SERGEJUS Fedotovas is “confident” Hearts will be able to meet the near £500,000 bill for unpaid VAT and PAYE contributions before next Friday’s deadline and revealed he has been in contact with associates of Vladimir Romanov in Lithuania as the efforts are redoubled to secure the funding needed to ensure the club’s survival.
The efforts of fans, hundreds of whom queued up to purchase tickets from Tynecastle yesterday, is thought to have raised nearly £100,000 already. Hearts director Fedotovas remains hopeful that Romanov, who has become an ever more distant figure at the club he owns, can be persuaded to release funds. However, Fedotovas warned that this would come only in the form of a loan.
Fedotovas revealed that Romanov had asked for a “schedule of games” so he can decide on a date to return to Edinburgh. However, the owner’s remoteness is summed up by the assertion from Fedotovas that he has been speaking to “Mr Romanov’s companies,” rather than the man himself. “We have been speaking to Mr Romanov’s companies and we have got a good response,” said Fedotovas. “They know the situation and promise to help us out,” he added. “If funding is made available, the club will have to pay it back. The way forward is with the help of fans, step by step taking more involvement in the club.”
Fedotovas also had a meeting with Paul Goodwin, the head of Supporters’ Direct Scotland, yesterday as it became clear that the fans are absolutely central to the bid to save the club. “We had a productive meeting and we have agreed to meet again in the next week to ten days,” said Goodwin.
Illustrating how time is of the essence is the request from the club last night for fans to pay with cash if they subscribe to the £1.79m share issue, launched last week. “Supporters who purchase shares should know that cash sales will see the club take possession of the money up to a week faster than any other method,” pointed out a statement on the official club’s website. The deadline for the share issue is 19 December, by which time a large proportion of the £2 million sum required to bridge this season’s funding gap needs to have been raised. A further worry is a £1.75m tax demand from HMRC, disputed by the club. One income source is Rangers, with another payment due from the Ibrox club for the transfer of defender Lee Wallace last year. However, the fans hold the key, stressed Fedotovas. Hearts confirmed last night that Jambos Kickback, the fans’ forum, has made a purchase of 50,000 shares.
Fedotovas sought to defend the club against the perception that sound financial housekeeping has been sacrificed in the search of success on the field of play. “To make it simple, our budget this year provides for just around £6m of income and there is £8m of costs and that shows that there is £2m of difference,” he said. “That is something that we want to address with the help of the share issue.”
Asked why a budget of £6m was not implemented, he answered: “Certain contracts are longer contracts and you can not cut these contracts without consequences. Correct me if I am wrong, but we were selling players,” he added. “It is not a supermarket. If you read about Scottish football, or football as a whole, you will realise that transfer income has dropped and that is the reality. We have an absolutely different situation to three or four years ago.