FOUNDATION Of Hearts chairman Alex Mackie has renewed his plea to supporters to back his group’s bid to win control of the Tynecastle club for fans.
Mackie and his colleagues in the campaign group believe that the recent collapse of Ukio Bankas has made the situation at Hearts more urgent, and could present supporters with a once-in-a-generation chance to become owners of the club.
The Foundation has now had talks with representatives of a Norwegian consortium who have also expressed an interest in taking over at Tynecastle. The two groups have yet to decide whether they have enough common interest to be able to work together, but they have agreed to meet again to discuss their plans further.
Last night Mackie described the meeting with the Norwegians as “very positive”, and added: “Now we are seeking to examine their plans and ideas in detail, [and] at the same time asking to meet the principal people behind their group.”
FOH wants to be able to set a realistic budget for the club, should their planned takeover go through, based on pledges of support from individuals, families or businesses. They are already working with the Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs and the Hearts Shareholders’ Association, and hope to reach agreement soon with the Hearts Supporters’ Trust.
“Without doubt, the recent developments around the Lithuanian companies involved with Hearts, including the demise of Ukio Bankas, have moved things on to a different footing which brings new ownership of our club very much nearer,” Mackie said. “We are therefore asking fans to go onto our website (www.foundationofhearts.org) as soon as possible and make a pledge of support.
“This is not the time for recriminations or to create division among the Hearts community, but rather a unique opportunity for Hearts fans to create history by throwing their weight behind a scheme which brings meaningful responsibility to the supporters, efficient and transparent management, strong governance, control of football matters handed to the right people, an emphasis on youth development, financial growth, and real Hearts people leading the way.
“The Foundation has been working diligently for this moment and has brought together a skilled team of business and financial experts – all Hearts supporters – as well as the two largest fans groups, the Federation of Hearts Supporters Clubs and the Heart of Midlothian Shareholders Association.
“This is a great team which has the interests of the club and the supporters at its heart, can deliver on behalf of the fans, and will provide the platform for a strong future for our club.
“We have already had great backing from fans. Now, as we move into this crucial final period, we need others to look closely at what we are proposing (the details are on our website) and hopefully give us their backing.
“This really is the time for Hearts fans to make history and open a magnificent new chapter in the story of our club.”
For the time being at least, the Hearts Supporters’ Trust has not made a formal alliance with FOH. As a member of Supporters Direct Scotland (SDS), the umbrella body working for supporters’ control of football clubs, the Trust is awaiting a report from SDS head Paul Goodwin on talks he has been having with Hearts directors.
Last night Goodwin said those talks had been positive, but stopped short of saying any substantial progress had been made. “I’ve had talks with Hearts today, and we’ll have more talks next week,” he said.
One concern for Goodwin, FOH and possibly for the Hearts board themselves is the uncertainty about the club’s debt and how much of it is held by Lithuanian administrators. Although it is Ubig, not Ukio Bankas, which owns Hearts, the two companies have had a complicated relationship. Specifically, it is unclear what assets relating to Hearts were owned by Ukio when it went into administration.