Hearts to defend manager
Following receipt of a letter from the Scottish Football Association earlier this week asking club manager Paulo Sergio to explain alleged comments made by him prior to the Dunfermline v Hearts game, Hearts today confirmed that the club will back the manager completely at the Judicial Panel hearing.
The club will support Paulo against any claim that he has breached the governing body's articles of association in relation to comments about match officials or referees - which if both are found proven could lead to a minimum six-match suspension.
Paulo was quizzed at length in a pre-match media conference prior to the Dunfermline game about the appointment of Iain Brines as the fourth official for that game. The manager provided honest, legitimate, measured and transparent answers to the questions raised. The media then immediately raised Paulo's comments directly with the SFA to seek a reaction.
A major part of that reaction appears to be that the manager, and by association the team and the club, now face quite severe sanctions.
The media questioning related to Mr Brines' pivotal role in the outcome of the match between Ayr United and Hearts in the Scottish Communities League Cup just over three weeks earlier when disallowing a goal he had previously awarded.
The goal would have put Hearts 2-0 up in the second half. As it was the match restarted with a free-kick being awarded to Ayr United. Ayr shortly afterwards equalised and qualified on penalties after extra time.
Hearts thereafter sought clarification from the SFA and has subsequently received a reply.
It is this club's considered opinion that, above all else, Heart of Midlothian has a duty of care to its employees. As such the club feels that it is entirely wrong for Paulo Sergio to be potentially sanctioned given the circumstances.
For this reason the club feels that, in addition to defending the manager's position, the club will also suspend all general media activity - including pre and post-match media conferences - until, at the earliest, the date of the hearing on 3rd November. All manager, player and game information will continue to be offered through the club website.
This decision has not been taken lightly. The club manager and players always endeavour to provide valuable content to the media. However, in this particular case the club feels the actions of certain elements of the media are duplicitous and we have to protect the club from the actions of those who simply seek to sensationalise and at times demonise those working and contributing to the game in this country.
A club spokesperson said: "The club believes there has been a huge injustice carried out on the field in the first place in relation to our exit in the cup. To compound this with a further off-field investigation into comments made by our manager in relation to the original injustice raises major questions about the game in this country. We will certainly support the manager as the stakes are extremely high for all clubs and indeed the game in this country if such injustices are allowed to continue unabated in the Scottish game."
On HeartsTV and the official App, Paulo Sergio looks ahead to the visit of Rangers tomorrow at his pre-match press conference.