GARY Mackay believes the Foundation of Hearts represent the best opportunity for the Tynecastle club to recover their “pride and dignity” and has questioned the motivation of rival bidders ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.
Former Hearts captain Mackay was reacting to the late emergence on the scene of a consortium fronted by veteran Peebles-based businessman Bob Jamieson and backed by American sports investment company Club 9 Sports, who are expected to make an offer to administrators BDO. The group have already formally registered a company called HMFC Ltd, of which Jamieson is so far the sole director.
United supporters group Foundation of Hearts have confirmed they will lodge their finalised bid, possibly today, but certainly before close of business tomorrow, to which around 5,000 of the club’s fans have pledged an ongoing financial commitment. The fine details of the bid were being worked on by the Foundation’s legal advisers yesterday.
Mackay has reiterated his backing for the Foundation, which he first declared at a public meeting of supporters a few days before the Vladimir Romanov regime placed the club in administration.
Speaking to The Scotsman last night, Mackay revealed that Jamieson also attended that meeting. A former shirt sponsor of the club through Novafone, one of his many previous business enterprises, Jamieson has been linked with attempts to take control of Hearts in the past.
Mackay does not doubt Jamieson’s allegiance to the club but does have major concerns over the involvement of Club 9 Sports. The North Carolina-based company, headed by Jon Pritchett, have failed in bids to purchase Sheffield Wednesday in 2010, Tranmere Rovers in 2011 and were then part of Tennessee truck towing millionaire Bill Miller’s aborted attempt to buy Rangers.
“I actually had a chat with Bob at that supporters meeting last month,” said Mackay. “I’ve known him for a long time and he has genuine feeling for Hearts. So I wouldn’t try to discredit Bob in any way on that score.
“But the fact is that the company he has teamed up with have looked at buying other football clubs in the past. Basically, they are a group who seem to be interested in running a football club, end of story. Which club it is doesn’t really matter to them.
“The Foundation of Hearts are only interested in buying one football club – Heart of Midlothian. That’s the important thing for me, and I think that a lot of supporters will feel the same way.
“Right now, what Hearts need is the tender loving care of people who want to see the club restored, to give it back the dignity and pride it once had. It is important that it is run by people who can get back the respect which Hearts have lost in the last few years, because I know for a fact a lot of other clubs feel Hearts have not shown Scottish football the proper degree of respect under the regime which took them into administration.”
Mackay, the club’s all-time appearance record holder, has maintained a watching brief as the recent traumatic events have unfolded at Tynecastle. But he is more than happy to nail his colours firmly to the Foundation of Hearts’ mast.
“I know that all of the main people involved in the Foundation have integrity and, just as important at this time, a genuine emotional attachment to the club,” added Mackay. “The people who have been there from the start only want what is best for Hearts. They want their club back, basically.
“With the Foundation, we have what is probably a once in a lifetime chance for real supporters to own the club and I hope they get that opportunity.”
Last week saw another rival consortium, led by former SRU chief executive Gordon McKie, admit they were unable to fund a solo offer for Hearts.
Jamieson and Club 9 Sports may now be the only alternative for BDO, who would have to consider their intention to move the club away from Tynecastle to a new stadium close to Murrayfield.
“If I have my chance I will still do whatever I can to remain at Tynecastle but I don’t think it’s likely because of the cost,” confirmed Jamieson. “I know fans would prefer to stay there, but I think they understand.
“I’m a lifelong Hearts supporter who has kept an interest in this club for some time. Hearts is a club with a great reputation, it is 140 years old and has the potential to attract a big customer base even around Edinburgh. Neutrals would come to Hearts because it is a nice venue and there would be space. They were always a glamour club for me and have a good reputation for doing things properly.”