Hearts have been charged with ''failing to behave with the utmost good faith'' over the delayed payment of player wages, the Scottish Premier League has confirmed.
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.
The SPL statement 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.''
The disciplinary action was opened by 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.
The group met after the SPL announced wages were delivered late for a fourth successive month - something Hearts dispute, insisting they have ''documentary evidence'' to confirm salaries of players and staff, including manager Paulo Sergio, were paid on time for the first time since September.
A statement on the club's official website, read: ''The club totally refutes the suggestion made in today's statement from the SPL that it failed to comply with this order. The club has made payment of the remuneration to each of the players on January 16, 2012 and has documentary evidence to this effect.''