Vladimir Romanov caused quite a stir this week, when he slammed the Scottish Premier League’s lack of competition and investment in its growth.
The much-maligned Lithuanian owner of Hearts said,
"That sort of outrage from the media, federation and tax authorities kills everyone who is trying to change this situation, including ourselves, who are ready to invest in Scotland once again with stadium plans. And no-one is interested in what's going on.
"This is why I think there is no point in spending millions to watch someone else's show."
This is a fact that cannot be denied, but in the current economic climate, can you blame big businesses and oil magnets for not wanting to risk their hard-earned wealth on Scottish football?
Even Premier League owners have slammed on the investment breaks – most famously Mike Ashley at Newcastle. So why would any Scottish club outside the Old Firm want to throw money at a futile cause?
Even the Old Firm themselves don’t really need to spend that much money, not that they have it to begin with. Unless they have grand European ambitions, it does not take much to fend off one serious rival each year. In fact, Rangers were in such dire financial straits that they could barely sign a player over the past two or three years.
It might seem like I’m wandering off the point here, and that I am defending Romanov. Well what he says is true, but the real reason why Hearts are not mixing it with the Old Firm and are instead down in fifth is not to do with money, but Romanov himself.
Let us cast our minds back to the summer of 2005, when Romanov bought Chris Robinson’s shares and took a majority ownership of the club. His first managerial move was to appoint George Burley – which was a masterstroke (although this was actually instigated by chairman Phil Anderton).
To start the 2005-06 season, Burley’s side won eight league matches in a row, equalling a club record set in 1914. This was the greatest chance of a non-Old Firm title winner in years.
How does Romanov handle this situation? Not through encouragement of his manager, and backing in the transfer market. Burley was sacked the day after Romanov increased his stake in the club to 82%.
And so it began. To compound the misery for many Hearts fans, Graham Rix, a convicted sex offender, was Burley’s replacement. He was appointed in November 2005.
In February 2006 rumours began to surface that Romanov was interfering in team selection. By the end of March, Rix was out on his ear, to be replaced by Valdas Ivanauskas.
Somehow, Hearts managed to limp towards the end of the season, and a second place finish, seventeen points behind Celtic. But the damage was done. A potential title challenge at fallen by the wayside, and Hearts were fortunate to be faced with a poor Rangers side as competition.
That was to be Hearts’ highest League position to date under Romanov. Since then, the club has had five different managers. The club has muddled around in mid-table for most of this time, and occasionally flirted with relegation.
If Vladimir Romanov wants to blame anyone for the lack of competitive edge in Scottish football, then he only has himself to look at.
He had the best chance of anyone, and he blew it through his own bad judgement. No wonder he seems to be considering his Hearts future. I doubt many would be sad to see him go.