In a typically frenzied statement, the Hearts owner condemned the recent owners of Rangers for leading them to what he believes was an inevitable demise. The Russian-born businessman also called on the SPL to cut its ties with British Sky Broadcasting, claiming Scottish football can both survive and thrive without the £80 million television contract which has been placed in doubt by the uncertainty over Rangers’ future.
In the most unequivocal contribution yet to the debate ahead of the 4 July vote at Hampden on whether the reformed Rangers will be admitted to the SPL, Romanov left no room for doubt that Hearts will be in the “No” camp. While he was sympathetic to the plight of Rangers supporters, Romanov was visceral in his criticism of their stricken club and suggested their on-field successes of recent years had been secured unfairly.
“The opinion of Heart of Midlothian FC in regards to the current situation of Scottish football is clear and robust,” said Romanov. “The football mafia represented by former owners of Rangers FC and Rupert Murdoch’s media are to blame for some of the worst problems to hit Scottish football and must not be allowed back in under any circumstances.
“As regards the club itself, we can only express our deepest condolences to its supporters, who have been lied to for so many years.
“Supporters deserve a new beginning and have to accept the fact that their club has to start from the lower league, keeping order in the SPL and without creating unfair competition with other clubs. It had to happen sooner or later. Victories were achieved not by sporting merits, but through slander, conspiracies amongst players and their poaching via third parties, unfair pressuring of referees, who in themselves are as valuable to the fabric of football as the football stars themselves.
“All of this brought hollow victories and destroyed football.
“We can also mention the attempts to eliminate Hearts with the help of the tax petitions, through false accusations and threats to revoke the club licence. There is a saying about digging a grave for someone: you get it for yourself. Without these people football will become cleaner and stronger.”
Romanov has been a consistent critic of media magnate Murdoch, whose News Corporation has a controlling stake in BSkyB. The Hearts owner believes Scottish football is getting a raw deal from its current television contract, with the new, five-year £80 million agreement with Sky and ESPN due to kick in at the start of next season.
Reviving the notion of an in-house TV channel, which has been considered previously by the SPL and is currently operated in the Dutch Eredevisie, Romanov believes clubs could double their money within the next three seasons. “As regards the pitiful state of Scottish football finances, a lot of the blame should be placed at the doors of Murdoch’s media,” said Romanov. “They pay huge sums to English clubs, whilst in Scotland, where football is better supported per capita than anywhere else in Europe and there are more cable or Sky subscribers per capita than in England, clubs receive peanuts for their broadcasting rights.
“At the very least this is discrimination and protectionism for the English football product, which at the same time stunts the development of the game in Scotland, that is regarded as the cradle of football. I feel that it is absolutely realistic to create a company that would bring to Scottish clubs at least the same broadcasting income, and even grow it by 50-100 per cent over the next two to three years.
“This company should be in the hands of Scottish clubs and work with those who want to earn money the honest way, instead of conducting business the Murdoch way.
“They have lived beyond law and all morals, and should now be declared beyond the pale. A society that allows the destruction of integrity in sport, which is a crucial part of Scottish culture, is destroying itself – and all for the benefit of a media aborigine.”