HEARTS must find £500,000 to survive until August, with player wages unlikely to be paid on time this weekend and significant tax bills due this month and next.
The Tynecastle club need £150,000 to pay salaries due tomorrow and clear an existing PAYE bill. Further taxes will be called for in a fortnight, with another six-figure sum due next month. Added to wages totalling around £125,000 for July, almost half a million pounds is required to keep Hearts alive until the new season begins.
Failure to pay players’ salaries on time this weekend will result in sanctions from the Scottish Premier League, most likely in the form of an extended transfer embargo. Hearts are already unable to register any new players as they still owe part of an outstanding £100,000 PAYE bill to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Until that is cleared, they remain subject to a transfer embargo.
The ban will continue if they fail to pay players’ wages on time and the SPL is taking legal advice on how to handle the matter. Hearts signed Danny Wilson on a three-year contract last month but have yet to lodge his registration with the Scottish Football Association. The defender is registered to Hearts until June 30, when his six-month loan from Liverpool officially expires.
A statement from the Tynecastle board yesterday announced all players are up for sale in order to raise vital revenue. Supporters were asked to buy season tickets as a matter of urgency, with the board complaining that “hesitation and inaction” was threatening the club’s future. Less than 7000 season tickets have been sold to date, 2000 short of what was expected.
Director Sergejus Fedotovas today spoke out to clarify that Hearts had no intention to blame fans for their current predicament. “Supporters were instrumental in saving the club and keeping it going last year,” said Fedotovas. “Maybe the statement is not quite clear, but as I read it, it is quite clear.
“It is not supporters to blame, it’s uncertainty to blame. This situation impacts on the revenues of the club. I cannot imagine how supporters can be blamed for this threat. The message the board put forward is not to blame anybody, it’s to provide reasons.
“Events in Lithuania have caused this impact. Unfortunately that’s the reality and we’re looking for the solution. People who are looking to turn this club against its supporters are trying to ruin this club finally. I’m not sure who is behind it but there is not even a hint that supporters can have any dealing in this situation.
“We are working very hard to get this situation fixed and we are speaking to a few potential investors who can come in and change this situation, whether t is lending money or in some other ways. It cannot in any way be stated that supporters are to blame.”
Hearts’ managing director David Southern stressed players will not be sold off cheaply despite the financial crisis enveloping his club. “We will only sell the team if there are offers for the players,” he said.
“First and foremost, we need to look at Heart of Midlothian Football Club as a business. And one of the main revenue streams for a football business is through transfer incomes.
As such, we’ve put the notice out.
“If there is any club prepared to make realistic offers – and I must stress that they would have to be realistic, we wouldn’t sell any player for next to nothing – then we would sell. I wouldn’t say we just have to take what we get because we still have to field a team.
“We’ve got some of the best young players in Scotland, if not the UK, and certainly they will attract interest. We want to hold on to them. If need be, and we have to sell, we will sell. But only at the right value.”
Southern admitted Hearts’ immediate future looks bleak. “It’s a bad place. We’re not in a good place at the moment and we’re just going to have to try to get through the situation and reach the start of the season, when the income streams will hopefully start flowing again.”
Selling 2000 more season tickets would cover the bulk of the £500,000 needed to see Hearts through until August. “We always knew there was going to be a dry spell through June and July. That happens during the game. But, for us, it’s a difficult, difficult time at the moment. I think projections did not foresee this. And the uncertainty has really affected our own sales and the budgets that were forecast.
“Just to take season ticket sales as one income stream, sales are running at 20 per cent less than a conservative estimate for season-ticket income. I can understand why fans are holding back. I can absolutely understand. No-one would try to force the hand of a supporter to buy a season ticket, merchandise or hospitality. We’re not doing that.
“All we’re doing is just letting the support base now that we could do with their assistance, we could do with their support out of season to help us make it to the new season. The key thing is to make sure the club goes forward unscathed. That’s what we’re trying to do.”