Hearts punished for failing to pay players

Hearts, facing a battle for financial survival, have failed to pay their players on time and have been banned from making new signings, the Scottish Premier League (SPL) said on Friday.

The Edinburgh club invited offers for all their players on Thursday, saying they urgently needed funds to keep going over the off-season when there was no matchday income.

Hearts, who have 25 million pounds of debt, have stumbled from one crisis to another over recent months. They have suffered the fallout from the financial problems of Lithuanian businessman Vladimir Romanov, their largest shareholder.

Long a poor relation compared to the English Premier League, Scottish football has struggled to adjust after the collapse of former champions Rangers last year under a pile of debt.

Rangers had to relaunch from the fourth tier of the Scottish game and were promoted at the end of last season.