Hearts attack 'mafia'

The Hearts board of directors has issued an astonishing statement claiming that a "mafia" comprising "crooks, criminals and thieves" is working to derail the progress of the club.

The statement appeared on the official Hearts website following the club's decision to retain convicted sex offender Craig Thomson, who was found guilty of sexual offences against two underage girls.

The outburst, which follows previous controversial statements from club owner Vladimir Romanov, read: "What's happening with the club today is not a new thing. For almost seven years we have been fighting to shield the club from crooks, criminals and thieves. Many of the top players at the club have felt the bitter results of the swindles that have been carried out with them on their own skin. "Over a short space of time, four players at our club have been on the wrong end of the law.

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"Taking into account the facts that have been omitted by the media it can be presumed that each of these cases is not a coincidence, but the result of targeted actions of a mafia that wants to manipulate the club and the results. Every year, Hearts fights to be in the top three, but even last season in the last 12 games of the season it was almost like someone replaced the team with a different one. Whose fault is that? Players? Manager's? Or it is mafia? "Stealing players, bad games, problems with the law – all of that on top of record SFA fines. Problems are just shifted to another level. Mafia are dragging kids into the crime, in order to blackmail and profit on them. "It is not possible to separate these people from paedophiles, and you don't need to do that. Each year we are forced to fight against these maniacs harder and harder.

"We are standing in their way not letting them manipulate the game of football in the way they want.

"As such they undermine us in every possible way they can. The task of the club is to tear these kids out of hands of criminals."