The embryonic days of Foundation of Hearts date back to 2010. Now, 11 years later, they will finally own the club come August 30 with more than 8,000 supporters enlisted to the cause.
Ann Budge’s 75.1 per cent shareholding was seized from the debris of Vladimir Romanov’s failed regime in 2014, plucking the Edinburgh club from the ashes of administration in the process.
The Edinburgh businesswoman was encouraged by the original five founding members of the Foundation to put up £2.5million of her own money to gain control. Lifelong Hearts fans Jamie Bryant, Brian Cormack, Donald Ford, Garry Halliday and Alex Mackie helped her hatch a plan to restructure, rebuild, then pass the club on to its people.
Ian Murray MP, Robert Wilson and representatives of several fan groups then became instrumental in developing the process to the point where Budge gained control of Hearts.
Budge has now been repaid her original sum and the Foundation in total have generated more than £12m via monthly donations from fans. All of it has been passed to the club, with £3m used to help fund the new main stand at Tynecastle Park.
Budge stepped back from day-to-day involvement earlier this summer for Andrew McKinlay, Hearts’ chief executive, to become the new figurehead. She will remain chairwoman after the handover to FoH.
So ownership of the club will change hands in respect of a piece of paper signed on behalf of the Foundation directors, but everything else at Tynecastle will continue as it is.
All concerned are determined to oversee a seamless transition and would have done so long before now had it not been for the Covid 19 pandemic.
The Foundation are keen to stress that Hearts will be fan-owned and not fan-run. So the club’s board – which includes two seats for FoH directors Wallace and Donald Cumming – will remain the same.
McKinlay will be in charge of daily operations with Budge in the background and supporters continuing to donate cash on a monthly basis. That income is worth around £1.5m a year in funding to Hearts.
Fans won’t get seats on the club’s board and won’t be picking the team or the manager. Their backing, however, ensures that no individual can regain full control of the club without their blessing through the Foundation.