Hearts fans have reaffirmed their commitment to seeing a supporter-led takeover, labelling it “the only real game in town” as D-Day arrived for bids to be submitted.
The Foundation of Hearts now has more than 5000 cash pledges from supporters and formally submitted its offer to administrators BDO yesterday.
It was the first to be received, and while rival bids from Scandinavian, UK and US consortiums are also in the mix none have captured the attention and imaginations of fans ahead of today’s 5pm deadline.
Independently chaired by Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray, the Foundation of Hearts consortium represents the six key Hearts fans’ groups – Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs, Foundation of Hearts, Heart of Midlothian Shareholders’ Association, Heart of Midlothian Supporters’ Trust, Hearts Youth Development Committee and Save our Hearts.
Robert Martin, secretary of Linlithgow Hearts Supporters Club, who is backing the FoH bid, said: “The last two owners at the club have run it like a dictatorship so if it does happen that us fans can seize control then at least in future we’ll only have ourselves to blame. The Foundation are the only real game in town – the Gordon McKie-led bid basically ruled themselves out when they were told they’d have to honour those season tickets that have already been sold, the less said about the Scandinavian bid the better and in my view the Club 9 bid is a little shady.”
Keith Ferguson, of the Hearts Disabled Supporters’ Club, had originally backed the Gordon McKie-led bid for the club, however now that this interest has cooled, he too is backing the Foundation.
He said: “I’m a little disappointed that the Gordon McKie bid fell through as I thought they could have worked well. I’m a little bit dubious of the US and Scandinavian bids as we’ve already had overseas investors and that went badly wrong.
“I’m keen on seeing the Foundation succeed and to have the club owned and run by the supporters. With fan backing and the right business approach I believe it could do really well.”
Fellow lifelong Hearts fan and season ticket holder, Paul O’Neill, 27, from Leith, said: “Personally I think every Hearts fan out there should be backing the Foundation.
“I’m sure the dream for everyone would be to have some wealthy backer take control and plough money into the club but none of the rumoured bids appear able to do that. Club 9 seem fanciful and have a chequered past.
“The Foundation’s bid may not be perfect and there will be problems that might need to be addressed further down the line but they have been open, transparent and clearly have the club’s interest at heart. It also gives us, the fans, a voice in the running of the club.
“If they gain control you get to help save the club you love, if they don’t you’ll have any money refunded to you, it’s a no-lose situation if you’re a Hearts fan.”
Support for a fan takeover is also echoed by lifelong Jambo Paul Harthill, from Prestonpans, who has taken a fortnight off work to help organise and run online merchandise auctions to raise money for the club.
All the cash raised is going towards purchasing season tickets which are then handed over to the Big Hearts Community Trust to be redistributed to disadvantaged children during the coming season.
The dad-of-three has so far raised over £6500 through the 1500-member fans Facebook page Gorgie Noise.
He said: “I’ve been collecting money and items such as signed shirts, posters, framed pictures and footballs. The response has been incredible, everybody has pitched in which has reinforced my belief that the Foundation and its fans model is the best one to take over.”
Paul also recently bumped into fans’ favourite and club legend Gary Mackay, who was so impressed with his efforts that he asked if Paul could help out with a cause close to his heart, the Harmeny School in Balerno, which works with children with complex social, emotional and behavioural needs.
Numerous tickets have now been set aside so that the school’s pupils can attend Tynecastle next season. A host of former players and managers including John Robertson, Scott Crabbe, Peter Houston and Craig Levein have been joined by politicians Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling in digging deep to donate season tickets to the initiative entitled Big Hearts, Big Tickets.
Big Hearts chief executive Alan White said last week: “The backing for the Big Hearts, Big Ticket campaign has been incredible.”
FOUNDATION OF HEARTS
Personnel: Ian Murray MP, independent chair for six fan groups – Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs, Foundation of Hearts, Heart of Midlothian Shareholders’ Association, Heart of Midlothian Supporters’ Trust, Hearts Youth Development Committee and Save our Hearts.
Prospectus: Aim is to run the club via a membership scheme, similar to that used by Barcelona. Over 5000 fans have pledged cash via the Foundation of Hearts website.
Rough value of bid: Offers submitted, but amount unspecified. They have fans’ pledges and millionairess Ann Budge able to invest.
Status: Favourites for preferred bidder status.
CLUB 9 SPORTS
Personnel: Bob Jamieson, an Edinburgh shoe salesman, is fronting the bid for the American-based sports management group.
Prospectus: They plan to sell Tynecastle and move Hearts to a new stadium on the outskirts of Edinburgh. That option won’t go down well with fans.
Rough value of bid: Reported to be £5m but that includes money to run the club for anything up to three years.
Status: Linked with a bid for Rangers last year. As of yesterday, Club 9 Sports had yet to make contact with Hearts administrator BDO.
Personnel: Fronted by Gordon McKie and due diligence conducted by Stephen Paterson.
Prospectus: Wanted to agree a CVA then appoint a board to run Hearts as a commercial business, with fan representation.
Rough value of bid: Unknown.
Status: Decided against making a bid after BDO said preferred bidders must honour season tickets already sold. Now waiting in the wings to help Foundation of Hearts if necessary.
Personnel: Represented by Kai Isaksen, the group of four Norwegians and two Swedes have yet to reveal their identities.
Prospectus: Not much is known on what their plans would be for Hearts, but they are willing to work in tandem with Foundation of Hearts.
Rough value of bid: Offered £500,000 last month, which was rejected. They have more cash, but how much?
Status: The Scandinavians will not bid at the moment. They say they don’t want to get in the way of Foundation of Hearts.
Verdict: Don’t call us