THE Scottish Premier League today warned Hearts they will watch events in Lithuania forensically after sparing the club relegation to the First Division.
The SPL board ruled yesterday that no insolvency event took place relating to Hearts during season 2012/13, therefore a points penalty which would have left them bottom of the table was not necessary. However, the club’s owners, Ukio Bankas Investment Group (UBIG), say they are insolvent, so SPL lawyers are monitoring UBIG’s financial status.
If and when UBIG are granted insolvency status, the SPL will look at the matter again and are then likely to punish Hearts with a 15-point deduction. That could leave them adrift at the bottom of the league by the start of next season, albeit still in the top flight.
The Tynecastle club were spared yesterday when league officials agreed no penalty would be applied immediately because no insolvency took place during the season just ended. Ralph Topping, chairman of the SPL, suggested UBIG becoming officially insolvent would prompt action.
“You would have to look at that again, but you would have to say that that would be a serious situation,” he said. “UBIG are the largest shareholder in Hearts. All we’ve done is to say there’s nothing there in the information we have to say that there is an insolvency event facing Hearts. If further information comes forward, we’d be duty-bound to look at it. We wanted to make it quite clear to everybody concerned – to be fair to Hearts, to be fair to
Dundee, and to the rest of Scottish football – what our view was at this point in time.
“We were trying to establish the legal position. Weighing up that position against our SPL rules, it’s quite clear that there is no insolvency event at this point based on the information we have. We’re looking at things as they currently stand. If anything else emerges over the next week or so, we’ll
be duty-bound to look at the
information we get.”
An employee of UBIG told the Lithuanian Economy Ministry last Wednesday evening that the group were insolvent, leading to their name being published the following day on a list of companies who can no longer meet their financial obligations. Official insolvency has yet to be ratified, though.
If new information emerges relating to events in Lithuania last week, the SPL could yet punish Hearts retrospectively. “It would depend on what came out,” continued Topping. “Again, it would be on an interpretation of the information given to us, and whether it would be appropriate to do that, and that would be a decision for the full board.”