HEARTS yesterday announced that all remaining salary payments for November have been made, 29 days after they were meant to be deposited in players’ bank accounts and hours before PFA Scotland were due to submit a complaint to the Scottish Premier League.
However, with the players’ wages for December scheduled to be paid today, the clock has already begun to tick down again.
PFA Scotland last night insisted Hearts’ players will proceed with their complaint to the Scottish Premier League should their December salaries fail to arrive on time. PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart yesterday revealed that the players had given the union “full authorisation to represent them” and that this was a unanimous view among those in the dressing room who had remained unpaid.
“If the players are paid tomorrow then great,” said Wishart. “If not then the complaint still goes in due to the late payment of wages for October, November and December.”
A meeting took place yesterday between the players and PFA Scotland and agreement was reached to submit a letter of complaint today, with an SPL board meeting scheduled to be held on Monday. However, shortly afterwards, a statement was released on the club’s official website confirming that Hearts had “finalised all remaining November salary payments”. A club source stressed that this had not been in response to the pressure applied by PFA Scotland. “It was as a result of people banging the drum to get money from UBIG”, the source said. Ukio Bankas Investment Group [UBIG] is the investment group which own Hearts and in which Vladimir Romanov, the Tynecastle club’s majority shareholder, has a controlling interest.
In the board statement on the Hearts website, director Sergejus Fedotovas advised supporters to “remain resolute” and asked them not to be “swayed by more sensationalist parties using the club’s current challenges to promote themselves”.
The club issued a guarantee that “no player walkout will happen”. The statement also assured supporters that “no senior players that have value to this club will leave the club for free”.
This was in answer to the suggestion that players were set to invoke a rule in Fifa legislation allowing them to terminate a contract “with just cause”.
There was no assurance in the statement that the players would receive their December wages on time today, however. Payment would normally be made by late afternoon.
A statement released yesterday afternoon by PFA Scotland confirmed a meeting had taken place yesterday between the union and Hearts players.
“The outcome is that those members who remain unpaid have given written authority to PFA Scotland to lodge a complaint for the delayed and non payment of their salaries,” said Wishart.
“The players also mandated PFA Scotland to represent them legally both outwith and within the football industry.”
Wishart was happy to learn the news that the club had part paid the outstanding salaries but warned that a complaint would still be issued if the latest wage deadline was missed today.
“It is welcome news that the players have received part of the monies outstanding to them,” he said. “Throughout this whole process they have been thoroughly professional and focused in their outlook. The members have however mandated that should they not be paid fully up to date by tomorrow [16th December] a collective complaint to the Scottish Premier League will still to be lodged. It is our hope that the salaries will be paid fully and no further action is necessary”
The letter of complaint signed by the Hearts squad was expected to be presented by PFA Scotland to the SPL today, on what would have been day 30 of the players’ wait for November’s wages. Wages are due on the 16th of each month, but the players’ October salary was received on 4 November. Hearts’ announcement yesterday does little to rectify the situation if the players go without their December payment. Last week the players received a £1,000 part-payment from funds generated from the income raised at the recent home game against St Johnstone. Midfielder Ian Black is reported to have been working as a painter and decorator in order to make up the short-fall in wages due to him.
But Hearts still went on the offensive yesterday, describing the hysteria surrounding the club as a “very profitable business for the media and even some solicitors have taken the chance to grab the limelight”. Several notable figures with connections to Hearts were also in the firing line. They were accused of chasing Romanov away.
“Now he [Romanov] is leaving and without his help it will be much more difficult to make ends meet, or target the top of the league,” said Fedotovas.
“People who are wrongly happy about that can pass on their thanks to the likes of Gary Mackay, George Foulkes, [Phil] Anderton, [Graham] Rix, [George] Burley and others that used the club for their personal agendas, pretending to be supporters of the club but in fact seeking supporters for themselves.”