Hearts have vowed to fight a charge of "failing to behave with the utmost good faith" over the alleged delayed payment of player wages which has been issued by the Scottish Premier League.
Disciplinary proceedings and the prospect of unlimited sanctions have been opened by the SPL, who determined January's wages, due on Monday, did not arrive on time. Hearts refute the claim.
Following a meeting of the SPL's board of directors, a statement was issued, charging the Edinburgh club, with a hearing to be scheduled in due course.
Hearts last night issued a short response and are determined to contest the charge.
A Hearts spokesperson said on the club's official website, www.heartsfc.co.uk: "The club has noted the decision of the SPL this evening and will defend its position at the appropriate time.
"The club will make no further comment on the matter."
Earlier, following the SPL's claim that the players' salaries were delivered after the midnight deadline, Hearts insisted they had "documentary evidence" to prove payment had been made on schedule for the first time since September.
The charge was issued following a meeting of the SPL board of directors - presently comprised of SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster, SPL chairman Ralph Topping, plus Stephen Thompson of Dundee United, Eric Riley of Celtic, Derek Weir of Motherwell and Steve Brown of St Johnstone.
An SPL statement issued after the meeting read: "The Scottish Premier League Board met this evening to consider the alleged failure by Heart of Midlothian FC to comply with the terms of the order made by the SPL on January 4, 2012 that the club pay the January wages due to the relevant players on the due date of January 16, 2012.
"As a result, Heart of Midlothian FC are being charged under SPL Rule A3.1 with failing to behave with the utmost good faith to the SPL.
"A hearing date will be notified to the club in due course."
Key to whether Hearts will be punished will be the technicalities of any breach - whether payment had to be made, or received, by midnight on January 16, for example.
Hearts contend salaries were processed from Lithuanian bank UBIG, controlled by Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov, on Monday afternoon.
But if they fail to provide the evidence, sanctions could be imposed, including the prospect of a large fine, docked points or a transfer embargo - all of which would have untold consequences on the future of the 138-year-old club.
Hearts are sure to contest any punishment which might result from the forthcoming hearing, with the Scottish Football Association likely to be required to hear an appeal.
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