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Interview: Donald Ford committed to saving Hearts

Donald Ford: Wants to preserve Tynecastle as Hearts home

Donald Ford: Wants to preserve Tynecastle as Hearts home

  • by MOIRA GORDON
 

OWN the history – shape the future, says the banner on Foundation of Hearts’ website. Donald Ford has undoubtedly helped shape the history of Heart of Midlothian Football Club, now he wants a part in owning the future.

The Hearts legend is involved with Foundation of Hearts, the strictly non-profit body working to have ownership of the club transferred to the fans in an attempt to stabilise the finances and safeguard the future of a club whose 138-year existence is in the balance. Overdue tax bills and running costs which significantly exceed the current income have left the club in a precarious position, with the majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov no longer willing to reprise his role as benefactor.

As a Hearts fan and then player Ford has experienced many highs and lows at the Tynecastle club but few of those lows have plumbed the current depths. Which is why he wants to see the fans assume control of their club’s destiny and ensure it is never again subject to the whims of an outsider.

The Foundation have already had their initial offer rebuffed but Ford says those involved won’t walk away, provided they have the backing of the Hearts supporters, which they are now trying to gauge on their website www.foundationofhearts.org

“At the moment we are simply looking for an expression of support from Hearts fans all over the world because they can pledge from all quarters. We all know it is going to be a fairly fraught, three, four, five weeks and we will see how it develops. We have to hope this works and it would be absolutely brilliant if it does but there is a long, long way to go yet.

“The first request we are making is simply for them to indicate if they would be willing to support the Foundation’s plans and to do so by making a pledge through the website. There isn’t any request for any money up front though. We just need to gauge interest.

“But, the very principle of fans potentially owning the club was absolutely sound,” says the playing icon, who is also a qualified chartered accountant and currently makes his living as a photographer but insists that he, like most fans, doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to save the club single-handedly, even if it was a sound strategy.

“If you look around at the various purchases of football clubs by wealthy individuals, the vast majority either haven’t worked or have only worked in the very short-term and they have left a legacy that no club really wanted,” he said. “So, it wasn’t difficult to make the decision to back this. I have been a Hearts supporter since I was seven years old and that helped and also having had ten fantastic seasons, it was a way of putting something back into the club.

“Now we need to know whether there is support for that. More and more people are talking about it and so many clubs around the world are doing it successfully. There seems to be this misnomer that wealth will automatically bring success and it doesn’t. That comes by nurturing players and pulling them together with quality coaching and management and that will be one of the Foundation’s primary ambitions, to reinstate the growth of talent through the club from the very youngest right through to the first team. It’s not affordable any other way now. The game has been throttled and strangled by the big wages paid over the past 10-15 years.”

The former Scotland international previously played a significant role in persuading Wallace Mercer to invest in the club in the early 1980s. During the later Chris Robinson era, Ford was again involved in safeguarding the history and traditions of the club he served for over a decade as a player. When it became clear that Robinson wanted to sell off Tynecastle to clear debts, Ford spoke out in opposition. Now seven years on, he has responded to another call to arms. But he says the difficulty is getting answers to questions with regards the demands of the current owners.

“We have been told that the initial offer is unacceptable but we haven’t been told what an alternative offer should be. I think it’s fair to say, without being rude to the gentleman himself, that Vladimir has left quite a lot of questions littered around Tynecastle during his seven years and this is just another one.”

An absence of debt and liabilities is crucial, suggesting there is still a lot of bartering to be done if they group are to pull this off.

If they do, Ford is adamant the club’s immediate future will be at Tynecastle.

“The hope is that Tynecastle can be preserved as the home for Hearts for the foreseeable future.,” he added.

“Every person in the Foundation wants that and I would say that 95 per cent of the supporters want that. It has a unique atmosphere and it’s one of the few stadiums in Scotland that still generates that tingling excitement a player gets when he runs down the tunnel.”

 

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