Hearts: ‘This is lowest ebb’ says administrator

Gary Locke during the weekend's derby fixture. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Gary Locke during the weekend's derby fixture. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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HEARTS manager Gary Locke admits all he can do is “hope and pray” his club escapes the looming threat of liquidation.

Hearts will finally be relegated from the Premiership tonight if they lose at home to Aberdeen, and they face a potentially far bigger battle in Lithuania on Monday, when creditors of major club shareholder Ukio Bankas and parent company Ubig will meet.

The creditors will decide whether to agree the proposed Company Voluntary Arrangement which would take Hearts out of administration.

Bryan Jackson, of administrators BDO, said yesterday that the club is at its lowest ebb since going into administration last June and again insisted that the money will run out very soon unless the situation with Ubig is resolved.

Locke has had to trust that Jackson and his colleagues would be able to resolve matters and stressed yesterday that he had a hard enough job dealing with events on the pitch without becoming involved in matters he could not affect.

“It’s not really anything that I can influence,” Locke said of the impending creditors’ meeting. “If I was making the decision it’s an easy one. We’ve just got to hope and pray that everything goes well and we can move forward as a club again.

“As players and backroom staff, we can’t influence what happens off the park. It’s been a difficult enough season on it, so if we worry about everything that happens off the pitch it would be a nightmare for us.

“We’ve just got to try to get on with the football and the training, because that’s the only thing we can influence. And the

players have done that. It’s credit to the players the way they’ve all handled themselves and applied themselves throughout the season. I think it’s remarkable.”

Jackson’s statement that funds could run out sometime this month has led to speculation that Hearts may not be able to fulfil their remaining fixtures – six after tonight. But Locke said no such drastic eventuality had even been discussed.

Locke said: “I spoke to Bryan last week, but we certainly never spoke about Hearts not being here or anything like that.

“He’s confident that he’ll get the deal done and that’s it as far as he’s concerned. He didn’t go into a lot of detail. I speak to Bryan every now and again.

“I’ve had a few sleepless nights this season, so that will not change. We’re looking at next week and hopefully getting a favourable outcome, because I’m the same as any Hearts fan – all I want is for the club to prosper and move forward again, and next Monday will go a long way towards proving that.

“I just hope we can get the deal done next week and we can start talking about Hearts as a football club again rather than all the stuff off the pitch.”

Earlier, Jackson admitted to being frustrated by the delays in resolving the issues at Ukio and Ubig, and suggested it was senseless for anyone in Lithuania to delay a deal that could jeopardise not only the club, but the offer of £2.5 million which is part of the CVA proposal from the owners-in-waiting, the Foundation of Hearts.

“This is probably the lowest ebb we’ve got to,” Jackson said. “This deal should have been over the line by now. We have to accept now that there is a threat of liquidation and we are doing everything we can to avoid it.

It is in absolutely nobody’s interest, whether it’s a creditor or a shareholder or a supporter. It can’t be in anybody’s interest. It just doesn’t make any sense, and this is what we are struggling with. We just have to make sure it doesn’t come to that.”

Businesswoman Ann Budge is offering to buy the shares on behalf of the Foundation of Hearts, with the long-term aim of handing over control to the supporters. The majority of the money would go to Ukio Bankas, which has a 28.79 per cent stake in the club and holds a floating charge on Tynecastle Stadium. “It does

Jackson admits there is no ‘good Plan B’ seem there are one or two creditors who want more information or are not happy with the deal and think the property is worth more money and so on,” Jackson told BBC Scotland. “But that is not the reality. We have supplied all the information and we really don’t believe there could be a better deal. I don’t believe that trying to sell off the ground in any other way would benefit the creditors.

“But it’s a different country, with a different way of doing things that we perhaps don’t totally understand.

“If there is a time delay that we could perhaps fill in with some funding. We have various options on how we could obtain that. None of the options are good, if the deal doesn’t go through in the end and if it doesn’t go through quite quickly, so it’s very hard to focus on Plan B when, frankly, there isn’t really a good Plan B.”