‘News’ that a football club can actually go out of business will come as a surprise to no one here as Hearts issued a statement saying “Without the support of fans there is a real risk that Hearts could possibly play its last game on 17 November.”
Hearts have two commercial problems: they owe HMRC money they don’t have and their running costs are greater than their income. They also have over £20m of debt owed to major shareholder, Ukio Bankas, which at this stage of their corporate existence is more of an asset than a liability.
The club have asked supporters to cough up around £2m to pay HMRC and see it through until the end of the season. A further £1.7m HMRC demand is being contested but should Hearts lose this appeal, that bill will crystallise quickly.
Unlike the now-defunct Rangers, Hearts major shareholder is due more than 75% of the debt, so Ukio could vote to accept a Company Voluntary Arrangement, possibly for as little as 1p in the £1, if the club goes into administration. This is a well-travelled road for Scottish football clubs who overwhelmingly fail owing shareholders or the bank the majority of their debt.
In this respect, there is no obvious reason why Hearts are in danger of playing their last game next week. Administration would allow the club to shed its debt, including the contested tax bill. It would almost certainly result in player redundancies, which would reduce expenditure below the level of income. Hearts would be diminished as a football club, and would take a 17 point hit in the SPL, but that is as bad as it needs to get. Ukio Bankas would take the largest hit on money they may well have already written-off.
The only thing I see for Hearts fans to worry about is the property value of Tynecastle. Ukio will almost certainly have a charge on all the club’s property assets. If the club disappears, they would be left with the real estate. Tynecastle is worth a whole lot more money as flats than as a football field.
When a company cannot pay its creditors it goes into administration and seeks to negotiate a settlement with them. Hearts can do this “within days if not hours”, as Our Hero once said. It’s just curious that Hearts are playing on the bring rather than sorting things out.
Maybe they could get former player and tracksuit salesman, Maurice something-or-other, to sell some of their assets.
The magnificent 1254125 charity cycle, from birthplace of Brother Walfrid, Ballymote, Co. Sligo, to Celtic Park, got underway yesterday. Today the six cyclists, Paul Muldoon (of this parish), Mark Cameron, Alistair Schulz, Robert Campbell Ray McFarland and Jim Kelly, left Blacklion on a 80 mile journey to Lurgan.
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