HEARTS last night responded calmly to renewed scrutiny of their finances from other SPL clubs, along with suggestions that they may have been in breach of league rules, by stressing the Tynecastle club is neither owned nor operated by Ukio Bankas, the bank that has collapsed in Lithuania with debts of over £300 million.
It was reported yesterday that other Scottish Premier League clubs had written to the league questioning whether the Tynecastle club are in breach of league rules concerning liquidation events. However, they have been told that there has been no breach of rule A6.12 which applies to any “group undertaking” of an owner and operator of a club suffering insolvency.
The SPL would not comment on whether any club had made an official request for further information on Hearts’ finances. However, a source has confirmed to The Scotsman that two clubs did make “informal” approaches to the SPL, asking the governing body to investigate the true extent of Hearts’ financial crisis, after weeks of alarming reports from Lithuania about the state of club owner Vladimir Romanov’s finances.
However, Hearts played down the need for rival clubs to call for a probe by the SPL.
Although the Tynecastle club owe Ukio Bankas around £15 million, a Hearts spokesperson underlined that the bankrupt company is a “couple of steps removed” and has no official connection to Hearts, wose parent company is UBIG, from which Romanov has also resigned as a director.
Were the Tynecastle club to enter administration before 20 May then an automatic 17-point penalty – a third of the total they accrued last season – would be imposed, leaving them adrift of relegated Dundee.
“We are not concerned by reports in certain sections of the media,” said a spokesperson for Hearts last night. “Ukio Bankas is neither owner nor operator of Heart of Midlothian Football Club. Heart of Midlothian PLC is.”
The spokesperson expressed confidence that Hearts will suffer no financial convulsion before next week and indeed looked forward to employment costs at the Tynecastle club decreasing further in June, when several senior players’ contracts expire, something which will help Hearts trade more easily.
Ukio Bankas has appealed against the bankruptcy order imposed on it by a court in Lithuania, and the bid to reverse the ruling is expected to be heard in two week’s time.
Meanwhile, Hearts right-back Fraser Mullen will not be offered a new contract.
The 19-year-old made ten appearances for the club and came into the first team for the first time this season for the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final against Inverness. Mullen looked set to play in the final but his season was ended by a broken foot suffered the previous week against Hibernian.
Revealing the imminent end of his spell at Tynecastle, Mullen wrote on his Twitter account: “Not being offered a contract for next season at Hearts.
“Enjoyed being at the club since I was 12 but annoyed the way last few months ended with the injury.
“Absolute gutted at leaving some of the boys gonna miss them a lot.”
Hearts had previously confirmed that Danny Grainger, Darren Barr, Gordon Smith and Denis Prychynenko would not be offered new contracts, while club captain Marius Zaliukas is also set to move on as the club look to cut costs again.