Hearts boss Robbie Neilson unmoved by SPFL clubs’ financial plight


ROBBIE NEILSON insists some Scottish clubs only have themselves to blame if they are facing financial ruin.

Neilson is adamant Hearts will be able to survive a campaign behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 outbreak, citing prudent planning by owner Ann Budge, strong season ticket sales and the backing of fans’ group Foundation of Hearts.

By contrast, a meeting of all Championship, League One and League Two clubs on Friday resulted in several chairpersons privately suggesting that a lack of paying supporters for the foreseeable future could spell disaster.

Robbie Neilson in jovial mood at Riccarton | Hearts news
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson

Neilson, however, had little sympathy for the plight of hard-up rivals and accused some of painting themselves into a corner by pursuing overly optimistic forecasts regarding the return of fans.

He also questioned what has happened to James Anderson’s unprecedented handout to SPFL clubs, with the philanthropist donating £50,000 to all 42 member teams in June as a Covid contingency.

Neilson was speaking candidly after a 2-0 win against Partick Thistle, their courtroom allies during the summer after both clubs felt they had been unjustly relegated by the SPFL.

The Hearts boss said: “We are in a good position and Ann [Budge] is very clued up on it.

“She is clever and, right from the start, she thought this situation would arise, not just with the fans but with the testing scenarios as well.

“It’s up to other clubs to get themselves into that position.

“Everyone knew what might happen and a number of teams, like ourselves, budgeted for no fans – but some have budgeted for full houses in October. If you were doing things properly then you probably wouldn’t have done that, would you?

“There has been money put out there already by Mr Anderson so I’d like to think some of that has been kept for what it should be used for.”

However, Neilson is adamant his views are not indicative of any sour grapes after the Jambos were demoted, and saw subsequent attempts to challenge the SPFL through the courts and a Scottish FA tribunal fail.

He added: “We have moved on from what happened and are focused solely on ourselves.

“We want a good start in the Betfred, the Championship and have a massive semi-final coming up. I feel we are in a good position.”

That was underlined as Hearts cruised to a comfortable victory over the Jags, following hot on the heels of 3-0 and 5-0 triumphs over Falkirk and East Fife respectively.

Jamie Walker and Craig Halkett got the goals in a fixture streamed to more than 7000 supporters on Hearts TV.

Neilson added: “I thought we did well. The first 60 or 70 minutes was good but the nature of the games for everyone this season will be that once a team gets a lead, then everything can get flat because there are no fans to drive people on.”