HEARTS FC unveiled its latest bid for footballing glory – a women’s team.
But the news was overshadowed by reports that owner Vladimir Romanov’s bank has seen its own fortunes plunge – with a 91 per cent drop in profits.
Ukio Bankas saw its profits all but wiped out by the global recession.
The Lithuanian bank – of which Vladmir Romanov is a major shareholder – only just stayed in the black by recording a net profit of £1.1 million.
But, despite its plummeting profits, a spokesperson for the bank claimed the start of the year had been “positive”.
Arnas Zalys, head of the firm’s finance office, said: “Taken into consideration current market situation we view the first half-year results of Ukio Bankas positively.
“The main reasons of the group’s lower profits are growing expense for provisions and narrowed net interest margin due to more expensive borrowing in the local market.”
Hearts have been dogged by fears over its own financial stability in recent seasons, not least as Romanov is the majority shareholder and Ukio the major backer.
As recently as last month it faced court action by the taxman over unpaid debts.
But with the first team embarking on a potentially lucrative European run this season, the club has now decided to finally dip its toes into women’s football too.
The Tynecastle club have adopted a local ladies team from Musselburgh and the young squad will represent the Edinburgh club in the Scottish Women’s Football First Division next season.
And after safely securing the second division title last year the new-look Jam Tarts are now training their sights on reaching the ladies Premier League within two years.
Women’s team manager Tam Milne said: “We’ve been in talks with the club for over a year now and everything has fallen into place.
“To be associated with a club such as Hearts can only help the girls we already have on our books and to attract more experienced players to the team.
“We will be playing our home games in Dalkeith, but we have also been promised a couple of matches here at Tynecastle which will be very special for all the girls.
“Hopefully the professionalism of Hearts will rub off on our players and we are hoping to be playing in the Premier League within two years.”
The Hearts ladies first match will be against crack west coast outfit Glasgow City on Sunday.
Striker Lynsay Anderson, 18, admits she is excited about the prospect of lining up in the maroon colours.
She said: “I’ve been a Hearts fan all my life and can’t wait to get started with the team. Although we are playing most of our games in Dalkeith I can’t wait to run out of the tunnel here at Tynecastle.
“It’ll be a dream come true.
“We’re not under any illusions though because there are some really good teams in this league, starting with Glasgow on Sunday.
“But, hopefully, being connected to Hearts will encourage more girls to come along and play for us.”
Campbell Ogilvie, Hearts managing director, said: “We are delighted to welcome the new women’s division into the club.
“This announcement today comes after 18 months of work to identify the best possible group to license the Hearts brand to go into partnership with.
“Our team at Tynecastle have no doubt whatsoever that the team behind the new Hearts Women’s team are the right people to develop this project.
“The work they undertook at Musselburgh Windsor Ladies was extremely impressive.
“And very importantly, they are ambitious to make the Scottish Women’s Premier League and we have no doubt that they have the ability, determination and vision to do so.”
They have an even bigger incentive to do well – rivals Hibs Ladies are the reigning champions.
They club said demand had outstripped supply and it was trying to source a bigger plane through travel partners TMG Sport to accommodate numbers.