HEARTS were today warned that it will take months for the club to exit administration. Manager Gary Locke will start the new season with one of the youngest teams in Tynecastle history as he tries to claw back a 15-point deficit whilst unable to register new players.
Bryan Jackson of administrators BDO made the stark announcement in an interview with the Evening News. He and partner Trevor Birch sacked 14 non-football staff at Tynecastle yesterday, with two unnamed senior players and two youths to be made redundant over the next few days. That will reduce the number of professionals on Hearts’ books to just 22, many of whom are aged 21 or under.
The club have been deducted 15 points and banned from registering new players after entering administration, which Jackson said will take months to complete. Scottish Premier League rules, which will soon transfer to the new Scottish Professional Football League, prevent any club registering new players whilst in administration.
There is a strong chance Hearts could remain under BDO’s command beyond the end of the summer transfer window on August 31.
Jackson admitted they will be forced to supplement their squad by promoting more players from the Riccarton youth academy.
“It’s not possible to be out of administration before the season starts,” he said. “Getting out of administration takes months because you have statutory duties, timescales and different meetings to attend to that you must give advance
“Even if you had an acceptable offer for the business, these things don’t run smoothly. There are always complications.”
Jackson was due to meet SPL officials today to discuss Hearts’ plight and ascertain exactly how many players they need to have to fulfil both first-team matches and under-20 fixtures in the season ahead. The new campaign is due to start on Saturday, August 3.
“We will have to check that we are complying with all the rules,” said Jackson. “If we are non-compliant and we can’t financially do it, then I suppose we will have to negotiate with the SPL whether they are going to allow us to continue in the circumstances.
“From talking to the football people, I understand we would be compliant after the cuts, so possibly there could be more youth players promoted.”
Jackson conceded opting out of under-20 matches may be an option but not one he is keen to take. “That would be an option but I think we want to field both teams if we can. That is the intention.”
Birch confirmed defender Danny Wilson is free to leave Hearts despite signing a three-year contract with the Edinburgh club only last month.
He left Liverpool as a free agent at the end of last season but Hearts have been unable to register him with the Scottish Football Association. “He’s not an asset, so he’ll just walk away,” said Birch. “He wasn’t registered.”
It is thought that senior squad members have been asked to consider a wage cut in order to help minimise the number of redundancies.
Birch confirmed that “three or four” parties are interested in gaining control of Hearts.
For that to happen, they would need to submit an acceptable bid and agree a Creditors’ Voluntary Arrangement with the club’s two main creditors, Ukio Bankas and UBIG.
Ukio own Tynecastle Stadium as security against the £15m Hearts owe them but Jackson does not expect them to be difficult to deal with.
“From our limited dealings with them, they seem very professional, very reasonable and sympathetic to the club continuing because they could obviously look at it in a different way,” he said.
BDO met the fans’ umbrella group Foundation of Hearts last night for discussions on how they may be able to help keep the club alive.
“The intention was to see what their situation is in terms of fundraising, their interest in the club, making an offer and can they help fund us at the moment,” said Jackson. “We wanted to hear what they had to say and they wanted to hear what we had to say.”
The Foundation have now begun converting fans’ pledges into cash, with almost 2000 converted from a total of 5800 pledges.
However, they are keen to secure more backing.
The other parties interested in owning Hearts are an American consortium, a London-based group and a UK-based consortium being represented by Stephen Paterson and Fraser Kerr from accountants Haines Watts.