Hearts withdraw staff from media events
Hearts have withdrawn their staff from all media events in protest at manager Paulo Sergio being called in front of the Scottish Football Association.
The Edinburgh club say the manager, coaches and players will refuse to take part in pre- and post-match interviews until his hearing on 3 November.
Sergio was the subject of a complaint by the SFA's compliance officer over criticism of referee Iain Brines.
Brines had disallowed a goal by Hearts against Ayr United.
And, despite Hearts writing to the SFA demanding an explanation for that decision, the official was subsequently appointed the fourth official at last weekend's Scottish Premier League visit to Dunfermline Athletic's East End Park.
Sergio faces a judicial panel hearing and a club spokesperson said: "The club believes there has been a huge injustice carried out on the field in the first place in relation to our exit in the cup.
"To compound this, with a further off-field investigation into comments made by our manager in relation to the original injustice raises major questions about the game in this country.
"We will certainly support the manager as the stakes are extremely high for all clubs and, indeed, the game in this country if such injustices are allowed to continue unabated in the Scottish game."
Hearts deny that Sergio has done anything wrong.
"The club will support Paulo against any claim that he has breached the governing body's articles of association in relation to comments about match officials or referees - which, if both are found proven, could lead to a minimum six-match suspension," said a statement on Hearts' website.
"Paulo was quizzed at length in a pre-match media conference prior to the Dunfermline game about the appointment of Iain Brines as the fourth official for that game.
"The manager provided honest, legitimate, measured and transparent answers to the questions raised.
"The media then immediately raised Paulo's comments directly with the SFA to seek a reaction.
"A major part of that reaction appears to be that the manager and, by association the team and the club, now face quite severe sanctions."
Hearts suffered a shock exit at the hands of First Division Ayr on 21 September.
"The media questioning related to Mr Brines' pivotal role in the outcome of the match between Ayr United and Hearts in the Scottish Communities League Cup just over three weeks earlier when disallowing a goal he had previously awarded," added the statement.
"The goal would have put Hearts 2-0 up in the second half. As it was, the match restarted with a free-kick being awarded to Ayr United.
"Ayr shortly afterwards equalised and qualified on penalties after extra time.
"Hearts thereafter sought clarification from the SFA and has subsequently received a reply.
"It is this club's considered opinion that, above all else, Heart of Midlothian has a duty of care to its employees.
"As such, the club feels that it is entirely wrong for Paulo Sergio to be potentially sanctioned given the circumstances.
"For this reason, the club feels that, in addition to defending the manager's position, the club will also suspend all general media activity - including pre- and post-match media conferences - until, at the earliest, the date of the hearing on 3 November.
"This decision has not been taken lightly. The club, manager and players always endeavour to provide valuable content to the media.
"However, in this particular case, the club feels the actions of certain elements of the media are duplicitous and we have to protect the club from the actions of those who simply seek to sensationalise and at times demonise those working and contributing to the game in this country."