A top sports lawyer insists Hearts are in for a difficult ride should they choose to take legal action against the SPFL following the resolution to end the season early.

Chairman Ann Budge has threatened court proceedings following her club's 'unjust' relegation to the Championship. However the circumstances surrounding the issue - namely the coronavirus pandemic - has created a situation that would make it tough for Hearts to succeed.

David Winnie, a former Hearts and Aberdeen defender turned legal mind with London firm Charles Douglas Solicitors, says his former side would struggle to make a valid case against their relegation. Especially after the decision to end the current campaign was unanimous and the capital club voted in favour themselves. Mr Winnie believes that may be one of the biggest factors which could work against Hearts in court, should it go so far.

"It would depend on the wording on the resolution as to what ending the season would entail," Winnie told Herald and Times Sport. "[Did Hearts vote for the league ending] with a view to reconstruction? That's something that, if Hearts are to commence proceedings, that would probably come out. It would certainly be asked, 'Why did you vote for this?' I don't know what was tabled exactly, but it's an argument that could be used against Hearts."

If the Jambos have any chance of winning a potential case against the SPFL, Winnie believes it could come down to Dundee's phantom 'No' vote. Another potential route to legal victory could be that each club voted for the end in their own best interests. That, according to Winnie, could be viewed as going against their contractual obligation to act with a duty of care towards the other members.

"I really feel for them in this situation," he added. "It's one that none of the other clubs in the Premiership would want to find themselves in. In any other set of circumstances it would be fairly straightforward but we're in fairly unprecedented times. You can't account for what has happened but I think the SPFL and its members have made the right decision under the circumstances.

"If clubs are honest about it, there's no other viable alternative than to call it a day. If Hearts were therefore to go down a legal route, what cause of action would they have? If it's found the voting process on the resolution that Dundee was involved in, if the process was wrong or done in an improper fashion, that might have been Hearts' best shot.

"Another potential avenue, albeit a slim one, is that each club is a member so they have a contractual agreement with the SPFL and each other. They've got a duty to act towards each other in the utmost good faith. With this points per game basis, if clubs are voting on that in their own self-interest, potentially they're not acting in utmost good faith towards other clubs. It's a difficult one, it would be a difficult argument to run.

"They could possibly legally object that the resolution is unfairly prejudicial to its interest. Here, potentially, you could suggest that Hearts have been relegated, they'll lose millions from this and the vote has been prejudicial. It is difficult to run but could be seen that way because they've been relegated as a result of points per game.

"If they go to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, I think monies have already been paid to clubs but they could maybe seek an interim interdict to have things frozen while the case is considered. They are going to go to court to seek damages in any event, whether it's for monies lost as a result of the decision."

Hearts stand to lose millions, whatever happens, but are likely to seek damages even if they do not go the whole nine yards with a legal battle against the SPFL. A course of action, Mr Winnie says, most if not all other clubs in Scottish football's top tier would take in the same circumstances.

He even points at Rangers' financial turmoil in 2012 and the fallout from that to suggest that no club in the country is in a position to take the current climate lightly. Or take their own coffers for granted. "Hearts will lose millions out of this and that's a remedy they could ask the court to give them," Winnie went on. "I don't know how much they'll lose but they could simply ask the court what the damages may be, because they might not come back up straight away, it could have long-lasting effects. That's the real issue for them, the financial hit they're going to take as a result of this.

"Hearts are a great club in Scotland, a footballing institution in the country. Everyone has been hit by this pandemic and Hearts, like everyone else, are members of the SPFL and they agreed, when becoming part of the members club, to abide by the decisions made.

"But any other CEO in Ann Budge's position would do the same for their club. They'll be saying, 'There but for the grace of God', that it is not them in this position. They would be staring down the barrel of a gun like Hearts are right now. They would probably be considering doing exactly the same thing. They might not go the whole hog but I can guarantee they'd all consider it.

"Given the financial hit they're going to take. Scotland needs clubs like Hearts in its top league, there's no getting round that. But are they entitled to be there as of right, on merit? You can look at the situation with Rangers when they folded and had to start down the bottom again. No club is immune in Scotland.

"People are jumping up and down about it but I can understand why Hearts are going down this route. Will they be successful? It'll be difficult under the circumstances."