Club about to enter administration
19 June ~ After running up debts of £25 million, Hearts have declared their intention to enter administration. Needing to raise £500,000 just to maintain the running of the club over the summer and having put the whole playing squad up for sale, for Hearts fans the prospect of beginning next season on minus 15 points must feel a lifetime away. As a result of the debts, the majority of which are owed to Lithuanian-based companies formally owned by Vladimir Romanov, the club are in need of new ownership and face losing their home, Tynecastle.
Hearts opened talks with Romanov in 2004, when they were one of a number of SPL clubs facing serious financial problems. He completed his takeover in 2005, secured Tynecastle against the prospect of being sold and was welcomed by both the board and supporters of the club. Yet eight years on, the football and financial legacy of Romanov is one of only short-term success.
The positive effects of his takeover were instant. In addition to saving the club from insolvency, his financial guarantees allowed the club to continue trading without needing to sell their ground. Indeed, when he announced his intention for the club to remain at a redeveloped Tynecastle, these plans were met with great support from the fans.
However, the rapid extinguishing of optimism became a feature of Romanov's reign. Despite promising to pay them off, his decision to transfer the club's debts to companies under his control saw them spiral to £36m in 2007. Even though the club made their first profits of the 21st century in 2010, staff were repeatedly not paid and, in 2011, the players were put up for sale as Hearts faced severe financial problems once more.
In a similar vein, fortunes on the pitch under Romanov initially improved before descending into chaos. In 2005 under George Burley, the club enjoyed their best start to a season since 1914. Yet Burley was sacked the day after the club won their eighth straight league game and was eventually replaced by Valdas Ivanauskas, who led them to second place and the Scottish Cup.
Yet determined to try to achieve his aim of winning the Champions League, Romanov has gone through nine different managers in his eight years at the club. Unsurprisingly, with the increased instability around the club, Hearts have failed to replicate such success, despite winning the Scottish Cup again in 2012.
In an eight-year tenure which has become infamous, Romanov has taken the club he initially saved back into the abyss, leaving them needing new ownership and new direction. Their status and stadium are once more at risk thanks to a string of unkept promises and overambitious aims. Daniel Matthews