20 season is only complete when all 38 games have been played to a finish".

Celtic captain Scott Brown, however, told BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday: "We are 13 points clear, we have got a great goal difference. We have eight games to play. Can any of you see us getting caught?"

The 34-year-old midfielder insisted he wanted to see the season finished but added: "With what's going on just now, social distancing, I can't see the games getting played."