The Jambos yesterday announced they had entered a “critical” stage in their battle to pay off debts of £25million as well as financing tax and running costs.
The SPL has now slapped a transfer embargo on the club and warned further punishments could be handed down at a later date.
The league said in a statement: “The Scottish Premier League has been informed by Heart of Midlothian FC that the club has failed to pay a number of its players on time today. This is a Remuneration Default in terms of the SPL Rules and the Club is therefore subject to an automatic transfer embargo while that Remuneration Default continues.
“The actions also indicate a potential breach of SPL rule A6.21 and a disciplinary hearing will be convened in due course.”
The Gorgie side need to raise a reported £500,000 to see the club through to the start of the new season.
But managing director David Southern confirmed yesterday that season-ticket sales are down 20 per cent on their most conservative estimates and most of the cash that has come in from renewals has already been spent.
The club owned up to the extent of their financial problems just 24 hours after the administrator of Ukio Bankas, who are owed £15million by the Tynecastle club, said he has “no reason or desire to harm Hearts” after a court in Lithuania upheld a decision to liquidate the bank.
Hearts, however, are still battling the threat of a winding-up order lodged by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs over a £100,000 tax bill, although a majority of that sum has been paid.
And UBIG, once run by Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov, still owns 50 per cent of the club and is due £10million, but has now claimed insolvency itself.
News of Hearts’ alarming predicament came via a statement on their official website outlining concerns about a “shortfall in funding” and just three weeks after the club announced the permanent signing of Scotland defender Danny Wilson.
The player is understood to be reconsidering his move to Hearts, according to newspaper reports today.
The SPL first hit Hearts with a transfer embargo last October after six players and manager John McGlynn were paid six days late.
But the players acted voluntarily a month later as they agreed to defer their wages following news that HMRC gave the club until December 3 to come up with the £450,000 it owed in unpaid tax.
Supporters helped raised over £1million to save the club on that occasion but five days before Christmas, the SPL placed the Tynecastle outfit under an “indefinite transfer embargo” over a failure to make bonus payments to their players following their Scottish Cup win in May.
The signing ban lasted a month before the SPL loosened the restrictions, ruling instead that the club could only sign under-21 players on a one in, one out basis.