Heart of Midlothian Football Club have hit out at a decision that halts their return to full time training.
The Championship club, who were relegated after the Premiership season was ended prematurely, say they are being unfairly punished through no fault of their own.
Despite the first team returning to training on August 3, they have now been told they must stop with immediate effect after new guidelines brought in over recent incidents involving Celtic and Aberdeen players.
The decision by the Scottish Football Joint Response group means all clubs outside the Premiership, including Hearts, will now have to wait until at least August 24 to resume training.
In a statement released after the news was revealed to them on Thursday, Hearts said it has hampered their preparations for the season ahead and that they are “considering our options”.
The statement said: “We can confirm that we were advised at 4.30pm this afternoon of the decision of the Joint Response Group to delay the return to training for clubs out-with the SPFL Premiership and that as a consequence, Hearts were required to cease training with immediate effect.
“While recognising the hugely complex decision-making processes involved in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, the Club has nonetheless objected to this decision in the strongest terms.
“Along with a Betfred Cup campaign and Championship season to prepare for, we also have a Scottish Cup semi-final to participate in.
“Having received authority to return to training on August 3, we built our plans around the agreed date.
“Our players and support staff were taken off furlough; contracts were signed with new staff and new players on the clear understanding that we would be in full training.
“We have done nothing wrong and yet, once again, we are being disproportionately disadvantaged by a decision which has been described as “the fairest”.
“We should not forget that this situation has come about, not because of Covid-19, but because of behavioural issues, not by our employees but by those of other clubs.
“This delay reflects a lack of confidence that certain clubs will be able to comply and meet the required protocols. How can it possibly be “fair” that we should be penalised?
“Our fans are naturally incensed by this action, especially given what has transpired over recent months.
“For the avoidance of doubt, everyone at the Club is equally incensed. We are currently considering our options.”