Romanov-owned Belarussian side kicked out of league

PARTIZAN Minsk of Belarus have been thrown out of the country’s top league after Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov refused to keep funding them.

Formerly known as MTZ Ripo, Minsk were part of Romanov’s football portfolio along with Kaunas and Hearts, but he put all three up for sale in November saying he wanted out of football.

“They threw [Partizan] out, of course, because of the lack of money,” Romanov told Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “I don’t intend to keep financing the club. I put 20 million litas [£4.8 million] into it. That’s enough.”

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The Belarussian Football Association excluded Partizan on Friday, three days after the club had failed to meet a deadline for complying with licensing regulations. Romanov had suggested that Minsk city council, which owns 25 per cent of the club, should step in.

Partizan had tried to attract other investors as well as seeking to persuade the council to underwrite them, but were unsuccessful, according to club chief executive Lyudas Rumbutis. “There was hope for the Russian company Gazprom, but that collapsed,” he said. “The Minsk city council tried to help us, but that didn’t work out either.”

Hearts have struggled to meet their running costs since Romanov announced his decision to quit football, and have failed to pay their players on time in three of the last four months.

It is unclear whether Romanov has withdrawn all funding from the Tynecastle club or whether he continues to meet some commitments.

In either case, Hearts officials have had to find other sources of income in order to make payments to playing staff.