Hearts: Pre-administration ticket sales ‘appalling’

Hearts are set to enter administration. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Hearts are set to enter administration. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE decision by Hearts to continue selling season tickets just hours before they announced they were entering administration has been branded “appalling”.

The beleaguered Scottish Premier League club hopes to announce accountancy firm KPMG as their administrators today after lodging papers at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

But the plan could be thwarted by the Lithuanian company winding up Vladimir Romanov’s crashed banking empire who are said to be about to petition the same court to allow it to appoint their own administrator.

If they are successful it could allow for the sale of Tynecastle which does not belong to the club.

The shock administration announcement has placed the jobs of all 131 staff employed at Tynecastle under threat.

And supporters who have already bought season tickets have been warned it will be up to the administrator whether their passes will still be honoured.

Ian Murray MP, the independent chairman of Foundation of Hearts, described sliding into administration as the “darkest day” in Hearts’ history.

Mr Murray said: “Administration is a horrible process and one we were trying to avoid at all costs, but the inevitable’s obviously come to pass.

“It has come quicker [than expected]. We thought the club would have been able to make some progress. They were selling season tickets over the weekend – that’s pretty appalling given the dire situation.

“We hope the administration will now give us the opportunity to at least have a credible chat with them and see where we go from here.”

Fans have been warned Hearts could suffer the same fate as the reborn Rangers and go to the Third Division if the worst-case scenario unfolds following the club’s confirmation that it was entering administration.

It comes just four days after the financially-stricken club took the extreme measure of putting all of its senior players up for sale, having been unable to pay any of the squad’s wages by last week’s deadline.

Hearts are £25 million in debt, and needed to raise £500,000 simply to get the club through to the start of the new season in August.

Their future now hinges on an administrator being able to get creditors Ukio Bankas and UBIG, who have also lapsed into insolvency, to sign a company voluntary arrangement that would allow Hearts to stave off liquidation.

Blair Nimmo, head of restructuring at KPMG Scotland, confirmed they had been nominated as potential administrators of the club, but could not comment further.

One leading financial expert with a close knowledge of Hearts’ situation said: “This at least puts a UK administrator in place that can go ahead, take control and sell the assets of the club.

“In the worst-case scenario, the administrator sells the assets and the club enters liquidation”.

Hearts will regardless start next season with a 15-point penalty.

Opinions differ on what the club would cost a potential buyer, with estimates yesterday ranging from nothing to £10m.

As many as six groups, including the supporter-backed Foundation of Hearts, are understood to have expressed interest in buying the club. An unnamed syndicate of six Scandinavian businessmen were yet to submit an official bid as of late yesterday.

All 30 full-time and 65 part-time non-playing staff along with 36 players at Hearts could lose their jobs.

Foundation of Hearts representative Alex Mackie said: “In the short to medium term I think this might get a bit more complicated”.

Fall of the Romanov Empire - a timeline

February 2005: Vladimir Romanov takes a controlling stake at Tynecastle with an 80 per cent share, promising to redevelop the stadium and bring league and European success.

October/November 2005: Manager George Burley sacked over “irreconcilable differences”. Chief executive Phil Anderton also sacked and chairman George Foulkes resigns in protest. Romanov’s son Roman installed as chairman and acting chief executive.

2005/6: Hearts finish second in the SPL.

2006: A series of managers is hired and fired by Romanov as Hearts qualify for the Champions League. Hearts win Scottish Cup.

2011: Delays in the payment of players’ wages start. HMRC lodge winding-up orders over unpaid bills in November and December, which Hearts stave off through payment of two £500,000 bills. Accounts show Hearts are £31 million in debt.

Nov 2011: Romanov seeks a buyer for club, saying he has invested more than £50m.

Jan 2012: HMRC lodged a further winding-up order against Hearts at the Court of Session and club pay a tax bill.

May 2012: Hearts win the Scottish Cup, beating city rivals Hibs 5-1.

October 2012: Hearts are hit with a transfer embargo by the SPL after six players and manager John McGlynn receive their October wages six days late.

Nov 2012: Winding-up orders lodged by the HMRC over unpaid bills are staved off after the Hearts support raise more than £1m through a share issue.

December 2012: A takeover bid from former Livingston owner Angelo Massone is rejected.

May 2013: Ukio Bankas declared bankrupt. UBIG unable to meet its liabilities.

June 2013: Hearts announce they are to enter administration.