GARY Locke has revealed he will have his management training to fall back on should Hearts be plunged into administration – but has joked that a week at Tynecastle would teach even his teachers a thing or two about dealing with financial problems.
The Gorgie club have had to fend off fresh suggestions they are close to administration, with a court in Lithuania yesterday reportedly starting bankruptcy proceedings against Ukio Bankas, the bank which is already in administration and to which Hearts owe around £15 million.
It was unclear last night what such a move would mean for the future of Hearts, who have already seen major shareholder Vladimir Romanov and his investment group Ubig have their assets – including Tynecastle Stadium – frozen. But it has been speculated it could tip the capital club into administration.
Having assumed control of first-team affairs following the sacking of John McGlynn just six weeks ago, Locke has already had a lot to deal with for someone fresh into management.
The 37-year-old disclosed yesterday, however, that coping with all sorts of off-field trouble, including a club going into administration, forms part of the Uefa Pro Licence qualification he completed earlier in the season.
But he concedes that the complex financial woes suffered by Hearts in recent times would prove an eye-opener to even the SFA coaches who run the coaching course.
Locke said: “I did the SFA Pro Licence with Jim Fleeting and Donald Park and I thoroughly enjoyed that.
“To be fair, they covered absolutely everything – including administration. You’ve got to go through everything on the course you probably expect as a football manager. But I might get Jim up here for a week and see what he thinks of some of the things that go on up here!
“It’s a learning process for everyone, especially myself, but I can only concentrate on the football. I wouldn’t say they spend a lot of time on administration, but the course itself covers absolutely everything and I’d recommend it to everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was fantastic. It covers the finance side of things as well as the management which a lot of people see. I just finished it about six months ago and it’s a fantastic course.
“It’s one of those things, you can’t control the finance side of things as a manager – that’s not our domain. You have to get the players focused and that’s what I intend to do.”
Against such a worrying financial backdrop at Hearts, some may accuse him of naivety in claiming his “sole focus” is on football, but Locke is clearly eager to deflect concerns away from his players in the remaining fortnight of a troubled campaign. He is also determined administration fears will not hamper him in his attempts to revamp his squad for next season, insisting players will still want to sign for the Gorgie outfit this summer, assuming the club’s signing embargo is lifted.
He added: “It wouldn’t be ideal but, for me, I don’t think the threat of administration will be bothering any of our potential targets. The first thing I ask them is if they want to come and play for Hearts and, no matter what’s happening off the pitch, if they tell me that then hopefully we can get one or two signed up before the start of next season.
“It’s all doom and gloom, but we’ve been told hopefully everything will be fine for next season, so I can only go on that. I’m trying to build a team for next season and I’m pretty sure a lot of players out there would love to come here.”
A bumper crowd will flock to Tynecastle tomorrow for what, from Hearts’ point of view, is a dead rubber of a match against St Mirren. Cut-price tickets have led to more than 14,000 being sold for a game in which the Buddies could secure their SPL safety with a victory.
The Hearts supporters have won praise across the board for the way they have dealt with the financial concerns that have hit their favourites this season, raising more than £1m in a share issue, and Locke has confessed that many at the club have become immune to speculation over the future of the club.
He said: “There’s no point in letting it worry you until it happens. I’ve been here three and a half years and have heard so many rumours about this football club it’s unbelievable. But we’re still here and trying to win football games and hopefully that will be the case for many more years to come.”
20 May key date for any points deduction
THE Scottish Premier League has confirmed Hearts must stave off administration until 20 May if they are to avoid being hit with a points deduction – and almost certain relegation – this season.
The Tynecastle club’s future was shrouded in uncertainty last night after a Lithuanian court reportedly began bankruptcy proceedings against Ukio Bankas, the bank to which Hearts owe £15 million.
The possible consequences of that move include the administrators of the bank calling in the debt and tipping Hearts into administration.
Reports had suggested that Hearts would have to steer clear of such a scenario until June 1 to avoid being hit with a points penalty for this season, a move which would almost certainly consign Gary Locke’s team to relegation to the First Division.Under SPL rules, a sanction is applied of the greater of ten points or a third of last season’s total, rounded up – in Hearts’ case 18 points as a result of their 52 points recorded last May – which currently would put the Tynecastle side seven points behind bottom club Dundee on 22 points with just three matches remaining.
However, the SPL yesterday revealed Hearts must reach the ‘close-season’, which is defined as the day following the last league match of the campaign on 19 May, without being hit with administration to avoid a points deduction this term.
Thereafter, assuming they are able to continue playing, any insolvency event would result in the team beginning next season with the points deduction, again a third of the previous season’s total. As things stand, that would mean starting next term on minus 14 points. SPL rule A6.8 states: “Where a club which was a member of the League in the immediately preceding season takes, suffers or is subject to an Insolvency Event that club shall be deducted the greater of ten points and one third, rounded up to the nearest whole number, of the total number of points, excluding any points deducted for any reason, gained by that club in the League in the immediately preceding season.
“Where the Insolvency Event occurs during a season, the requisite points deduction shall apply immediately.
“Where the Insolvency Event occurs during the close-season, the requisite points deduction shall apply in respect of the immediately following season, such that the club starts that immediately following season on minus the requisite number of points.”