London Hearts Supporters Club

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5 of 030 -----L SPL A

Not a hitch or a glitch but real problems for Hearts

Published on Thursday 17 November 2011 12:20

No time to waste, Romanov must open talks with potential partners as soon as possible, writes Stuart Bathgate

THIS time there can be no doubt. Hearts are in serious trouble.

After years of claiming that any delays in paying staff wages were only due to glitches or technical hitches, the club have at last admitted that they have a cash-flow problem. A statement on their official website blamed outside factors for the problem, but the fact remains that, under the stewardship of Vladimir Romanov, Hearts are currently unable to pay their own players on time.

“Our future funding is secure, but requires time to be organised,” the statement said. In other words, it is uncertain how far into the future that funding will materialise, or how long the players must wait before their own individual funding is secure. And, if the funding is not secure in the here and now, how can we know what shape Hearts will be in by the time it does become secure?

“The club is experiencing an income shortfall due to lower than expected transfer monies,” the statement also said. The transfer income referred to is understood to be a portion of the amount due from Sunderland for Craig Gordon once the goakeeper plays his 100th game for the Wearsiders.

No-one can accurately predict when a player – even a talented international such as Gordon – will ring up a century of appearances for his new club. It’s a matter of chance, with factors such as injuries, suspensions, managerial whim and the form of rival team-mates all coming into play.

Because of that, it appears risky for any club to factor in transfer income to any given financial period. Risky, or implausible.

The same goes in the case of the tax bill for £1 million from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – a bill which Hearts say they paid in full on Tuesday after failing to reach agreement to settle the matter over a longer period. Did the bill turn up out of the blue on Monday? Did HMRC say “We know you haven’t had any inkling of this six-figure sum before now, but you’ve got 24 hours to pay”?

Or had talks been continuing on and off for some time? If so, Hearts might have had the scope to factor it in to their considerations when it came to ensuring they had enough money left over to pay the players.

The club’s admission that there is a problem has at least brought the recognition of reality a step closer.

But the fact remains that Romanov, the majority shareholder and the man without whose permission nothing of significance happens at Tynecastle, is still reluctant to face up to the full facts. If Hearts are to have a viable future over the next few years, he now needs to do so as soon as possible.

Romanov said a week past Sunday that he had become disillusioned with football, and that he would now have to consider putting Hearts up for sale, or opening discussions with potential partners. Given the scale of the problem at the club, which is around £30m in debt, he should open those discussions as soon as he can.

There is no point in his continuing to blame outside agencies, or rant about mafia and corruption, or claim it is only because of a very far-reaching conspiracy that Hearts have not become the dominant force in Scottish football. He needs to accept that, for whatever reason, his own plans to achieve that position in the game for the club have failed. Unless he does, he may end up instead by ensuring that for some time to come Hearts will not be vying for supremacy – they will be struggling for survival.

If he adopts a reasonable attitude to negotiations, Romanov can still at least be part of a solution for Hearts. It is unlikely that there are wealthy individuals out there willing and able to pay off the club’s debt in one go and have a good few million left over to build a new stadium or at least a new main stand at the current ground, so it is to be hoped that he does not make paying off that debt a precondition for negotiations.

It is a lot more plausible – though very far from certain – that investors could be attracted if another kind of arrangement were on offer. One, perhaps, which allows Romanov and his Ukio Bankas Investment Group a regular income from payment of the interest on the debt in return for selling a large percentage of the shares.

That may not seem an ideal arrangement to Romanov or any of his associates, but it could prove to be the only viable way for Ubig to recoup at least some of the money they have put into Hearts over the past seven years. And it could also be the only way out of the current predicament for Hearts to avoid going into administration or becoming homeless or both.

“Things are getting a bit more difficult, aren’t they?,” former Hearts chairman George Foulkes said last night. “I had assumed that any alternatives would have some time to be formulated, but this might make it more urgent. We could be talking about weeks rather than months.

“I think we’re still on amber, not yet on red. All of us should start saving, and working, and thinking of alternatives.”

Foulkes a stern critic of Romanov in the past, clearly believes that anyone with the good of the club at heart should be willing to take a co-operative stance. So too does Gary Mackay, who last night reiterated his pledge, made in Saturday’s Scotsman, to help the club in any way possible.

“If there’s a role for me to play to help secure the long-term future of the club, then everybody knows I’m just a phone-call away,” the club’s appearances record-holder said.

“From the outside looking in, it looks like a very bad position.

“There is a feeling for Hearts that will never change no matter who the custodian is, and it’s important that Mr Romanov realises there are people willing to help.”


HEARTS manager Paulo Sergio will find out today if he is to be banned from the touchline following a confrontation with referee Alan Muir.

The pair clashed during the Tynecastle side’s encounter with Kilmarnock on 29 October after Muir sent Sergio to the stand following the Portuguese striking his own dugout in frustration.

The Hearts manager is charged with “misconduct including offensive, abusing or insulting language or behaviour and adoption of aggressive behaviour towards a match official”.

If found guilty by the SFA’s fast-track judicial panel at Hampden, Sergio is likely to face a two-match ban, beginning with Saturday’s trip to Dundee United.

Sergio has already been censured this season for comments made about referee Iain Brines.

Taken from the Scotsman

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