Hearts fear for future after winding-up order
EDINBURGH (AFP) –
Scottish Premier League (SPL) side Hearts warned their fans the club could be entering its “final days” after confirming Wednesday they had been served with a winding-up order regarding a tax bill of nearly 450,000 pounds ($719,000).
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) submitted the petition in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
In an initial response, Scottish Cup holders Hearts said they were attempting to negotiate a payment plan with the tax authority and stressed the matter was unrelated to a £1.75million HMRC bill which the Edinburgh club are challenging at a tax tribunal.
Hearts said they were “endeavouring to agree a suitable payment plan with HMRC for the outstanding amount of £449,692.04″.
But the Hearts board later issued a statement urging fans to provide as much financial support as possible by buying up tickets for forthcoming home games at Tynecastle, saying the appeal was “not so much a request as a necessity”.
The statement added: “Without the support of fans there is, as we issue this note, a real risk that Heart of Midlothian Football Club could possibly play its last game next Saturday, 17 November, against St Mirren.
“This isn’t a bluff, this isn’t scaremongering, this is reality. Without your help now, we could be entering the final days of the club’s existence.”
Last season court action by HMRC forced Rangers into administration, starting a process that led to the Glasgow giants, Scotland’s most successful club, being ejected from the SPL and demoted into the fourth-tier Third Division.
New SPL rules brought in for this season have increased points deductions for entering administration and the Hearts statement added: “There are limited options for the board of directors to take to avoid the catastrophic consequences that a funding shortfall would mean for the club.
“In a footballing sense alone Hearts will suffer an immediate 17-point penalty.
“This would just be the start of a painful process that will affect every one of us and could lead to far more damaging actions that threaten the very existence of the club.”
Hearts are currently ninth in the SPL and six points above basement club Dundee, who are in the lone relegation place.
But a 17-point penalty would leave Hearts bottom of the table on minus four points and all but certain to be relegated.
Meanwhile the Scottish government said it would try to help Hearts find a way through the club’s cash crisis.
“The Scottish Government stands ready to assist in any way it can, including making contact with HMRC if necessary,” a spokesman said.
Hearts launched a £1.79million share issue two weeks ago but the prospectus revealed another tax dispute.
HMRC has claimed unpaid tax liabilities in the region of £1.75 million relating to loan agreements for a number of players who joined Hearts from Lithuanian club Kaunas, who were then run by Vladimir Romanov, the club’s majority shareholder since 2005.
Last year, Hearts had to pay a bill in the region of £500,000 to defeat a similar HMRC winding-up order, while others were served in 2009 and 2010.
The Jambos have had problems meeting wage bills during the past year and are currently under a SPL transfer embargo following consecutive late monthly payments to some players and coaches.