FANS’ chiefs emerged from a crisis summit with Hearts directors last night with rallying cry for supporters to back the club now or face the prospect of it sinking into the abyss.
Following a three-hour meeting with director Sergejus Fedotovas, they issued a “call to arms” to the legions of fans who attended the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden – and the thousands who lined the streets for the subsequent victory parade – to pack into Tynecastle Stadium “for at least the next three home games” to help stave off the threat of liquidation and maintain the club’s 138-year history. It is understood the club will consider slashing its wage bill over the January transfer window in a move that would see a string of high-earning players leave the Tynecastle club.
On exiting the talks, director Sergejus Fedotovas remained tight-lipped over whether majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov would stump up much-needed cash to rescue the club from its current crisis which arose after HMRC issued a winding up order over a £450,000 unpaid tax bill.
Hearts managing director David Southern said the Lithuanian businessman had “helped for the last eight years” and had been “an instrumental part in the success” for that period.
It is understood the Hearts board has been negotiating with the tax authorities to pay the outstanding demand in instalments but may have just one week to find the money or face the threat of extinction.
Mr Fedotovas said the fans’ meeting had been “positive” but refused to disclose details of the talks.
He said: “What is most important is we have a common understanding that the involvement of supporters will make the club successful and help get it over these hurdles.
“We know that we have got great supporters and are really thankful for everthing they are doing and how they are reacting to these challenges. We believe that we can find a solution and have been working very hard to find solutions for this club that will put it on a sound financial footing.”
Bill Alves, chairman of the Heart of Midlothian Shareholders Assocation, read out a statement on behalf of the fans’ groups.
He said: “The Heart of Midlothian Shareholders Association, the Federation of Hearts Supporters, the Heart of Midlothian Supporters Trust and Hearts Youth Development Committee met with board members of the club this evening and had a frank and open discussion on the immediate financial challenges facing the Heart of Midlothian Football Club, in particular the current tax liablities,
“Following these discussions it is clear to us the club needs the backing of the all Hearts supporters more than ever to raise immediate finance through the share offer and buying match tickets for at least the next three home games to secure our short-term future and therefore our long-term sustainability.”
“By all supporters we mean all those who attended Hampden on May 19 and those who lined the streets of Edinburgh to enjoy the cup parade the next day. This is a call to arms – the club needs you all now.”
WHAT HEARTS MEAN TO ME
DEVOTED Hearts fan Diane Scougall, 48, has been a fortnightly visitor to Tynecastle for the last 15 years and an ardent supporter since 1988.
The Polwarth resident bought her first season ticket in 1997 – sitting in the Wheatfield Stand ever since – and has followed the Jambos across Europe. Her last home game was the 2-2 draw with Ross County in October and she has now bought an extra ticket for an upcoming home fixture against Aberdeen as part of the urgent drive to swell club coffers. Asked what Hearts mean to her, Diane said: “Essentially, I can’t image life without Hearts. It’s about being part of something wonderful and historic. I’ve met some of the nicest people and had some of the happiest times through Hearts. I can’t describe how it felt in May 1998 beating Rangers to win the Scottish Cup. The scenes that followed and the sheer outpouring of joy.
“We have been lucky enough to see other cup wins since then but seeing grown men hugging and crying will stay with me forever. And just when we thought it could never be topped we beat Hibs in last season’s cup final. That seems such a long time ago now.”