A fan-driven consortium will wait until the 11th hour to submit its bid for Hearts – in an effort to secure as many last-minute pledges as possible.
Bosses of the Foundation of Hearts this morning issued a final rally cry for supporters to get behind them, as the July 12 deadline for any club takeover bids fast approaches.
Around 4000 supporters have so far converted their pledges into monthly direct debits, giving the Foundation a “very strong platform” to build on.
However, the syndicate is now locked in a race against time to shore up further financial support, and has issued a plea for any members of the Tynecastle faithful who haven’t signed up to get behind their bid.
In an e-mail sent to 50,000 Hearts supporters today, Foundation of Hearts chairman Ian Murray said the bid to seize a controlling stake in the Tynecastle club would be submitted in the final hours before next Friday’s deadline.
Mr Murray said: “Your role in the battle for survival has been remarkable. However, the part you play in the future is equally critical.
“Time is of the essence, however, and with a matter of days to go before the deadline this e-mail is a final rallying call to the wider Hearts support to play a part in owning the club you love.”
The renewed plea for support came as BDO joint administrator Trevor Birch said the target of 3000 season ticket sales asked for within 14 days to guarantee Hearts immediate future had almost been met. That pressing deadline is up at the end of today.
Mr Birch said: “Hearts fans have shown their devotion to their club and risen above and beyond the call of duty to commit themselves with the purchase of almost 3000 season tickets.
“This, coupled with fundraising activities such as the fans rally at the weekend which raised over £30,000, has given us the breathing space to liaise with interested parties and work with them in order to move forward toward a sale.
“However, I would urge caution and encourage the fans to continue their efforts as we cannot be certain that this will be a quick process due to the ownership issues that need to be resolved and, ideally, would like to know that we can fund the club until the end of the year and beyond. It would also be useful for the club to have a funding cushion for the new owner.”
Foundation chiefs – desperate to ensure they are the new owners – have revealed for the first time that it is preparing a bid, with expert help, to add extra weight to the syndicate’s credentials. They have further revealed two separate options are being prepared to fund a takeover of the club. Both routes involve working in partnership with “major business partners”.
However, the Foundation is remaining tight lipped about the details. A consortium spokesman said the full scope of their plans will be kept under wraps until after the July 12 cut-off to avoid handing any advantage to rival bidders. More than ten parties are known to have made an expression of interest to buy the embattled club, but no more than four are being considered as serious takeover bids.
Former Scottish Rugby chief executive Gordon McKie, who is leading a rival consortium of investors, is considered one of the serious, committed bidders.
However, nomination of a preferred bidder could remain a drawn-out process, as nothing will be finalised before the issue with UBIG’s shares is resolved in a Lithuanian court.
If the Foundation proves to be successful, between nine and 12 directors would be appointed to a new board.
At least three-quarters of the board would be elected directly by members who had submitted pledges. A further three “specialist” directors could be appointed at the board’s direction.
Mr Murray, Foundation founder Alex Mackie and club legend Donald Ford are all on the existing board of directors, but will resign before the first annual general meeting.
The Foundation also unveiled seven principles of fan ownership that will dictate how it runs. They are:
• Democratic member control, with the board elected by members on a one vote per member basis;
• Voluntary and open membership, with anyone able to join or leave as a member. Directors will not be paid;
• Member economic participation, meaning members will have full control over the Foundation’s operation and the allocation of resources;
• Autonomy and independence. The Foundation will be run by its members for its members;
• Education, training and information will be provided for members;
• Co-operation among co-operatives, meaning the Foundation will work with other fan-owned football clubs;
• Concern for the community. The Foundation is committed to returning Hearts to being at the centre of the local community.
‘Slim’ backs bid
HEARTS legend Dave McPherson says the time is now for fans to get behind the supporter-driven bid for club ownership.
The 49-year-old, below, who made almost 300 appearances for the Jambos across two stints at Tynecastle, today threw his weight behind the drive from Foundation of Hearts.
McPherson helped the club to victory in the 1998 Scottish Cup – its first silverware in 36 years.
That leadership resurfaced away from the field today as he said: “Now is the time. I want to offer my complete support to the Foundation of Hearts. I hope the Foundation can secure the very final pledges required to make the sort of bid to the administrators that they consider most appropriate to the future of this club.”
McPherson is not the only former Hearts star to encourage fans to help haul the club out of administration.
Ryan McGowan wrote to 6000 supporters of the Foundation telling them to convert their pledges.
The Australian, who now plays in China, said: “I’m full of admiration for all the supporters who have rallied round to help the club in these very difficult times. These are good people with an excellent plan to ensure that the club we all love can go on and be strong again.”