Unpaid Hearts players threaten to walk away from club on 14 January

HEARTS players have no confidence in the ability of either the SPL or SFA to resolve the club’s failure to pay their wages and instead plan to wait until mid-January before ripping up their contracts and placing their faith in FIFA and the legal system.

They say they feel let down by the domestic ruling bodies and their unwillingness to intervene and, having taken advice, they have set a date of 14 January to call the club’s bluff and walk away as free agents.

The SPL claims it is powerless to step into the wages dispute unless a complaint is made by the players, while the SFA said it could not act as it would be the body that heard any appeal.

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The players have effectively not been paid on time since October, although that month’s salary arrived 19 days late. Since then they have received just £1,000 of their November sum and with the December due date just five days away, club insiders have admitted they are still struggling to secure the funds needed to honour that payment. There have also been claims by those scrutinising Hearts’ financial health ahead of any takeover that the club is in a more precarious position than has been suggested, with the wage crisis just a small part of the club’s problems.

The immediate future, however, is bleak and it means that interested parties are unlikely to proceed with any buyout proposals at this time, while the players have little expectation of receiving any of their monies, and certainly not before Christmas.

“We are almost at the stage that we would probably prefer not to get that wage on time because then we could walk away on 14 January, and find ourselves new clubs and Hearts wouldn’t get a penny,” said one player, on condition of anonymity.

“We could then take them to court to recover the missing wages. Waiting that long will be tough and I’m not sure how many of us will be able to keep up with our mortgage instalments if that does happen. No-one wants this but the way things are we don’t know when we will ever get paid and we have all had enough of this nightmare.

People all over Britain went on strike the other week over changes to their pensions. Imagine how they would feel if they weren’t even getting paid. We all have mortgages and bills to pay like anyone else and with Christmas coming it’s just horrendous. Lads are worrying about how to feed their families and pay for petrol for their cars to get to training five days a week and a game on the Saturday. It’s all taking a toll and the lads are now willing to walk away and take their chances of getting another club and getting their money back through the courts.”

Experts in employment law have suggested that the players could walk away immediately and they have been directed towards a line in the FIFA regulations which permits the termination of contracts “with just cause” but they say they would prefer to play it safe by waiting the 90 days cited by FIFA and have dismissed talk of strike action in the interim.

“We need to keep our noses clean. We can’t do anything that would mean we are in breach of our own contracts, which means we will continue to turn up for training and games, even although it will soon be tough for some of the lads to find money for petrol. We just have to hope that none of us pick up a bad injury while playing.”

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