ONLY three weeks after saying that the very existence of Hearts was under threat, club director Sergejus Fedotovas has promised that, if fans continue to raise funds, new players could be recruited in January.
Hearts supporters have raised almost £700,000 since the club launched a share offer last month, and this weekend’s Scottish Cup tie with Hibernian and January’s League Cup semi-final against Inverness will also bring in some much-needed revenue.
That means the club has gone some way towards meeting the target of £2 million which Fedotovas said the club would need to stay afloat until the end of the season but, even so, the director’s statement on the club’s website yesterday was unexpectedly optimistic.
Hearts had claimed the home game against St Mirren on Saturday 17 November could be their last. The warning came after Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs issued a winding-up order against the club over an unpaid tax bill of almost £450,000.
The club has since reached agreement to pay the bill in full by this Monday but is still contesting another claim from the tax authorities for £1.75 million.
Previous failure to pay players on time triggered a transfer embargo which prevented them from re-signing Rudi Skacel, who instead joined Dundee United on a short-term deal.
But, while serious problems evidently remain, Fedotovas sought to stress the positive, asking supporters to keep buying tickets for games and urging businesses to offer their backing.
“Business community is key,” the headline of the article on the club website read. The sub-heading stated: “Good run of sales in tickets and shares could see squad strengthened during January transfer window.”
Fedotovas himself said: “If we were to break through the £1m level for share sales, it would be a significant step towards stabilising the club. We can only do this with everyone’s help and that particularly includes the Edinburgh business community. We would like to think they will now step forward and back us as one of the city’s greatest sporting institutions in order that we can continue contributing to the city both on and off the football field. Achieving the million-pound mark will not in itself provide us with guaranteed security through until the end of the season as we will still have a financial shortfall, but it will assist us greatly in keeping the club going in the forthcoming weeks.
“Following the end of the share issue on 19 December, we will be reviewing all possible options in order to address the remaining gap if the share issue is not fully subscribed. The most important task for us is to ensure we keep the club alive until next summer.”
If the cup-holders win at Easter Road on Sunday to reach the fifth round of this season’s competition – or even if they earn a replay – they will have an extra income boost which Fedotovas did not budget for when he estimated the club needed £2m to get through the season. But he insisted the “key lifeline” was ticket sales for home SPL games.
Until now Hearts had been expected – by manager Jihn McGlynn among others – to offload players in January in order to cut the wage bill and generate some cash. Fedotovas’ suggestion is that such a course of action can be averted – provided supporters continue to dig deep.