Hearts fan groups meet tonight in take over bid

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HEARTS supporters’ groups will meet tonight at Tynecastle in the latest bid to reach agreement on how to take over the club.

Any formal bid for Ubig’s controlling shareholding is still some way off at best, but the various parties are now close to agreeing that unity is essential if they are to succeed.

The Foundation of Hearts (FOH), the Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs, the Supporterters’ Trust, the Shareholders’ Association, the Hearts Youth Development Committee and the Save Our Hearts campaign group will all be represented at the meeting. No member of the club’s board is expected to attend, but director Sergejus Fedotovas, who was at a previous meeting, will be briefed on the discussion.

At present different groups have distinct ideas about which business model should be used if fans are to gain control. An initial meeting earlier this month showed there was some scope for negotiations, but it remains to be seen if a workable compromise can be reached.

The two main models to be discussed are the one proposed by FOH and the one favoured by Supporters Direct Scotland (SDS), the national umbrella body of which the Supporters’ Trust is a member. After two years of planning, FOH remains convinced that its scheme for a company limited by guarantee is the best way to run the club. SDS favours setting up a Community Investment Club (CIC), and so far that scheme has the backing of the board, which rejected an initial bid for the club by FOH.

Well over a year after Vladimir Romanov announced he would be willing to sell his controlling stake in Hearts, no-one has come forward with the size of lump sum needed to make a straightforward takeover. That is why groups such as FOH and SDS are now talking together after initially appearing to be at cross purposes.

At the same time, it has become clear to Romanov and his employees that they are not in a sellers’ market. The businessman’s initial suggestion that a sum of £50million would be required for a takeover has been quietly dropped, and a sum of little more than a tenth of that amount could now be accepted, albeit with conditions attached.

Those involved in the talks understand that, after severe financial difficulties late last year, Hearts have the money in place to see out the rest of the season. This means there is no need for an immediate sale – and, partly for that reason, none of the groups in attendance expects a dramatic resolution this evening.

Nonetheless, after months in which little progress has been made, there is a growing realisation that some agreement must now be made relatively quickly if there is any point in discussions going on.