Administrators BDO began their first full day in charge at Tynecastle by making 14 office staff redundant, nine of them full-time, while two unnamed senior players and two youth players are "likely" to depart.
That will leave Hearts with a 22-man squad - but they may not even start their season at St Johnstone on August 3 if fans cannot plug an immediate funding gap estimated to be between £500,000 and £750,000.
Hearts were forced to call in joint-administrators Bryan Jackson and Trevor Birch after running out of money to pay players and tax bills and the pair admit the situation - with no money in the bank and no guaranteed income - is as "desperate" as they have seen.
But they believe a sustainable business can emerge from the cash flow crisis and, by raising season ticket holders to last season's level of 10,000 - thus generating up to £800,000 - potential owners will be able to formulate takeover bids.
Jackson said: "If we can achieve that, we will be in a position where we can fund the club going forward. It does indicate it would give us four months which, although a short timescale for trying to put everything into operation for a CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement), it makes it possible to keep the doors open and to honour those season tickets. It should also mean we will be able to keep the rest of the squad together."
Jackson stressed BDO would take no fee until a sale is secured in a bid to encourage a set of supporters who put more than £1million into their club last December to avert an HMRC winding-up order by purchasing shares which are now effectively worthless, and were even then.
"I know it always seems to come down on the fans, but to a great extent it is," Jackson said. "If season ticket money comes in, and we will be also looking for the usual donations, it puts us in a situation where we won't be forced to fire-sale players, which means we retain value on the field and hopefully make the club more attractive for a new owner to come in.
"All we can do is the usual plea to all the fans to rally round. We know they have given, and given, but we are still asking them to give again because there is really nowhere else for us to go. If people don't buy season tickets, we are really running out of options.
"If the fans don't support the club in the next week, and bear in mind they usually sell 10,000 season tickets, then there's a strong signal there that they have had enough. And I wouldn't be critical of them for that. Alternatively they might not physically have the money. If there is very little there within a week then you are going to be seriously concerned about the future."
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