HEARTS will face a Scottish Premier League hearing within the next fortnight after being hit with an indefinite transfer ban for failing to make bonus and appearance payments to their players on time.
The SPL released a statement on Thursday explaining that the Tynecastle club had informed them that a number of bonus and appearance payments remained outstanding from this season. All SPL clubs agreed in the summer to a proposal to implement stricter regulations for non-payment of salaries and bonuses. Hearts’ alleged continued failure to comply has led to a further transfer embargo being implemented, with the original ban having been due to expire tomorrow.
A hearing will now take place on a still-to-be scheduled date before the start of the winter break and Hearts will be invited to state their case, with manager John McGlynn yesterday confirming that the club will “challenge” the ruling. As it stands, Hearts will be unable to make any signings when the transfer window opens on 1 January.
Lithuanian striker Arturas Rimkevicius arrived last week on trial with a view to signing after the initial 60-day transfer ban had ended. However, he is now in limbo over Christmas as Hearts attempt to argue that while they are now up to date with salary payments, there is no fixed date in the players’ contracts stating when bonus or appearance money must be paid.
McGlynn was adamant that no player had refused to sign a form agreeing to defer bonus and appearance payments until the end of the season, as has been reported. He was quick to bat away the suggestion that there is a mutinous vibe within the playing camp.
“The club are going to challenge it, that’s as much as I can say really,” confirmed McGlynn yesterday, with reference to the freshly extended transfer embargo.
“The worst case situation would be if we lost players [in the transfer window] and couldn’t bring anyone in. It would be difficult. But going back to August, up until the transfer window we didn’t bring any players in then either.
“It remains to be seen exactly what will transpire,” he added. “I don’t know how many players it involves.”
According to McGlynn, “the players are not bothered at all”. He insisted that the complaint had not been submitted by anyone on the playing staff. “They are not concerned about it,” he said. He added that, to his knowledge, the Professional Football Association Scotland, have not been involved either. “It’s the SPL themselves, from what I am led to believe.”
Managing director David Southern and Janine Brown, the club’s human resources manager, addressed the players in advance of the SPL’s statement on Thursday, with McGlynn also present.
“There are other clubs who don’t pay their bonuses until the end of the season either, that’s why there are areas where this can be challenged,” the manager said. “I know at other clubs they will pay bonuses at the end of the season and if you put that in writing, I think that is OK.”
“[But] it doesn’t really matter what I think but the board of directors have looked at it and gone for legal advice and want to take it a stage further. That is where we are at the moment.”
Hearts have insisted that bonus payments dating back to the Scottish Cup final win over Hibernian in May have now been paid. However, payments of bonuses due this season are understood to be in arrears, amounting to a six-figure sum. Several players were reportedly unhappy at the prospect of a player such as Rimkevicius being brought in while others already at the club were still owed money.
Skipper Marius Zaliukas made it clear that he was speaking for himself when asked about the latest finance-related problem to hit Hearts. While McGlynn remarked that it was “just another day at Hearts”, his captain claimed he was “surprised” to hear of the latest developments on Thursday. He said he did not have “any problems” with deferring bonus and appearance payments until the end of the season. “But you should maybe ask the other players how they feel,” he said.
“For me it is not an issue,” he added. “I am just focusing on football and winning games. Nobody has come to me to complain – not yet.
“No-one has said the bonuses will only be paid at the end of the season and we didn’t discuss it properly,” Zaliukas added. “They [club officials] just mentioned it and we will probably have another meeting later on. They just came in and told us the situation and that the news was going to come out later on.
“To be honest, I don’t see any issue with that and probably none of the other players have a problem with it. As I said I can wait or it can be on time for me, but rules are rules and there are probably some players who are affected by this.”