JOHN McGLYNN, the Hearts manager, has called for supporters to donate all they can to keep the club afloat after admitting he had been taken aback by the severity of their financial situation.
The Tynecastle club have been served with a winding-up order from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over an unpaid tax bill of £450,000 punds, and warned yesterday that they could shortly go out of business if that sum is not paid.
The club are also disputing a separate tax liability of around £1.75m relating to players previously loaned from a club in Lithuania.
With no sign of sufficient funds arriving from Ukio Bankas Investment Group (UBIG), Hearts' owners, to meet the smaller bill relating to the non-payment of PAYE and VAT, the club have asked their supporters to con- tribute all they can to stave off the threat of administration or liquidation by taking up a recent share issue, or by buying match tickets for forthcoming matches.
McGlynn acknowledged that going cap in hand to the supporters was far from ideal, but he hoped they would rally round to keep the club alive.
"I hope when they see this is not a bluff – that this is reality – they will rally round," said the manager, adding that management and playing staff would also consider wage deferrals in future, if it was appropriate.
"It's an alarming and critical situation we find ourselves in, one where everyone has got to get together and stand up and be counted to get the club through its hour of need.
"If it doesn't get that money in, it could be curtains. There's a lot of hardship right now but, if everyone clubs together, we can save this club. It's a big ask and we can't control the timing of this [before Christmas] but if people do have the money and they have Hearts in them, please donate."
McGlynn recently warned of the serious financial difficulties Hearts were facing after wages were paid late for a second consecutive month but even he was taken aback by the scale of the problem.
"I would have to say I was surprised," he added. "It's a critical situation. When you're told it could be the club's last game, then that's very critical. I think everyone was taken aback. You would be if you read that you're maybe two games away from going bust. I didn't know the full severity of it. I knew the club was in bother and I've tried in a few of my press conferences to get a message out asking people to back the club and come to the games."
Hearts were yesterday drawn to face Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the semi-final of the Scottish Communities League Cup, a tie that will take place at Easter Road on the last weekend in January. Should Hearts, however, not be in a position to fulfil that fixture, Inverness would likely be given a bye to the final where they would meet either St Mirren or Celtic, who were paired in the other semi-final.
"I've already had a think about it and we would pos-sibly have to allow the club that Hearts were due to play against to go through," said David Longmuir, chief executive of the Scottish Football League.
"But I don't envisage that happening. I know Hearts fans will want to go to Easter Road in January to see their club, the Scottish Cup holders, playing in the semi-finals of the Scottish Communities League Cup. I'm looking forward to seeing them there."