Ann Budge warns Hearts players to accept wage cut or be left with nothing
Hearts chairman Ann Budge has written to players warning them that they will not be paid at the end of this month if they do not sign up to the temporary wage cuts being imposed by the club.
Despite there being no football since the middle of March, players were paid in full last month but they were told that they would need to accept a 10-30 per cent wage reduction going forward as the Gorgie club steers its way through the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Failure to do so would lead to Hearts invoking a clause in the standard SPFL contract, which offers clubs the right to suspend deals “in the event of the Scottish FA deciding that the game shall be suspended”.
With the majority of leagues in Scotland called to a premature halt and promotion and relegation decided accordingly, there has been no decision made on ending top-tier football. But, warnings by the Government would suggest that the resumption of play remains a long way off, and there is a growing possibility that things may not get back to normal ahead of 2021.
It leaves clubs in a financial conundrum and although some have agreed to defer a portion of wages, Budge is adamant that is not an option at Hearts and has issued a final “take it, or leave it” ultimatum to her football staff.
Some coaches have already accepted a reduction, as has captain Steven Naismith, who has signed up for a 50 per cent cut in an effort to help the club negotiate the unprecedented difficulties and prioritise payments for those who need them most.
Manager Daniel Stendel has also waived all but expenses.
The remaining players and staff have now been told they must also formally accept the new terms or be left with nothing.
“Having paid the players’ wages in full for March, I have written to them today to request the formal notification of their acceptance of the temporary wage cut proposed in order that we can process salaries next week,” said the owner of the Tynecastle club. “I remain hopeful that the players will accept for the reasons outlined, as the only viable alternative is that their contracts remain suspended under Clause 12 of the standard SPFL contract which means that they will not receive any wages during the period of suspension.
“To reiterate, this is the least palatable of the viable options available to us and even if this is ultimately the route we have to take, we would continue to be open to dialogue with individual players on a month-by-month basis.
“As a fan-owned club we are unable to take on a substantial amount of player debt, which the club might not be in a position to honour, or which might significantly damage the club’s ability to recover quickly from this crisis situation.” Thanking the non-playing as well as playing staff for their commitment, sacrifice and understanding during the testing times, Budge said she empathised with everyone affected and acknowledged that “players will have different personal circumstances to consider and are at different stages of their careers”.
But she said there could be no softening in her stance.
Budge added: “In my conversations with the playing squad, I outlined that the most judicious approach for the club – considering all available information – would be to implement a temporary reduction in player salary, with a proposed percentage based on earnings ranging from 10 per cent to 30 per cent.
“In those same conversations, and subsequent discussions with PFA Scotland, I outlined the rationale and also explained why a deferral is simply not an option for the club. To reiterate, I cannot – and will not, in good conscience – leave the club in a position again where football debt is left as a ‘legacy’ for those who follow.
“I know too well the perils of that scenario, having arrived at the club to be immediately presented with a bill of almost £1 million worth of football debt. I am an owner and supporter who is committed to the journey of full fan ownership and it is imperative that the handover takes place without that future financial burden. This was my promise to the fans who helped rescue the club in its hour of need and who continue to pledge their support monthly.
“Furthermore, even in light of recent announcements from Uefa’s Executive Committee and the Scottish Government, there remains – completely understandably given the nature of the virus – no certainty or accurate forecast on when football may return and what form it will take when it resumes, from the perspective of spectator attendance.
“I wish there was an option other than a temporary wage cut but after careful consideration it is the only way for the club to proceed with financial certainty.”
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