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.
“You have got to remember we are a sporting competition and every year you get champion clubs and clubs who are relegated.
“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.”
Doncaster stressed the future league set-up was a decision for the clubs rather than the Scottish game’s governing bodies.
“You probably need 11 votes out of 12 in the Premiership and 75 per cent in the other leagues, so it was always going to be a difficult challenge,” he said.
“I was told from the Premiership meeting on Friday that whilst there was a genuine sympathy for the idea of reconstruction talks progressing, the view was that now wasn’t the time.”
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.
“We all recognise that we can’t play games – there’s a government directive that means there’s no football until June 10 at the earliest.
“Some leagues – the German and English – are trying to get games on behind closed doors. It will be interesting to see whether they can succeed.”