FOUNDATION of Hearts chairman Ian Murray last night welcomed the interest shown in the Tynecastle club by a group fronted by Gordon McKie but warned there is still a long way to go before anyone can presume that safety is in sight.
McKie has been working with a group of potential investors, some of whom are said to be Hearts supporters, with the aim of making a bid for the administration-hit club, possibly as early as this week.
A former chief executive of the Scottish Rugby Union, McKie had an informal and cordial meeting with Murray last Thursday, but for the time being any pooling of resources is still some way off. “We’ve done a lot of diligence,” McKie told Scotland On Sunday at the weekend. “We’re not a bunch of spivs. The people around me are reputable, credible and individually wealthy and have Hearts best interests at heart because most of them are Hearts supporters.”
Murray believes his organisation should remain cautious at this stage and, while arguing that a bidding war for the club would be counterproductive, at present still intends for the Foundation to make a sole offer for control of Hearts to administrators BDO. “The Foundation has yet to make a formal response since I met Gordon informally last week,” he said.
“The number of people converting their pledges through our website is rising all the time. And 500 people who have set up direct debits in the last week had not even previously pledged.
“But we don’t want to raise expectations that this is going to be an easy process. We need the maximum number of people to make pledges, because that way we are most likely to be successful in our main aim, which is to purchase the club on behalf of the supporters.
“I’ve had that one meeting with Gordon, and that is not enough for us to presume that all will be well. We still need to put our own bid for the club together.
“There’s a long way still to go before anyone buys the club, and we have to be prepared to deal with the situation if it turns out that no-one else is going to put in a bid.”
Having said that, Murray also explained that the Foundation did not presume that its way was the only route to a Hearts revival. “This is about the future of the club, not about the Foundation.
“We have always said that there are three possible ways to deal with this. Either we bid on our own, or we make a joint bid with another group, or another group bids on its own and we back it. Obviously for us to proceed with a joint bid or to back another, we’d have to be completely convinced such a bid was in the best interests of the club.
“Nobody wants to get into a bidding war. Every pound we spend on purchasing the club is a pound less we can invest.
“Whatever happens, the Foundation will continue. We will work with any new owner for the good of the club, and there’s no reason the Foundation can’t buy equity from any future owner. Similarly, if we buy control of the club, we could in future sell equity to a new investor – provided, of course, that the membership of the Foundation agrees.”
Meanwhile, Hearts manager Gary Locke last night hailed the club’s supporters as it emerged that just over 900 more season tickets had been sold since the club was plunged into administration. Locke was at the Tynecastle ticket office yesterday, along with young players Kevin McHattie, Jamie Walker and Dale Carrick, to greet fans as they snapped up seats for next term.
Bryan Jackson of BDO announced on Thursday that he wanted to see 3,000 more season tickets bought within the next 14 days. That figure is on top of the 7,000 that had been sold pre-administration.
In addition to the cash generated by new season ticket sales, online fans forum Jambos Kickback have also raised £23,000 through their donation page. “The supporters are rallying round, and I knew they would, but we have to keep things going as there is a long way to go,” Locke said. “The priority is the survival of Heart of Midlothian FC and with the fans we have, I am confident we will achieve that target.”