HEARTS officials in Lithuania today began the process of gathering funds to pay players’ wages by January 16 to avoid sanctions from the Scottish Premier League.
The club hierarchy are determined to avert punishment from the authorities, which could take the form of a points deduction or even a transfer embargo. The SPL will intervene and take action if wages do not arrive on time on the 16th.
Majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov is willing to listen to offers for the entire first-team squad at Tynecastle in the hope that transfer fees could help towards paying monthly salaries.
December’s outstanding wages were processed yesterday after Hearts received money from Eggert Jonsson’s transfer to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Hours earlier, the SPL had set a deadline of seven days for all outstanding monies, including interest and legal costs, to be met in full after hearing a complaint made by 14 Hearts players over late payment of wages.
Hearts stressed that the swift action which followed the SPL’s decision was merely coincidental. A statement on the club website read: “Hearts will carefully consider today’s SPL adjudication into the matter of late payment of players’ wages and will decide on the course of further action.
“Meanwhile, the club has today received funds and has paid the outstanding players’ wages for December.
“The payment is the result of successful business conducted by the club and it is coincidental that this has happened on the same day as the adjudication by the SPL.”
Hearts and their parent company, Ukio Bankas Investment Group, are now seeking to raise funds to pay wages on the 16th. The SPL will monitor the situation closely after releasing the following statement yesterday: “An SPL Board sub-committee today adjudicated in the dispute between 14 players and Heart of Midlothian FC. The SPL Board sub-committee has ordered December wages to be paid by 11 January. Interest on all sums overdue from October, November and December wages must also be paid by 11 January. January salaries must be paid on time on 16 January.
“The club must also pay the claimants’ legal expenses and the SPL’s costs of today’s hearing. Both sides have the right to appeal the decision to the Scottish FA within seven days.
Neil Doncaster, the SPL chief executive, said: ‘Today’s decision demonstrates how seriously the SPL take late payments of wages to players.’”
The complaint was lodged by PFA Scotland on behalf of the Hearts squad. The union’s chief executive, Fraser Wishart, was at Hampden for yesterday’s hearing. “We attended the meeting on behalf of our members somewhat reluctantly as efforts have been made to resolve the matter internally,” he said. “Making a complaint to the SPL was always going to be a last resort but the members felt they had no option but to allow the governing body to adjudicate.
“We have no wish to be constantly asking the SPL to intervene, especially in cases where there are financial difficulties at a club. Our members, however, have been left with no option. We are delighted with the support given by the SPL by this decision. It is our hope that the club will fulfil what is the most basic of contractual obligations and avoid any sanctions that may be forthcoming should they be unable to so. At no point have our members asked for the club to be fined or for points to be deducted but should the SPL have to become involved again there are a wide range of sanctions available to its Board.
“The (Hearts) players have to be commended for keeping their performances at a high level in recent weeks. I know that they are appreciative of the great support received from the fans. Players’ employment is different from other employees in the sense that they cannot simply find another club because they have not been paid. In fact, the hope of our members is indeed that the club is able to sell the players they require to bring in much needed money from transfer fees. That money could then be used to finance the club in coming months but this can only be correct if the club is paying the players. We are always open to constructive dialogue and when the players are paid our members would welcome the opportunity to speak with the club to assist with any short-term problems it may have.”
* HEARTS’ under-19 players, Jamie Walker and David Smith, have extended their loan deals at Raith Rovers by a month and will now return to Riccarton in February.