FORMER Hearts captain Steven Pressley has lambasted the SPFL and its member clubs for showing a lack of compassion and allowing ‘rampant self-interest’ to dictate their actions during the coronavirus crisis.
Pressley has described the decision to relegate the Jambos to the Championship after calling the campaign on Monday as ‘beyond belief’, while he was equally appalled by Partick Thistle and Stranraer being condemned to the drop.
From the farcical ballot to end the season in the lower leagues – defined by Dundee’s infamous U-turn – to the attempt to force an independent investigation into the governing body’s actions, the process has been mired in controversy.
And Pressley believes much of the rancour stems from a lack of leadership from SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan, CEO Neil Doncaster and the board.
“I’ve been ashamed by the way this has been handled by the SPFL,” Pressley said candidly. “They have shown a lack of leadership, direction and compassion.
“The clubs – like all businesses – have suffered greatly due to this virus and there should be no losers from the situation. The role of the SPFL must be to protect and support the clubs in a period like this.
“So to rub salt in the wounds of Hearts is incredible. It’s beyond belief.
“If you were a betting man, you’d put your house on Celtic winning the league – that’s fine – but you certainly wouldn’t have bet on Hearts going down.”
While evidently unimpressed by those who occupy the corridors of power at Hampden, Pressley has been equally disheartened by the lack of togetherness among clubs.
Discussions regarding the way forward for Scottish football have repeatedly descended into bickering and sniping – and Pressley reckons it jars when compared to the altruism and bravery being displayed in everyday life during the fight against Covid-19.
“We have seen selflessness in society over the last eight weeks – frontline workers dying to save lives,” he told Capital City Press. “Then you look at Scottish football where there is rampant self-interest.
“The clubs should be showing a degree of compassion and understanding.
“During this virus, the most important thing should be the collective and working together and help each other. I don’t believe we have grasped that.”
With our national sport arguably more riven with anger and distrust than ever, Pressley has rued the missed opportunity for closure in the form of Rangers’ proposal for an independent inquiry.
Thirteen clubs voted in favour of the move, substantially short of the 32 required, yet Pressley says the SPFL should have welcomed the scrutiny – if they did nothing wrong in recent weeks.
“When Rangers proposed an independent enquiry which they would fully fund, that was the opportunity for Scottish football to heal divisions,” added Pressley.
“The SPFL have sought to justify their actions through this period and, if that’s the case, and they believe in their actions, they should have welcomed an investigation.
“If I was trying to defend my organisation and I was comfortable with my actions, I’d welcome it.
“The clubs should have seen this as a chance to clear the air and I believe they should have backed it. We would have been able to move on. It would have alleviated the distrust – because that bad taste is still there.”
Clinging onto Hearts’ Hail Mary hope of survival, Pressley added: “There is still a chance to heal wounds by showing some form of understanding and empathy implementing reconstruction.
“For one season, with three teams relegated, a 14-team top-flight can work.”