Hearts owner ‘could stay’ if Scots game changes

Vladimir Romanov
Vladimir Romanov
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VLADIMIR ROMANOV claimed today that “positive changes” within Scottish football could persuade him to stay at Hearts and invest more money in the Edinburgh club.

The Russian businessman is refusing to dismiss the prospect of retaining his majority shareholding and remaining at Tynecastle, despite declaring last year that he would not put any more money into the club.

He said he is open to discussing a buyout and is understood to already be in negotiations with interested parties. However, Romanov insists there is no guarantee he will sever ties with Hearts. He claims to have invested “about £200million” in the club and said he may decide to continue as the primary benefactor.

“It may well be that I won’t leave Hearts after all,” he said. “There is many a buyer out there. But if there will be positive changes then I will be inclined to stay and invest money.”

The changes he mentions refer to the running of the game and the media, with Romanov openly criticising the Scottish football hierarchy and its press on several occasions since assuming control of Hearts in 2005.

He revealed that he would consider a proposal allowing him to retain ownership of Tynecastle and lease it to Hearts on a yearly basis. “I would be interested in that,” he said.

Romanov also spoke about the recent wage delays which prompted 14 Hearts players to lodge an official complaint with the SPL. Officials in Lithuania processed yesterday’s wages on time, although some players may not receive their salary until today due to delays with certain banks.

Hearts officials are willing to provide the Scottish Premier League with bank documents to prove wages were processed on time yesterday. On January 4, the SPL stressed the club would face unlimited sanctions if payments were not through on the scheduled date of January 16. They were this morning seeking assurances from Hearts that salaries were all in order.

The Hearts squad received their October wages 19 days late on November 4. Their November salaries were not paid until December 15, and December’s payments were three days late. Tynecastle officials are now keen to put the issue to bed after processing this month’s wages.

“The fact is that there has not been an instance when the players have not been paid,” said Romanov. “I told everyone about the late December wages that, when the Eggert Jonsson money [from his transfer to Wolverhampton Wanderers] was paid to us on the first working day in January, the players would be paid. I have paid out £30 m to the tax man for wages that I have paid out since I came to Hearts.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Kyle will undergo a make-or-break operation later this month in an attempt to salvage his career after a year-long absence through injury.

The striker, out of contract this summer, will have complex surgery related to the replacement of his hip followed by three months rest. He admits this is his last chance to play again.

“I just want to play football again,” he told the Hearts website. “Hopefully, in three months time, I’ll be back out running, I’ll be able to take a ball again and I can start moving forward again.

“Without question, this is the last chance. I have overcome some things in my life and this has been one of the hardest but I have never felt injured badly enough to retire. I don’t believe for a minute that I need to finish football.

“My wee boy helps me put things in perspective. He’s never seen me play football so I’m determined he’ll see his dad run out and play professional football.”

Contrary to reports today, Ryan Stevenson has not returned to Riccarton to train with Hearts and remains in exile.