Four Hearts players to go

Fourteen Hearts administrative staff have been made redundant and four players are "likely" to be made redundant.

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Hearts: Members of staff have been made

Hearts: Members of staff have been made

Hearts fans have been urged to buy 3,000 season tickets in the next 14 days to keep the club afloat after administrators began a round of redundancies which is expected to see four players lose their jobs.

Administrators BDO began their first full day in charge at Tynecastle by making 14 office staff redundant, nine of them full-time, while two unnamed senior players and two youth players are "likely" to depart.

That will leave Hearts with a 22-man squad - but they may not even start their season at St Johnstone on August 3 if fans cannot plug an immediate funding gap estimated to be between £500,000 and £750,000.

Hearts were forced to call in joint-administrators Bryan Jackson and Trevor Birch after running out of money to pay players and tax bills and the pair admit the situation - with no money in the bank and no guaranteed income - is as "desperate" as they have seen.

But they believe a sustainable business can emerge from the cashflow crisis and, by raising season ticket holders to last season's level of 10,000 - thus generating up to £800,000 - potential owners will be able formulate takeover bids.

Jackson said: "If we can achieve that, we will be in a position where we can fund the club going forward.

"It does indicate it would give us four months which, although a short timescale for trying to put everything into operation for a CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement), it makes it possible to keep the doors open and to honour those season tickets.

"It should also mean we will be able to keep the rest of the squad together."

Jackson stressed BDO would take no fee until a sale is secured in a bid to encourage a set of supporters who put more than £1million into their club last December to avert an HMRC winding-up order by purchasing shares which are now effectively worthless, and were even then.

"I know it always seems to come down on the fans, but to a great extent it is," Jackson said.

"If season ticket money comes in, and we will be also looking for the usual donations, it puts us in a situation where we won't be forced to fire-sale players, which means we retain value on the field and hopefully make the club more attractive for a new owner to come in.

"All we can do is the usual plea to all the fans to rally round.

"We know they have given, and given, but we are still asking them to give again because there is really nowhere else for us to go.

"If people don't buy season tickets, we are really running out of options.

"If the fans don't support the club in the next week, and bear in mind they usually sell 10,000 season tickets, then there's a strong signal there that they have had enough. And I wouldn't be critical of them for that.

"Alternatively they might not physically have the money.

"If there is very little there within a week then you are going to be seriously concerned about the future."

Another pressing concern is to inform those players who will be made redundant. Others may be asked to take a pay cut.

"One of the difficulties of course is that we are in the close season," Jackson said. "So it's a question of contacting them, sitting down and speaking to them. It will happen in a couple of days."

Birch revealed there were "three or four" interested parties, all UK-based, with the Foundation of Hearts fans' group seen as a credible bidder.

Jackson added: "The intention is to try and get anyone that's interested to make an offer as quickly as possible.

"The concern is that, if the season tickets do sell, you are still potentially going to run out of cash, because once you have used up that money and you are just dependent on your home gate with other income from the football authorities, and that's it."

While the immediate priority is to address the cashflow issue, any bidder will ultimately have to satisfy the main creditors, Ukio Bankas and UBIG, two Lithuanian-based firms which are similarly insolvent and own the majority of the club as well as being owed a total of £25million.

Ukio holds a security over Tynecastle Stadium and other assets which cannot be sold without its consent.

But Jackson said: "From our limited dealings with them, they seem very professional, very reasonable and sympathetic to the club continuing as a club because they could obviously look at it in a different way."


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