Hearts received a 60-day registration embargo from the Scottish Premier League yesterday for failing to pay some of their players and staff on time for a second consecutive month.
The punishment means that the Tynecastle club cannot sign free agents until after December 23, and so postpones any bid to sign Rudi Skacel, who has been training with John McGlynn's squad.
The penalty was imposed 48 hours after Hearts were reprimanded for failing to pay some of their players and staff on time in September. Although there have been several previous occasions of late payment, this was the first to be considered under new disciplinary rules introduced by SPL clubs last summer. A registration embargo is immediately imposed when wages are late, and only lifted once the SPL are satisfied that all outstanding money has been paid.
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No member of Hearts' staff is in arrears, but a sub-committee of the SPL – comprising Neil Doncaster, Iain Blair and Stephen Thompson, the Dundee United chairman – decided to impose a longer registration embargo as punishment. Other options were available, including a further reprimand, a fine, a points deduction or even expulsion.
"The club satisfied the sub-committee that all outstanding wages from October had now been paid and, accordingly, the player registration embargo, which arose from that failure, has now been lifted," the SPL said in a statement. "The charge under SPL Rule A6.21 was admitted by the club. The decision of the sub-committee was to make Hearts immediately subject to a further player registration embargo of 60 days."
Hearts, who made a representation to the sub-committee yesterday, chose not to challenge the punishment. "We are satisfied that this matter has now been resolved," a club spokesperson said.