Hearts owner Ann Budge has stressed that the Foundation of Hearts’ continued financial support remains crucial to the club’s well-being – admitting that without it the business would be posting losses.
Speaking at the fans group’s historic first Annual General Meeting at Tynecastle yesterday, Budge expressed her heartfelt thanks to around 300 members that attended and a total of 8,000 pledgers that provide Hearts with an additional income of £1.5 million per year.
Budge personally financed the £2.5m deal to take Hearts out of administration in June. As part of a five-year plan by which her majority shareholding will eventually pass over to the Foundation, the supporters’ organisation gave the club an immediate £1m up front and will hand over £1.4m over the next two years.
But following the ruinous Vladimir Romanov era which resulted in the proud 140-year-old institution plunging into administration in June 2013, Budge inherited a club that was left in a state of disrepair both on and off the park.
She recently alluded to the previous regime’s neglect of the stadium and this was observed at close quarters when small pockets of water began to seep through the ceiling of the Gorgie Suite following yesterday’s snow shower.
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Budge, who will have her loan repaid in full by the Foundation, admits the cash injections remain vital as Hearts bid to build a solid base for the future.
She said: “I would like to say a big thank you. When we set out on this journey it was clear that the club could only move forward from the survival mode it was in with significant financial support from the supporters. All of the supporters groups have been fantastic, but clearly without the regular monthly contributions from the FOH the club would be severely constrained in terms of what it could do.”
Budge, who said last month that Hearts had cleared nearly all of the outstanding £575,000 football debt, added: “We’ve had a fantastic start to the season. We’ve sold more season tickets than we thought possible, we’ve higher attendances; that means we’re over budget in certain areas but you can see how much work that has to be done, not just in the fabric of the club but the investment that (director of football) Craig Levein was talking about in the academy.
“We carefully monitor what’s going on every month and although we’re having a great year, the reality is that without the FOH monies coming in, we would today be sitting with a small loss. So it’s crucial. I think of the club and FOH as one if I’m being honest. There is a really good relationship between all of us.”
Foundation chairman Ian Murray MP admitted the past 12 months had exceeded expectations. He said: “A phenomenal amount of money has been raised, our membership is currently at around 8,000.
“We have 8,000 members paying an average of £15.50 per month and generate a near £1.5m per year. That’s a truly remarkable figure given the current economical circumstances. But we can’t rest on our laurels, we have to work to increase that 8,000.”
Budge had hinted that she might stay on if asked by the Foundation. She added: “I genuinely believe that over the next five years we have to get this house in order with regards to financial stability, governance, so when the day arrives that the shares change hands, it does not necessarily mean that I go anywhere.
“I think we will have failed that if everybody says on that day, ‘great now we can change everything’. If it’s working and it’s right, what’s that expression: ‘If it ain’t broken, then don’t fix it’”
The election of Barry McGonagle as the Foundation’s newest director was also approved at the AGM.
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