Hearts in talks with ex-players over unpaid wages

Andrew Driver is one of five former players owed money by Hearts. Picture: Robert Perry

Andrew Driver is one of five former players owed money by Hearts. Picture: Robert Perry

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FIVE former Hearts players made redundant last summer when the club plunged into administration have been contacted with a view to clearing debts owed to them.

Club captain Marius Zaliukas, striker John Sutton, England under-21 cap Andrew Driver and youngsters Mark Keegan and Marcus McMillan were all let go last summer as the Tynecastle side battled for survival.

The club’s new owners are now obliged to repay the club’s footballing debts – reportedly totaling £535,000 – following the successful takeover by businesswoman Ann Budge in May.

All five players were either under contract or owed wages when Hearts entered administration in June 2013 with debts close to £30m.

Now that it has exited administration, the club must pay its footballing debts.

The players have been invited to present their case to ensure settlement, with PFA Scotland as well as their individual representatives given the opportunity to support them. Zaliukas moved on to Leeds United and John Sutton scored 22 goals following his move to Motherwell last summer.

Andrew Driver made permanent a loan to American club Houston Dynamo while Keegan and McMillan are not currently registered to play with any senior clubs.

A source close to Hearts FC said the club would be barred from obtaining its footballing licence if the outstanding player debts – most of which are related to unpaid bonuses – had not been not resolved.

“This is all part of the process and relates to footballing debt,” said the source.

“It’s not usual for this to happen and we have known this was something that had to be addressed.

“The players always knew they were going to be getting their money.

“It’s all effectively missing wages, or more likely bonuses that were not paid when the club entered into administration. Bonuses are the thing that probably slipped through the net. We were duty-bound to settle that.”

Hearts administrators BDO helped negotiate a £2.5 million Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) with Lithuanian creditors and led the club out of administration. Chairwoman and CEO Ann Budge has vowed to pass control of the club to the fans’ group Foundation of Hearts.

Through her company, BIDCO 1874 Limited, Ms Budge is the current majority shareholder but plans to hand Hearts over to the Foundation within five years.

Having exited administration the club can now begin signing new players. They had been under a registration embargo for the last year but new recruits are already in the pipeline.

New signings are considered vital if Hearts are to mount a serious tilt at gaining promotion from the SPFL Championship next season.

They were relegated from the Premiership last month after being deducted 15 points for entering administration.

They will battle with rivals Hibernian and Rangers for promotion back to Scottish football’s top flight.

newsen@edinburghnews.com