Former Hearts chairman George Foulkes today claimed that someone was out to “blacken the name” of the Gorgie club after it emerged that it was being chased over an unpaid tax bill days before a major European match.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) lodged a petition for an “administration order” with the courts over concerns about the club’s failure to pay-up.
It is the second time that it has taken action against the club, after a previous “winding up” order was lodged in August 2009 which led to the club paying up just days later.
Hearts officials today insisted that the bill would be paid off in full by the end of today. But Lord Foulkes believes that the issue has only emerged this week to disrupt Hearts’ preparations for the vital Europa league qualifier against Tottenham on Thursday.
He said: “I am a bit concerned that someone seems to be trying to blacken the name of the club.
“Revenue and Customs have been chasing Rangers up for some time but these stories about Hearts seem to only emerge before we have a vital match, and you wonder if there are people doing this deliberately to blacken the name of the club.
“This is not particularly significant, because a lot of clubs are in the same position. It seems to me that someone is going out their way to create problems for the club.
“It is not new and it is not unique. I think there are a whole range of financial problems at SPL clubs and Revenue and Customs are just one of them. I’m not sure this is as significant as it is being made out to be.”
The order could lead to administrators taking control of Hearts if the club is not able to pay its tax bill.
Officials at HMRC were unable to confirm how much money was owed by the club, but insisted that legal action was not taken lightly.
Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, a Hearts season ticket holder, said: “I am sure Hearts will meet any outstanding commitments to HMRC.
“It is not unique that companies wait until the last minute to pay bills. But, given Vladimir Romanov has signalled his long-term commitment to the club, I would not worry about this.”
The petition was lodged by the Advocate General for Scotland on July 29, documents posted at Companies House reveal but only emerged yesterday after being posted on fan sites.
The club would face a hefty points deduction from the Scottish Premier League if it was to go into administration. Gretna were handed a ten-point deduction for falling into administration while bottom of the SPL in 2008. A 25-point penalty was also handed to Dundee last season.
A spokeswoman for HMRC said: “We are unable to discuss individual cases due to taxpayer confidentiality. HMRC has an outstanding track record in supporting those who are experiencing genuine difficulty paying their tax debts, and does not initiate legal proceedings against any business lightly.
“HMRC only initiates administration, winding up or bankruptcy action where it believes this is the best course of action. There is little HMRC can do for a business whose viability is dependent on not paying the UK taxes to which they are liable.”
A spokeswoman for Hearts said: “The amount will be paid in full on Tuesday.”
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