GLASGOW, Scotland - Scottish football was engulfed in more financial turmoil on Wednesday when Hearts announced it could be forced out of business by the end of the month because of an unpaid tax bill.
The topflight Edinburgh club, which is owned by Lithuanian businessman Vladimir Romanov, issued a plea to supporters asking for "emergency backing" to ensure its survival.
"This isn't a bluff, this isn't scaremongering — this is reality," Hearts said on its website.
The announcement comes as Glasgow club Rangers is still recovering from the financial turmoil due to tax debts that led to the record 54-time Scottish champions collapsing and being forced to start again in the fourth tier in August.
Hearts has been hit with a "winding-up order" because of a tax bill of 449,692.04 pounds (about $719,000) after action was taken by the tax authority at an Edinburgh court.
"Without your help now, we could be entering the final days of the club's existence," the board said in a statement. "There are limited options for the Board of Directors to take to avoid the catastrophic consequences that a funding shortfall would mean for the club."
Hearts wants supporters to buy two tickets for three forthcoming matches now and invest in a share issue.
"Without the support of fans there is, as we issue this note, a real risk that Heart of Midlothian Football Club could possibly play its last game next Saturday, 17 November, against St Mirren," the board said.
Hearts is ninth in the 12-team Scottish Premier League, six points above bottom-place Dundee.
A 17-point point deduction if Hearts is forced to seek bankruptcy protection could be fatal, the club indicated.
"This would just be the start of a painful process that will affect every one of us and could lead to far more damaging actions that threaten the very existence of the club ... help this great sporting institution survive," the board said.