SFA refuse to loosen Hearts transfer embargo rules

Hearts manager Gary Locke. Picture: Ian Georgeson/TSPL
Hearts manager Gary Locke. Picture: Ian Georgeson/TSPL
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The Scottish Football Association has ruled out any clemency on sanctions imposed on Hearts but chief executive Stewart Regan revealed talks were under way to help prevent more clubs finding themselves in financial trouble.

Hearts have made several calls for a relaxation of the transfer restrictions they have been placed under to relieve the physical burden on their young players.

Manager Gary Locke, whose team are 20 points adrift in the Scottish Premiership, has not been able to fill his bench in recent games and saw his options further reduced this week after midfielder Jamie Walker was ruled out for 10 weeks with a broken foot, prompting the club to claim they might not be able to field a team at some stage.

The Scottish Professional Football League did not even discuss the club’s appeal against a transfer embargo at its board meeting on Monday, although chief executive Neil Doncaster pointed out they could apply to sign players on a one-in, one-out basis.

Hearts have been in talks with Swansea over the potential sale of teenager Adam King but would not be able to sign a replacement aged over 21 until February 1 under a separate, SFA embargo.

And Regan insisted there was no way that sanction would be lifted early.

Regan said: “You have to feel sorry for the position that those players are in and the position the club finds itself in. It’s always difficult when you see a club going through a period like Hearts have gone through.

“However, you have to balance that with applying the rules and that’s the job of the Scottish FA, to apply the rules. That’s what we have done. The club were given a sanction by an independent panel and that sanction will run out on January 31. You can’t have one rule for one and one rule for the other.

“As far as looking for preventative measures, there is a whole series of discussions and working parties taking place, one of which includes the subject of financial fair play.

“This is something that has been put in place by UEFA across the 53 associations and it’s something the Scottish FA are also looking at from a domestic point of view, to hopefully prevent clubs from getting into financial difficulties in the future.”

PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart admitted concern over the health of Locke’s young squad but no-one from the club has sought his help.

Wishart said: “We are always at pains to say that we believe clubs should live within their means. I think we are there in general, and that’s seen by the fact there are less jobs for our players, wages are dropping, contracts are shorter. I think the Scottish FA and SPFL are addressing that by looking at their rules regarding insolvency and financial fair play.

“We haven’t had any contact from anybody at Hearts over this matter but as a players’ union the Hearts’ case is twofold. One is the health and safety of the lads who are still there, and we also have to keep in mind that five of our members were made redundant in the summer and suffered a loss, for which they haven’t been compensated yet.

“We have worked very closely with administrators BDO and, as a result of that, it’s explicit within the CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement) document that football debt, which includes debt owed to those who were made redundant, will be taken up by the new owners.”

Locke delivered some good news when he revealed that left-back Kevin McHattie was set to return to training later in the week after coming off during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Motherwell with a tight hamstring.