Dundee managing director John Nelms could be called to give evidence if Hearts and Partick Thistle’s case against relegation is heard in court.
The prospect of the Dark Blues chief and SPFL boss Neil Doncaster being summoned to the Court of Session was put forth on the second day of a hearing into whether the Jam Tarts and Jags’ complaint is fit to be argued in a legal setting.
The two clubs’ lawyer, David Thomson QC, having been asked by presiding judge Lord Clark about his likely requirements should the case progress, named Nelms and Doncaster as candidates for cross-examination over “conversations” between the pair at the time of the vote that led to the termination of the SPFL season.
On day one of the hearing, Garry Borland QC, on behalf of promoted sides United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers, suggested matters surrounding promotion and relegation are football-related and, as such, should be dismissed by the court and sent to arbitration.
However, in Thursday’s two-hour session, Mr Thomson QC argued the case is, in fact, a business dispute brought by shareholders (Hearts and Partick Thistle) against a company (the SPFL) and therefore falls under the court’s jurisdiction.
Further, the petitioners’ lawyer said the “significant” level of public interest in the case – and in the circumstances surrounding Dundee’s vote U-turn in April – provides grounds for it to be heard in court.
Mr Thomson QC said: “The matters raised in this petition involve matters of significant and legitimate public interest and concern.
“The petitioners, the respondent clubs and the league itself have been the subject of legitimate public and press comment.
“It is my submission on behalf of the petitioners that these matters ought to be determined in a public forum, namely a court, because of the public interest that attaches to them.”
He added: “The whole debacle in relation to the Dundee vote is a matter of public interest and concern – and certainly of interest to the practitioners.
“We don’t know the truth of what is in the SPFL’s answers but we are entitled to find out what the documents show about it.”
Lord Clark then asked whether affidavits and witness statements would be required, and whether witnesses would require to be led.
Mr Thomson QC responded: “Cross examination might be necessary.
“The concern of the petitioners is not to have some kind of public inquiry. The focus of their case is very largely upon the documents and what the documents establish as to the unfairly prejudicial conduct upon which they found.
“The Dundee vote and all the communications between Mr Doncaster and Mr Nelms, that’s the kind of thing that might be the subject of evidence.”
On whether or not the court should view the argument before it as a football matter, Mr Thomson QC was unequivocal.
He said: “The particular dispute here is not a football dispute.
“This is not a dispute between members of the SFA, this is a dispute between shareholders of the SPFL. That is a wholly separate question.
“This is a claim by a shareholder in a limited company, the SPFL, about the way the affairs of the company are being conducted.
“It is not enough to say it is a dispute between two clubs and the league.
“Even if promotion and relegation in common parlance would be seen as a football dispute it doesn’t fall within the terms of those defined terms.”
Given the opportunity to respond, Mr Borland QC, for United, Rovers and Cove, called again for Lord Clark to dismiss Hearts and Thistle’s petition.
The case is set to continue at 10am on Friday.