Scottish side holds a ‘fire sale’ in a bid to ensure the future of the club.
Financially troubled Scottish Premier League club Hearts put its entire squad up for sale, as it battles to address a funding crisis and debt repayments that threaten its existence.
The Edinburgh side said on its website that it would “consider offers for the players of the current squad, including the most promising talent in order for the most necessary and important payments to be made”.
“The board had planned to bring income in through the sale of players while considering the financial forecast for next season but now this will need to happen much earlier in order to preserve the business,” it added.
“We understand that this will lead to significant on-field pressure but at all times we must consider the health of the club and preserve it for future generations.”
Hearts are potentially facing another winding-up order over a 110,000 ($156,000, 118,000-euro) tax bill, although most of the money has been repaid.
But on Wednesday, a court in Lithuania upheld a decision to liquidate majority shareholder Ukio Banko Investicine Group (UBIG), to which the Tynecastle club owes a reported £15 million.
UBIG was controlled by the club’s owner Vladimir Romanov until he resigned from the board after the company’s assets were frozen.
Hearts narrowly avoided relegation from the SPL last season after league bosses decided that Romanov’s financial problems had not breached its rules.
UBIG’s administrator said after the court decision on Wednesday that he had “no reason or desire to harm Hearts.”
Hearts, however, said the “shortfall in funding” had raised doubts over its ability to pay players and staff, while revenues for season tickets had “dried up” and other funding was not available soon enough, prompting the drastic action to put the squad up for sale.
“The payments to HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs tax authority) and players/staff are the most important issues in our focus these days where very limited time remains available to the club,” it added.
Hearts directors blamed their precarious financial state on their worst league finish in more than 30 years (10th), the demotion of Rangers from the Scottish top flight and stadium costs.
But they added that the biggest threat now was “hesitation and inaction”.
“Provided we can achieve security for the club, it is the view of the board that there is a viable strategy for the change of ownership to a willing buyer or investor,” the directors said.
“The most difficult part in this is finding an agreement with the creditors, however we know that there is goodwill with Ukio Bankas, as demonstrated by the statement from the Ukio Bankas administrator yesterday.
“We also believe that UBIG remains supportive of Hearts.”