Hearts Suspend Sex Offender Craig Thomson

Hearts defender Craig Thomson - who's been put on the sex offenders register - has been suspended with immediate effect.

20 year old Thomson pleaded guilty earlier this month in relation to inappropriate conduct towards two under-age girls over the internet.

The Edinburgh club announced yesterday it was standing by the player but indicated a change in position in a short statement on its official website today.

It said, "Hearts today announce that Craig Thomson is suspended with immediate effect. No further comment will be made by the club.''

The decision comes after criticism of the club's handling of the situation following Thomson's conviction.

Anne Houston, chief executive of children's charity Children 1st, recently backed calls for Hearts to sack Thomson.

It also emerged yesterday that the club's initial decision to allow the player to remain in the squad had cost it one of its sponsors.

MacB Water expressed disappointment in Hearts' earlier stance and announced it had withdrawn its support as official water sponsor, a deal worth more than £5,000.

Defender Thomson stayed in Edinburgh while the rest of the squad headed to Italy for their pre-season training camp at the weekend.

Hearts manager Jim Jefferies has said he is determined to prevent Thomson's situation becoming a ``sideshow'' that affects the rest of his team.

Jefferies said: "This is the worst thing I've ever had to deal with. Of course, part of a manager's life is dealing with situations.

You don't want your club to be associated with anything like this.

You accept as a manager that you'll have to deal with problems along the road. But I have to be honest and say I've never felt like this.

There's a big part of me that is sorry the player got involved because I knew what the reaction would be and he can't have any complaints because it was a bad, bad thing he did. He has made a grave error.''

Hearts Supporters' Trust chairman Derek Watson told the Press Association that the majority of fans ``are very much against keeping Craig Thomson on'' but said he personally believed Thomson ``should get another chance''.

He said, "I've spoken to his lawyer at some length, I've also spoken to Hearts on the situation and I think it's a bit of a witch hunt.''

Hearts are owned by Lithuanian businessman Vladimir Romanov.

On Friday the club issued a statement on their website, addressing ``outside influences on its players and the club''.

 It said, "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.''