HEARTS supporters bought 500 season tickets in the first 24 hours after club administrators BDO made their plea for renewed financial backing from the fans.
The mass purchase has raised about £150,000, and is a sixth of the way towards the target of 3,000 sales which BDO hope to reach in their first fortnight in charge.
More sales were expected online last night, while supporters also continued to raise money in other ways. By early evening yesterday, fans’ website Jambos Kickback had generated more than £13,000 – more than halfway to its target of £20,000.
Some of those buying season tickets had already bought one weeks earlier, saying they would sell off the extra tickets they had bought and give the money to the club. Much of the money raised will also be used to buy season tickets, as one of the most effective ways of helping Hearts. The mood of cautious but growing optimism was in stark contrast to the funereal atmosphere which prevailed at Tynecastle a day earlier, when 14 members of staff lost their jobs. The fundraising efforts of the fans may be of little or no consolation to those who were made redundant by BDO, but for the wider support they brought some welcome encouragement after weeks of deepening gloom.
Ian Murray, the Member of Parliament who chairs the Foundation of Hearts, welcomed the commitment shown by supporters who have already been asked to dip into their pockets to help keep the club afloat. “We cannot forget the human side to this or the people who have lost their jobs,” he said. “But Hearts fans have responded magnificently to the call to keep the club going.”
Murray has been similarly encouraged to his own organisation’s plea to fans to make a monthly pledge of financial support, the aim of which is to help provide some steady income for the club. “This time last week, before our open meeting at Tynecastle, we had 4,000 pledges,” Murray said. “Now we have 6,000.”
Both BDO and the Foundation appear to have accepted that they should work co-operatively in their fundraising efforts rather than competing for the supporters’ money. As one example of that, Hearts are expected to get in touch with the 71,000 people on their database to explain their appeal to buy season tickets. At the same time they will refer to the other fundraising efforts, directing recipients to the Foundation’s website, where details of how to pledge can be found.
Murray also reiterated the Foundation’s position that it was prepared to bid to buy Hearts on its own if necessary, but would also co-operate with other groups if they appeared to be working in the club’s best interests. “If [joint administrator] Bryan Jackson’s looking for someone to come up with money, we’re certainly in a position to do so,” he said.
“We can come up with the funds, because if the 6,000 people who have pledged convert to direct debits, and we get a few more on top, we will certainly be in a position to come up with the money. Over 2,000 have converted in the last 36 hours, which is an absolutely incredible achievement.
“We’ve always said that the Foundation of Hearts would try and attempt to buy the club on our own, but we’re willing to talk to other parties as well if there’s a hybrid model they would wish to pursue. If the Foundation cannot do this on our own, we would plead to other bidders who perhaps can’t quite do it on their own as well to come and talk to us and see if we can do it together. Fans have to look at how we can make Hearts successful from the bottom up and we really shouldn’t be in this position again.”