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Scottish Premiership
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Scottish clubs will discuss expanding divisions due to coronavirus pause

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Hearts owner Ann Budge has been given the green light to propose a new divisional alignment for Scotland next season.

The Edinburgh club had been relegated from the Scottish Premiership this shortened season and was one of a few clubs to argue that the ending was unfair to them.

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Hearts were six points back of safety and four points back of the relegation spot. Also relegated from the Championship and League One were Partick Thistle and Stranraer, respectively.

Budge is proposing that the 12-team Premiership is expanded to 14 teams for the next two seasons, with the Championship, League One, and League Two eliminating a tier and going to two additional 14-team divisions.

From the BBC:

“As these matters are ultimately decided by clubs via a democratic process, we will now facilitate a series of divisional meetings, starting with the Premiership on Monday, at which all 42 clubs will have the chance to discuss the proposals in detail.”

There’s actually nothing too terrible about reorganizing the divisions, but it’s about how we got here.

It took sour grapes and months of political complaining to get this discussion on the table, and it always felt like Hearts (and others) only accepted relegation figuring they’d be able to do enough to undermine it.

Plus, there may be better uses of time than reorganizing a pyramid and season structure!

That said, do you consider it a fair move for a few seasons, or even permanently?

Here’s how the Premiership would look for 2019-20 under Budge’s proposal.

Celtic (nine-time reigning champions)
Aberdeen
Hamilton Academical
Hibernian
Kilmarnock
Livingston
Motherwell
Rangers
Ross County
St Johnstone
St Mirren
Dundee United (Championship winners)
Hearts (relegated in 2019-20 but added back by expansion)
Caley Thistle (Championship runners-up)

Rangers bid to investigate end of Scottish season rejected

Rangers
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GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) Scottish clubs on Tuesday voted to reject a resolution calling for an independent investigation into the decision to end the season for leagues below the top-tier Premiership because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The resolution, initially proposed by Rangers and backed by two other teams, was supported by 13 of the 40 clubs who voted. It required at least 75% of votes from each of the Premiership, the second-tier Championship, and the third and fourth tiers combined.

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The Scottish Professional Football League brought the season to a halt in the lower leagues in controversial manner last month following a much-criticized vote that plunged the Scottish game into acrimony. Final placings were determined by the average points per game of each club.

What proved to be the decisive vote, by second-tier Dundee, apparently did not reach the SPFL by an agreed deadline. Dundee was given extra time to make its decision and changed its vote, resulting in the cancellation of the leagues and ensuring end-of-season payments could be sent to clubs in the three lower divisions.

Rangers was among the clubs to strongly oppose the SPFL proposal. As was Hearts, which stands to be relegated from the Premiership if it is curtailed.

“It is clear that many members have lost confidence in the SPFL leadership and the need for change will not diminish,” Rangers said in a statement.

“The status quo cannot hold.”

Rangers said it appreciated the support of clubs who backed the resolution “and recognize your desire for increased accountability at the top of our national sport.”

SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan urged unhappy clubs to move on, while promising to address their concerns at a later date.

“The last few weeks have been bruising ones for many people in our game,” he said. “Far too many words have been spoken and written which have sown anger and division amongst clubs. That is a matter of the deepest regret to very many people in our game, myself included.

“I know those who proposed this resolution will be disappointed, but I trust that everyone involved, on both sides of this argument, will now respect the clear, democratic and decisive result we have seen today and allow our game to move forward together.”

Celtic, which leads the Premiership by 13 points, welcomed the result of the vote and declared the club was satisfied there was “no evidence of any wrongdoing by the board or executive.”

“All of our energies,” Celtic said, “should be applied to planning for the return of the game in season 2020-21 and to the financial survival of all our clubs.”

Steven Naismith agrees to cut wages in half to save jobs at Hearts amid coronavirus shutdown

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Hearts captain Steven Naismith has agreed to cut his wages by 50 percent in order to keep the relegation-bound club afloat amid the coronavirus shutdown.

The 33-year-old attacking midfielder, who played for Everton and Norwich City, announced the decision after Hearts owner Ann Budge asked for all employees to cut their wages in half until play resumes. One of the highest earners on the team, Naismith joins manager Daniel Stendel, who has agreed to work for no pay, in taking serious initiative to better Hearts’ cash-flow crisis.

“Like my team-mates, I’ve been thinking a lot about the request from Hearts to reduce our wages by 50 per cent to help the club and protect as many jobs as possible during this uncertain period,” Naismith said. “I have discussed it at great length with my family.

“The current circumstances put everyone in a very difficult position, but this isn’t a problem of Hearts’ making. My family and I feel that, through a long career, football has been very good to us. Therefore, I personally feel that I can and should accept the 50 per cent reduction in wages.

“I hope this can contribute in some way to the long-term survival of the club at a challenging time and save jobs, especially those that are the lowest earners and hence those who will be struggling the most at this time,” he added.

After finishing sixth in the 2018-19 campaign, Hearts currently sit dead last in the table (23 points), four points behind second-worst Hamilton with three matches to go in the Scottish Premiership.

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WATCH: Rangers, Canada midfielder with vicious red card challenge

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Gross.

Canada and Glasgow Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield was sent off this weekend for a terrible sliding challenge on Hearts of Midlothian goalkeeper Zdebek Zlamal.

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Steven Gerrard‘s men led 2-1 in the 72nd minute when Arfield, 30, charged hard toward Zlamal, who was in the process of controlling a ball on the goal line.

Zlamal got hold of the ball a second before Arfield slid hard into the ball, going through it to connect with the goalkeeper’s face.

Rangers held on to win, taking a single-point lead on rivals Celtic atop the table (though the Bhoys have a match-in-hand).

There’s really no defense for it, as it’s going to be called every time. Any player who’s been anywhere near an attacking third is cognizant of the goalkeeper’s protection.

Maybe the former Burnley man just didn’t care, hopeful of that third goal to put away Hearts.

The Scottish midfielder with 13 caps and a goal for Canada is sure to miss time after the incident.

Scottish club Hearts apologizes to former player over racism

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EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) Scottish soccer team Hearts has apologized to former player Isma Goncalves after he said racial abuse forced him to leave.

The Portuguese forward, who is black, joined Uzbekistan club Pakhtakor Tashkent last month after a year in Edinburgh.

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Goncalves is now quoted as telling the Edinburgh Evening News newspaper that “there were some people making racist comments to me in the stadium and my family did not feel OK about this.”

Hearts says it will be contacting Goncalves “to apologize to him and his family on behalf of the thousands of supporters who share our anger and disappointment that they were subjected to this behavior.”

Hearts added that it was unaware Goncalves had faced abuse at the time, but plans procedures to make it easier for discrimination to be reported.