Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hearts: Pay up, pay up or play the blame game

"We paid our wages on time," say Hearts.

"Naw. You didnae," say the SPL.

A prize to whoever identifies the voice of reason and truth in the parcel of rogues contributing to the latest farrago over Hearts and the saga of the paid/unpaid wages.

As it stands Hearts are to be charged "under SPL Rule A3.1 with failing to behave with the utmost good faith to the SPL."

Hearts refute this and lay claim to "documentary evidence" which proves the players were paid by the 16th January deadline that the SPL - and the player's contracts - stipulated.

If Hearts are right then one might have thought that this could have been sorted out quite quickly. Someone on the SPL board must have the phone number of someone at Tynecastle. And someone at Tynecastle must have access to a fax machine.

The situation now seems to have gone beyond that.

Semantics hint at a softening of the SPL's stance. A first statement yesterday seemed certain of a failure to meet the deadline. A second statement announcing the charge referenced an "alleged failure."

But there's a risk of reading too much into such things.

What does the charge actually mean?

It seems a woolly way of saying "enough is enough, you're just taking the piss now, this is no time to be playing silly beggars."

Or, if you're a fan of such conspiracies, it's the SPL ganging up on a club - and an owner - they disdain.

So it drags on. The SPL would seem - somewhat uncharacteristically - to have confirmed that they're now up for a fight. Hearts haven't done anything to suggest that they're not ready to go toe-to-toe.

Somebody's going to lose.

Should the rest of us care about a little local difficulty in Gorgie?

Probably. Such an imbroglio involving our perennial third force does little to enhance the tarnished image of the SPL.

And, even if it transpires that they have the might of being right on their side this time, the SPL's handling of the whole situation has seemed typically confused.

That could have repercussions. Scottish football is skint. It's Hearts right now. But there but for the grace of creative accounting, a benevolent director or a winter rush on Bovril, goes your team.

Are we about to see a precedent set in how the SPL deal with such situations when they crop up - as they surely must - in the future?

Perhaps. It's someone else's soap opera right now. But it could be your club next season.

> A word, as ever, for the players at Hearts.

Not since Jimmy Hill became a footballing Spartacus in the early 1960s can the collective salaries of a group of players been subject to such scrutiny.

That can't be pleasant.

The way they've risen above that in the past few weeks to move up to third in the table - while delivering some impressive performances - is a remarkable tribute to their perseverance.

A feat that fairly dents the stereotype of the modern footballer as a mollycoddled mercenary.