HEARTS have launched a legal battle against a fan who personally bankrolled the return of the club’s all-time leading goalscorer to Tynecastle 25 years ago.
Fruit and veg tycoon Ramez Daher, who paid £400 a week towards John Robertson’s wages after he signed for the club for the second time in 1988, is being sued for thousands of pounds after allegedly failing to pay for season tickets.
Club bosses are demanding £5158.25 from the Lebanese businessman – £4700 of which relates to executive season tickets bought in July 2008 and £450 connected to a stadium hall of fame tour in November 2007.
Tynecastle lawyers claim invoices sent directly to Mr Daher, from Craiglockhart, had been ignored – but the businessman insists the tickets were bought by his company Fruit Express Limited, which shut down in November 2010.
In papers put before Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Mr Daher, 59, said: “I cannot see why I have been sued when there are no invoices in my name. No action should be brought against me, therefore I have no case to answer. I enter a not guilty plea and will defend the action against me because it is based on untrue facts.”
The case, which appeared before Sheriff Kathrine Mackie yesterday, was continued until February 14.
Hearts legend Robertson heads the club’s all-time scoring charts with 214 goals – 108 of which were netted during his second spell at the club.
He was sold to Newcastle United in April 1988 after seven years at Tynecastle, but after failing to find the net in 12 games for the English side, he returned to Gorgie eight months later in a £750,000 deal struck by then-chairman Wallace Mercer, £50,000 less than he had been sold for. But given his high wage demands, Hearts were forced to rely on Mr Daher to cover a £400 weekly shortfall.
Speaking to the Evening News in 2000, Mr Daher said: “I took care of Robbo’s personal details inasmuch that I contributed £400 a week to his wages for a year.
“The way things turned out, it was well worth the expense. I only wish he was back at Tynecastle today.”
Mr Daher is a long-time friend of former Hearts chairman George Foulkes and the pair have regularly enjoyed matches together.
Writing in his Evening News column in 2008, Lord Foulkes said Mr Daher’s efforts had cemented Robertson’s legendary status amongst the Tynecastle faithful. He said: “There were tears on the terraces when Robbo left for Newcastle in 1988, but jubilation when he returned thanks, in part, to my good friend Ramez Daher, whose business helped sponsor his wages to bring him home.”
Mr Daher, Hearts and Mr Roberston all declined to comment.
HEARTS have been plagued by financial woes recently, having faced battles with the taxman and the SPL.
Fans rallied to raise more than £1 million after the club was hit with a winding-up order over unpaid tax. The threat was lifted early in December when a deal was struck over a £1.5m bill.
The club is currently banned from signing players aged over 21 after failing to pay player wages and bonuses.