THE new chairperson of the working group of Hearts supporters is confident that they can make a “united and credible” offer to buy control of the club.
Ian Murray, the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South, chaired a meeting of the group for the first time on Friday night. Six different organisations of Hearts fans are involved in the group, which in recent months has struggled to reach unanimity on how the club should be run if they are successful in buying a controlling stake from current owner Vladimir Romanov. But now, while accepting that not every issue has been resolved, Murray believes that everyone involved in the talks is aware that they have an opportunity that may not come round again for some time.
“I’m absolutely confident that the fans will be able to put together a united and credible bid for the club,” Murray told The Scotsman yesterday. “It’s not an easy task, and there are no white knights on the scene – we would have heard about it by now if there were.
“But the current owners want to sell the club to the fans. And our group know this is a golden opportunity to get things done.”
Last week’s meeting was attended by representatives of the Foundation of Hearts, the Hearts Supporters’ Trust, the Shareholders’ Association, the Youth Development Committee, Save Our Hearts and the Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs. Outgoing chairman Lawrence Broadie also attended, primarily to hand over formally to Murray, but he will be available to attend future meetings if required for any reason.
Two different models for how the club should be run after a supporter-led takeover have been debated in recent months – the one put forward by the Foundation, who favour a company limited by guarantee, and the Community Investment Club model favoured by Supporters Direct Scotland, the Trust’s parent body. Murray is expected to continue the process, begun by Broadie, of attempting to minimise the differences between the two.
For the moment, while no final decision has been made on which model to adopt, Hearts fans are being urged by the group to make a financial commitment to a supporters’ takeover by signing up on the Foundation’s website. “I would encourage all those who can to make a pledge,” Murray added.
Hearts officials continue to try to steer the group in a certain direction, and appear eager to have a deal firmly in place, if not wholly concluded, by the end of June. At the same time, Romanov has continued to talk publicly of selling an amount which would not give the fans’ group an overall majority.
Murray and the group, however, appear intent on making an offer for a majority of the shares in the club. The group will meet again on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Hearts manager Gary Locke has reiterated that the club may not be able to keep skipper Marius Zaliukas when his contract expires in the summer. “His contract is up at the end of the season, as everybody knows. It would be fantastic to keep him here, but I’m not sure what Marius’ plans are,” he said.
“If I was a betting man, I’d probably suggest he will be on the move. He’s a player I’d love to keep here. I’ve spoken to him about his plans, but he hasn’t made a decision at the moment. I’ll give Marius all the time he needs. If he goes, good luck to him and we wish him all the best. If he stays, we’ll be delighted.”