HEARTS players were today awaiting their wages following a promise from manager Paulo Sergio that overdue salaries are being processed by officials in Lithuania.
Should they fail to arrive by Monday, however, the squad will consider lodging a formal complaint with the SPL despite Sergio urging them not to do so during a team meeting yesterday.
The Portuguese coach addressed his players before training to warn them they would be making life more difficult for themselves by protesting to league officials over money due since October 16.
He said he had received assurances from club directors that salaries would be paid today, however, a Hearts spokesman today could not confirm when the wages would be processed.
That earlier assurance led to an official letter of complaint being ripped up as the squad agreed to sit and wait to see if the club delivered on its promise. Senior players have agreed, however, to speak with representatives of the Scottish Professional Footballers’ Association on Monday if they are still without payment.
In a statement, the players’ union said: “PFA Scotland has been advising its members at Hearts. Advice included the option of involving the SPL due to the breach of contract and the possibility of invoking FIFA Article 14 for breach of contract with just cause.
“At a meeting today with Paulo Sergio, the players have agreed to postpone their complaint to the SPL in the first instance. This is due to the fact Paulo, on behalf of the club, promised the players that they will be paid.
“Although no date was specified, the players trust their manager’s word, and, as a gesture of good faith, the players agreed to postpone their complaint.
“PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart, attending the world players’ union FIFPro Congress, said: “I am delighted that the pressure applied by the union has led to a commitment by the manager. Our members have no wish to resort to legal action; they simply want paid.
“They have shown a great deal of patience and professionalism throughout. If, however, the salaries are not forthcoming, they reserve the right to instruct PFA Scotland to involve the SPL and take any other action that is appropriate. I have been speaking to some of the world’s top sports lawyers at the Congress and our members are privileged to have this expert knowledge to hand.”
The SPL is willing to ringfence cash due to Hearts from TV revenue and sponsorship deals if necessary in order to pay players. Employees also have the option of taking their protest to FIFA and attempting to have their contracts annulled.
High-earning members of the first-team squad have been informed they can find new clubs as soon as possible as Hearts embark upon a major cost-cutting operation. Youth players may also be moved on in order to reduce the wage bill as much as possible. Vladimir Romanov, the club’s majority shareholder, said earlier this week that he will not invest heavily in Scottish football any longer.
Meanwhile, Sergio escaped with a censure from the Scottish Football Association yesterday after appearing at Hampden to answer a complaint over comments about referee Iain Brines. He declared himself happy with the outcome. “It was a fair hearing with respectable people,” he told the Hearts website. “I made my case and they understood what happened. I am pleased with the decision. I wish Mr Brines all the best and I am not against referees but when I have reason on my side, I will defend myself. I was happy with [the hearing] and pleased the people took into consideration all the circumstances.”
n Young Hearts midfielder Denis Prychynenko has joined Raith Rovers on a short-term loan until January.