SENIOR Hearts players were today gathering numbers for signatures on official documents that would make up a formal complaint to the Scottish Premier League over missing wages.
Throughout the next 48 hours, every member of the Riccarton dressing-room will be asked to lend his name to the document before it is submitted to the SPL. League officials can only subsequently pursue money for those who sign the protest.
A total of 27 Hearts players are still awaiting salaries dating back to November 16 and many have now lost patience. They are likely to wait until Friday, when December’s wages are due, and then lodge their complaint with the SPL if salaries have not been processed by then.
The more signatures on the document, the more weight is added to the case of the unpaid players. However, there is a split within the dressing-room between those willing to take official action and those who do not wish to incur the wrath of Hearts’ majority shareholder, Vladimir Romanov.
Hearts officials have been unable to provide the squad with guarantees over when money will next arrive due to cashflow problems. December’s wage bill totals £216,000 but players doubt whether the club’s parent company, Ukio Bankas Investment Group, will process that amount.
PFA Scotland, the players’ union, is working closely with its members at Riccarton and was due to attend the Hearts training ground to ensure as many signatures as possible are on the formal complaint.
Many players are now suffering financial problems because of missing salaries and are struggling to meet direct debit agreements with banks to pay mortgages and bills. One report today suggested that midfielder Ian Black has been working as a painter in his own time to raise extra income.
Paulo Sergio, the Hearts manager, explained the difficulties his squad is having ahead of this weekend’s match with Dunfermline. “We have to still work and still think positive that things are going to change in a hard moment for everybody. All this negativity around us is not good and it’s not good for our heads too,” he told the club website. “The players deserved better than what they got from the game [at Celtic]. It’s not difficult to motivate players in a moment like this to play Celtic, to play big games.
“I hope they’re able to do the same against Dunfermline. They’re not one of the biggest [teams] in Scotland but we should respect them the same and be very focused on this game. We need three points. I believe we deserve more than we are getting from the games.”