“HESITATION and inaction” from fans are the biggest threats to Hearts’ future right now, according to a club statement released yesterday. However, by signing players like Danny Wilson on a three-year deal yet failing to pay tax on time, the mixed messages emanating from Tynecastle are confusing fans as much as anything.
Edgaras Jankauskas left Hearts last month after being told his contract as assistant manager would not be renewed. He departed bewildered at some of the club’s policies. Whilst Wilson was penning a three-year contract, £100,000 of PAYE went unpaid. Supporters were seeing their club prepare in what appeared to be a sensible fashion for the new season, only to be told Hearts’ very existence is again under threat due to a cash shortfall.
Some fans are not committing to season tickets as a result and the “hesitation” is clearly irking the Tynecastle hierarchy. Hearts officials say they need money urgently – through both player and season ticket sales – to pay wages this weekend plus the final part of the tax bill.
All of which begs a few questions: Why was Wilson signed? Why were fans told a plan was in place to ensure the club was funded through the summer when it wasn’t? Why were statements made about ‘attracting the best footballing talent to Tynecastle’? Why were positive comments made on Wednesday when Ukio Bankas administrators said they had no desire to harm Hearts, then the following day the roof caves in with another statement saying all players are for sale to raise vital cash?
Speaking to the Evening News, Jankauskas admitted he does not have the answers. He revealed players are concerned for the future and said he can appreciate fans holding back on season tickets after raising £1.1 million just seven months ago in a share issue.
“Supporters are not daft people. Firstly, you have to solve your own problems as a club before you sign a new player,” said Jankauskas. “If you cannot pay the tax bill, the tax office will shut the club down so this is your priority. Why do you sign players if the tax office will shut your club down?
“I’m not one to criticise these decisions, but first of all I would make saving the club a priority. The tax bill will have to be paid so surely you collect money first to pay your debt? Then you think about players. From the managerial side, you cannot start the season without enough players. It’s a very delicate situation, difficult to say which move is right or wrong. Of course I understand the supporters. They still love the club. You have to realise that the club have big problems and giving your money away may not be enough. You have to think about yourself first of all – about your family and kids and education.
“If supporters cannot give any more, it’s totally understandable. It’s not their duty to give all their money to the club. It was very nice that they worked hard to give a big amount of money to the club last year. They were trying to save Hearts.
“I have sympathy for the supporters because they were fantastic. They put their own money into Hearts to help them survive. I appreciated that, and I’m sure everybody at the club did. Obviously they cannot carry on like this forever. It’s up to the club to get things sorted.”
Jankauskas explained the fear within some players due to Hearts’ uncertain future. With £25m of debt looming over the club and a funding shortfall of more than £2m, administration is an increasing possibility.
“Of course the players are nervous because they don’t know about the future. The best way to deal with that is to give everything on the field and play well. There is some uncertainty about the future but that’s not an excuse not to perform.
“There are many clubs bigger than Hearts with similar problems. I tell you, Hearts is one of maybe two clubs in my career where you got paid on time at least sometimes. Since January, the players were always paid on time. There was some delay with bonuses as I recall. In Turkey or Italy, you get paid once in four months, or you are paid at the end of the season.
“I have been paid up to date by Hearts. Mostly I was paid on time. If there was a delay with our wages, somebody from the club would come to the players and coaches and speak to them. They would ask for an agreement for a few weeks’ delay, which for me was good because it is not like this in other countries. In Romania, for example, nobody tells you anything. You ask when you’re getting paid and they say ‘maybe tomorrow’, then ‘maybe next month’ and then you get paid at the end of the season. From this aspect, I think Hearts was a solid club despite their problems.”
Jankauskas believes cash cuts led to his departure. “I’m sure it was a financial thing. The club is cutting back and probably they don’t need me as assistant manager. I don’t know who took this decision, I never tried to investigate the true story.
“It was probably down to the financial problems at the club. My contract expired and there were not enough funds. They were ready to cut back everything to survive and I agreed with that. I’m totally supporting that policy because the club is more important than any club or player. The decision is logical.”