A children’s charity which campaigned for Hearts player Craig Thomson to leave the club have welcomed news of his departure.
Yesterday’s announcement completes a U-turn by the club, who had originally said they would stand by Thomson after he pleaded guilty, was fined and placed on the sex offenders register last month in relation to his inappropriate conduct towards two underage girls over the internet.
That decision prompted a huge outcry, with many people calling on Hearts to sack the player while one of the club’s backers – MacB Water – withdrew their support as official water sponsor of the Jambos, a deal worth more than £5,000.
Hearts manager Jim Jefferies also expressed his concern at the furore engulfing the club, while former defender Alan McLaren said he hoped Thomson would “not pull on a Hearts shirt again”.
The Tynecastle club responded to the criticism by suspending Thomson two weeks ago, before yesterday confirming their intention to release the full-back.
Anne Houston, chief executive of Children 1st, said: “We are relieved that the club now accepts the role it must play in minimising the risk of sexual harm to children.
“As we have said before, our Safeguarding in Sport initiative would welcome the opportunity to discuss with Hearts, and other clubs, how we might help them with training and procedures on child protection issues.
“The reason we got involved in this issue was because of our long-standing commitment to protecting children and ensuring they are safe and secure.
“This decision by Hearts sends a clear message to children and young people that they are valued and that their experiences will be taken seriously.”
A club statement at first put Thomson’s misconduct down to “naivety and possible wrong outside influence” before owner Vladimir Romanov released a bizarre tirade against the football “mafia” and “maniacs” who he claimed were conspiring against the club.
On June 28, Thomson was suspended with immediate effect and two days later police confirmed they were making enquiries into the “possibility that another person has grounds for complaint” against the player.
Talks have since been ongoing between club officials, the right-back and his representatives with yesterday’s announcement coming as no surprise.