Hearts pay outstanding wages after threat from SPL

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Interview: SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster

Hearts say they have paid wages owed to their players - hours after the Scottish Premier League threatened action against the Edinburgh club.

But, although Hearts paid salaries outstanding from December, they must now deliver this month's wages by 16 January to avoid possible sanctions.

"The payment is the result of successful business conducted by the club," said a club statement.

"And it is coincidental that this has happened on the same day."

Hearts, who have seven days to decide whether to appeal against the decision to the Scottish Football Association, stressed that they would "decide on the course of further action" after carefully considering the SPL judgement.

Following a meeting at Hampden, Hearts were told they must not only stump up the December salaries but also pay interest on them - then deliver this month's figures - for 14 first-team players.

Hearts were also told to pay the claimants' legal expenses and the SPL's costs for conducting the hearing.

SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: "Today's decision reflects fully the seriousness with which we regard the late payment of players' salaries."

The investigation followed a formal complaint from PFA Scotland on behalf of the first-team squad on 16 December, submitted when wages were delayed for a third consecutive month.

Doncaster did not want to reveal what further action might be taken should Hearts fail to meet the SPL's demands, although a fine or points deduction appear more likely than a transfer embargo.

"It is certainly not our intention to stop any club selling any assets that it wishes," said the chief executive, whose organisation's powers stretch to relegating Hearts or expelling them from the league.

"I am not going to speculate about what might ultimately be the outcome in the event that any of those orders are not met in full.

"That would then be the subject of a separate process and I wouldn't want to predict what the outcome could be.

"We've made very clear orders about what needs to be paid and by when. And in the event of any of those orders are not met in full then that would come back to the SPL board to consider at that point."

Doncaster did not think the situation at Tynecastle necessary reflected badly on the SPL.

PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart praised the SPL for its intervention and insisted that the hearing was a last resort.

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Interview: PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart

"We're happy that the SPL has supported the players," said Wishart. "We're reluctantly here on behalf of the players because we don't want to be taking cases to the SPL.

"Particularly in this situation with Hearts, when we know there's cashflow problems at the club.

"We tried to resolve it internally during October and November, but when it came to December, their patience ran out.

"So we're very pleased and delighted with the support of the SPL.

"We're not asking for the Earth - we just want the players to be paid on time."

Hearts manager Paulo Sergio on Monday told BBC Scotland that he expects players to leave this month to reduce the wage bill.

Eggert Jonsson has already joined Wolves, fellow midfielder Ryan Stevenson has asked Hearts to terminate his contract unless he is paid, while winger has also expressed a desire to leave before his contract is due to expire.

Goalkeeper Janos Balogh left the club with immediate effect in December and striker Calum Elliot agreed a January exit.

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