Craig Levein slams ‘gloating’ SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster following Hearts relegation

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CRAIG LEVEIN has accused Neil Doncaster of ‘gloating’ after the SPFL won its arbitration case against Hearts and Partick Thistle – and has described the chief executive’s choice of words as ‘disgraceful’.

Doncaster stated on Monday that he was ‘absolutely delighted’ after an independent Scottish FA panel booted out the two clubs’ bid to have their respective relegations overturned.

The Jags and Jambos were hopeful that, even if they were condemned to the drop, they would land a substantial compensation payout. However, that did not come to fruition either, prompting Doncaster to claim the SPFL had been ‘vindicated’.

Former Hearts manager Craig Levein prior to a Scottish Cup match | Hearts news
Former Hearts boss Craig Levein

And former Tynecastle manager and director of football Levein has slammed that triumphant tone following a sorry episode which has ended with Hearts, Thistle and Stranraer being demoted.

Levein said: “Things have been handled so badly and the statement on Monday from Neil Doncaster, where he is gloating after punishing three of his clubs, is shocking. “He should never have been talking in those terms.

“It’s a members’ organisation and his job is to protect all of the members. So for him to come out and say he was ‘vindicated’ was disgraceful.

“That isn’t what Neil should be doing. I get on well with Neil and this isn’t about his character – it’s about some of the decisions that were made. The way he worded that statement wasn’t great.

“The whole thing has been shockingly handled by the SPFL, not just by the board but by the executives as well – and nothing will change my mind about that.

“[The verdict] doesn’t make it right, but it does bring to an end the drama and absolute embarrassment that was this whole situation.”

Levein, who remains in regular contact with Hearts owner Ann Budge despite his departure from the club in May, has revealed that she knew the writing was on the wall last week.

However, the ex-Scotland manager is adamant she had been left with no choice but to fight the Jambos’ corner.

He continued: “I did speak to Ann [Budge] last week and she was dismayed by how things were going, so I was fully expecting this decision.

“Everybody should be putting themselves in Ann’s shoes here. There was no other course of action available to her. Her job is to protect the club and the supporters – and she was backed into a corner.

“That goes right back to the beginning when they didn’t come up with a solution that didn’t cause any harm to the clubs. That’s the thing that bites more than anything. Ann had to come out fighting and any owner would have done the same.”

Levein, meanwhile, reckons it would be no surprise to see Hearts fans boycotting away grounds in the Championship next term, with the fixture list set to be published on Wednesday afternoon.

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He told BBC Scotland: “I’ve heard lots of talk from Hearts supporters that they won’t be going to away matches next season in the Championship because of what has happened.

“Maybe that is a little inflammatory and not what I’d like to see.

“Bill Clark’s team, Raith, is going up into the Championship and not having a full house when Hearts visit would be difficult. If the feelings of the supporters are so damaged that they want to do something about it, that could happen.”

 
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