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Volume 10 No. 25


A Lithuanian court began bankruptcy proceedings against the bank of Scottish Premier League Heart of Midlothian Owner Vladimir Romanov -- Ukio Bankas AB -- "at the request of the central bank, which shut the Kaunas-based lender in February because of risky loans to related parties," according to Bryan Bradley of BLOOMBERG. Kaunas District Court "also issued a decree naming the firm Valnetas UAB as Ukio’s bankruptcy administrator." The decisions "may be appealed within 10 days." The permanent bankruptcy administrator "will determine how and when to seek recovery of Ukio’s assets," which include Hearts "as well as the team’s stadium in Edinburgh" (BLOOMBERG, 5/2). In Edinburgh, Gavin McCafferty wrote Hearts have reported a loss of £1.65M ($2.6M) last season -- "almost entirely due to a historic tax liability" -- but increased their turnover by almost £2M ($3.1M). The club, "who face an anxious wait to see how Lithuanian insolvency practitioners will act in relation to their debt to bankrupt Ukio Bankas," announced its financial figures for the year through June 30. In a statement, Hearts revealed turnover had gone up to £8.7M ($13.5M) from £6.9M ($10.7M) the previous season, with their debt standing at £24.7M ($38M) after what they termed a "modest increase." They put this improvement "down to their participation in the Europa League qualifying rounds, where they faced Tottenham, and their William Hill Scottish Cup triumph" (SCOTSMAN, 5/4).

LENDING SUPPORT: Also in Edinburgh, David O'Leary reported Hearts supporters’ groups are “readying their bid” in the wake of bankruptcy proceedings commencing. MP Ian Murray, who is chair of a working group comprised of several supporters’ bodies, "held a meeting at which plans to launch a take-over bid were firmed up." Football finance experts said that the move "was likely to be a positive one for the club, and could lead to a swift resolution of the fans’ takeover bid." The working group headed up by Murray "consists of" the Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs, the Foundation of Hearts, Heart of Midlothian Shareholders’ Association, Heart of Midlothian Supporters’ Trust, Hearts Youth Development Committee and Save our Hearts. Leading football finance expert and Ernst & Young partner Neil Patey believes that Lithuanian administrator Valnetas may now bring about “a swifter resolution” by selling Hearts and Tynecastle as a going concern -- to the delight of fans’ groups. Patey said, "This scenario would of course be in the best interests of Hearts, the fans and any would-be buyers for the club such as the Foundation of Hearts" (SCOTSMAN, 5/3).

READYING FOR RELEGATION: In Glasgow, Robert Martin reported Hearts are poised to avoid SPL relegation this season -- "even if they enter administration before the end of May." Bank of Lithuania administrators "have the power to call in" £15M ($23M) debt owed by the Tynecastle club. By doing so immediately, they "would trigger a 17-point deduction that would instantly put Hearts six points behind current bottom club Dundee." However,  that is "unlikely to happen while the case is still being debated in the Lithuanian courts" (SCOTTISH SUN, 5/3). In Glasgow, Gavin Berry reported Hearts Manager Gary Locke inisisted that he is "ready for the worst if Hearts go bust this month and are relegated." He added that it "won't affect his summer rebuilding plans and is convinced signing targets will still want to join the club" (DAILY RECORD, 5/3).

ManU fans have "slammed" a move by the club "to evict season ticket holders from their seats to make way for Sky TV’s new 3D cameras next season," according to Mike Keegan of the MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. At Old Trafford, around 60 season ticket holders in the Stretford End and East Stand lower tiers -- where prices average £28 ($44) a game -- "have been told they will have to shift to another part of the stadium." Their new seats "will be in more expensive sections," and the club said that they "will not be charged the difference as a gesture of goodwill" -- for one season. Man City is still "considering how to accommodate the cameras." All 20 Premier League clubs "have been told to make more space for the 3D devices" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 5/4).

Current Spanish second division club Racing Santander Owner Alí Syed has agreed to give up 99.89% of his shares of the club, which will facilitate a change of ownership and allow the organization to launch an increase of capital, according to the EFE. Syed, whose ownership will be reduced to 1%, signed the authorization April 1. This "allows the club to launch the increase of capital on June 14." The move, promoted by the team's council of administration, will help Racing be able to sell 99% of its shares for an amount of €3M ($3.9M), plus an additional €1.5M ($2M) bonus for broadcast rights. Racing President Ángel Lavín has explained that "the announcement will be published on the Official Cantabria Bulletin (BOC) on June 13, 14, and that the sale will begin June 15" (EFE, 5/5).

League One side Coventry City "has begun looking for a new stadium for its home games next season after a dispute with the owners of its current ground," according to Bob Bensch of BLOOMBERG. Coventry "is in disagreement with Arena Coventry Ltd., owners of the Ricoh Arena, over unpaid rent and game-day revenue." Coventry CEO Tim Fisher said, "The fact is that we are being locked out of the Ricoh Arena. We have been told that there is no further room for negotiation and an offer that we made to get back round the negotiating table has been rejected" (BLOOMBERG, 5/3). In Coventry, Alan Poole reported lawyers acting for Arena Coventry Ltd. "refuted that claim and insisted that he has no authority to issue such statements as administrator Paul Appleton is the man making the decisions" (COVENTRY TELEGRAPH, 5/3).