Former Hearts captain Paul Hartley has accused Vladimir Romanov of holding a gun to supporters’ heads after the stricken club begged for a financial lifeline from their fans.
Facing a winding-up order from HMRC for an unpaid £450,000 bill and a tax tribunal over a £1.75 million claim, Hearts released a distressing statement yesterday afternoon warning that they could go out of business within a matter of days.
The Gorgie club have pleaded with fans to support the recently launched share issue, aimed at raising £1.79 million, and buy tickets for forthcoming home matches.
But Hartley, part of the victorious 2006 Scottish Cup winning side, insists owner Romanov has unfairly shifted the burden of safeguarding Hearts, who are £22m in debt, on to the fans.
The current Alloa manager said: “It’s basically holding a gun to the supporters’ heads and saying: ‘We need a couple of hundred quid off you, or else.’
“It’s not as simple as that. Fans have had to dig deep already and it’s not there anymore. It’s before Christmas, and how do they expect the fans to pay that?
“It’s totally unfair for them to ask the fans to put their hand in their pocket or else you won’t have a club. I was stunned when I heard the news. We’ve always heard in the past about players’ wages not getting paid and various tax bill problems, but they always got paid.
“It looks like it’s the real deal this time. But you can’t see any way out of it. If they pay this bill, where is the next one going to come from or whatever?
“It’s a quick fix, but it’s a long-term one you’re looking for. Hearts are £20m-odd in debt and who is going to come up with that sort of money to bail them out?
“They can’t just keep asking supporters to bail them out – it’s too big for that.”