Players and staff at Hearts have been asked to slash their wages by 50 per cent due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Premiership club said on Wednesday.

Owner Ann Budge has taken the drastic cost-cutting measure amid financial fears that football will be out of action for months due to the pandemic.

Currently sitting bottom of the Premiership, Hearts are the first British top-flight club to decide on wage cuts in a bid to stay afloat.

"In order to try to prevent a staff redundancy programme and to protect as many jobs as possible, I am proposing to implement a club-wide salary reduction programme," Budge told Hearts' website.

"We have asked all full-time employees, managers, coaches, players and player back-room staff, with effect from the beginning of April, to accept a 50% cut in their monthly salary.

"Staff and players alike, who feel unable or unwilling to accept this revision to their contracts, will, of course, be offered the option of contract termination."

Budge stated earlier this week her club would lose £1 million ($1.16 million) in income from postponed games over the coming weeks.

Four remaining home league games, plus a Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibernian at Hampden Park, would have earned the Edinburgh side a seven-figure sum.

Hearts staff have been told they will receive their salaries as normal next week, while players will receive their pay at the end of the month. 

The reduced wages would apply from April, with players and staff unwilling to accept due to be offered the chance to leave the club.

- Shock measures -
"No-one's full-time salary will fall below the Living Wage. In other words, if the 50% reduction would take anyone's salary below this threshold, the full-time salary will be set at £18,135," Budge added.

"Given the uncertainty of the whole situation with which we have been presented, we cannot say how long these measures will be in place.

"We will, of course, be continuously reviewing the situation."

Hearts' shock measures came on the day Scottish Football Association president Rod Petrie announced an immediate £1.5 million fund to help clubs and academies.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster had previously warned of "dire financial consequences" for Scottish clubs if they were unable to generate money from ticket sales.

However, monies which were to be distributed later in the year have been brought forward in a bid to alleviate anxieties.

"I am pleased to announce the immediate cash payments to members of Club Licensing and Club Academy Scotland amounts which were budgeted to be paid later this year," Petrie said.

"Given the financial uncertainty faced by clubs, we have looked at areas of distribution where we can accelerate and pay now, rather than wait to pay on the usual distribution dates.

"The combined amount forward funded in this way is approximately £1.5m, which we believe will be of great support to clubs who face uncertainty and, worse still, a significant loss of revenue as a result of the impact of coronavirus in Scotland."

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