Pay cuts for Hearts pair ‘too little too late’

Hearts chief executive David Southern has agreed to a pay cut. Picture: SNS
Hearts chief executive David Southern has agreed to a pay cut. Picture: SNS
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HEARTS managing director David Southern and director of football John Murray have both agreed to a pay cut as administrators BDO continue to try to cut costs.

The move came a day after Hearts announced they would not be renewing the contract of assistant manager Billy Brown, who will leave his post after Saturday’s match at St Johnstone.

However, the lowered salaries have not been enough to appease Hearts legend Gary Mackay, who last night launched a scathing attack on the Tynecastle pair, while former manager Jim Jefferies has also questioned the club’s decision to axe Brown – claiming his close friend would have continued as No 2 for free.

As Hearts lurch closer to relegation after falling 20 points adrift at the Premiership basement, all-time record appearance-holder Mackay questioned the way the club is being run.

Mackay said: “[Former manager] John McGlynn lost his job just before the League Cup final last year when the Lithuanians were still here and we have an assistant manager who was in the dugout when Hearts won the Scottish Cup in 1998 being relieved of his duties just weeks before we have a chance to get back to another national cup final.

“If you asked any football person before a ball was kicked this season whether Hearts could survive in the top flight, their answer would have been no. Some people within the club know nothing.

“Hearts are the only club in Scottish football to have a director of football yet they can’t sign players. We have a guy who worked in PR who is now the managing director and someone who was an academy director that is now a director of football. Their pay cuts are too little, too late. How long have Hearts been in administration, yet they’re just taking pay cuts now? It’s a token gesture.

“I have no agenda myself, it’s about the club being run in a professional manner – in administration or not.”

Dunfermline manager Jefferies, who led the club to Scottish Cup glory in 1998, believes there is more to Brown’s imminent departure than meets the eye. He said: “There is no way it has been done for a cost-cutting exercise, that’s just nonsense.

“I’m quite sure if they had approached Billy and said ‘we still need to make cuts’, Billy would have offered his services for nothing.”

Announcing the pay cuts agreed by Southern and Murray, Bryan Jackson of BDO said: “Both David and John have kindly accepted a cut in wages to help reduce the running costs at the club. We remain focused on the main issue of getting Hearts out of administration by negotiating with the Lithuanian administrators for the transfer of shares.”

BDO agreed a Company Voluntary Arrangement in late November, on the completion of which the Foundation of Hearts will take over ownership of the club. But that completion is dependent on Hearts’ former parent company, Ubig, transferring its 50 per cent shareholding in the club to the Foundation, and that transfer can only go ahead with the approval of a Lithuanian court.

There has been no apparent movement in that position in the past six weeks, leading to growing frustration on the part of some club employees and a section of the support. But BDO insist that progress, while slow, is being made.

The administrators also argue that, with funding only in place for the next couple of months, they have to do everything they can now to minimise the club’s running costs. While there were other factors behind the departure of Brown, they want the monetary saving to be seen as paramount.

“A key element in the success of this administration is keeping Hearts solvent throughout this process until the share transfer can occur and all issues can be resolved,” Jackson continued.

“I would like to thank the team and staff at Hearts and the fans for their patience and loyalty throughout a very difficult period. We are getting closer to a resolution, but there is still some way to go and several obstacles to overcome. So I would ask everyone to remain focused on the end result, which is to keep the club going both on and off the pitch for the next few months.”

Although BDO are legally in charge at Tynecastle for as long as Hearts remain in administration, Southern and Murray continue to play key roles.

Hearts have no plans at present to recruit a replacement for Brown, who returned to the club for a third spell, initially on a voluntary basis, last summer. Locke will continue to be assisted by player development manager Robbie Neilson, goalkeeping coach Alan Combe and part-time strikers coach John Robertson.

Former Hearts chairman George Foulkes said yesterday he was sure he spoke for many supporters of the club in voicing his thanks to Brown and he believes that the decision not to replace the assistant manager could give Neilson the space in which to further develop his talents as a coach. “Gary has had Robbie Neilson assisting him for a couple of months now, and Robbie’s ability should not be underestimated,” said Foulkes. “Billy’s departure and the fact the club will not try to recruit a replacement make it possible for Robbie to be given an enhanced role within the coaching structure.”

Neilson’s main task as player development manager is to coach the under-20 team, and he has won four out of seven matches since succeeding Darren Murray in the post.