Hearts administration: Robertson praises fan effort

JOHN Robertson, the revered former striker and later manager at Hearts, has spoken of his sadness at the club’s administration plight, conceding that it had been coming for a “long, long time”.

As recently as November last year, John Robertson was an ambassador for Hearts who encouraged fans to buy shares. Picture: SNS
As recently as November last year, John Robertson was an ambassador for Hearts who encouraged fans to buy shares. Picture: SNS
As recently as November last year, John Robertson was an ambassador for Hearts who encouraged fans to buy shares. Picture: SNS

He has also explained why he agreed to become an ambassador for the Tynecastle club at the time of a share issue late last year, when supporters raised over £1 million.

Robertson felt particular sorrow at the news of Hearts’ intention to appoint administrators because of his involvement at the launch of the share issue in November. Hearts turned to him to promote the initiative, after UBIG, the club’s parent company, put ten per cent of its shareholding up for sale to supporters.

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Robertson urged supporters to contribute and he also stressed that the club had promised to be more transparent with their financial activities in future. However, a short time later Hearts were hit with a winding up order after a £450,000 tax bill had been left unpaid. Despite the money raised – fans have not even received share certificates in return – a situation which Robertson described at the time as “very, very grave” has now developed into a critical situation, with liquidation a realistic possibility. Robertson does not expect any senior players to survive the cull of staff likely to be implemented by administrators.

“It’s been a day that’s been coming for a long, long time,” Robertson said yesterday. “We’ve got to deal with it in the right manner.”

Hearts were left frustrated in their efforts to appoint administrators yesterday, after UBIG approached insolvency firm BDO to become the club’s administrators, with directors at Tynecastle preferring KPMG to oversee the process.

“We need an administrator to come in now and try to arrange a CVA agreement and do what they can for the creditors, then put in place measures for the club to go forward with a brighter issue,” said Robertson, who was speaking to BBC Scotland.

Robertson, who played for Hearts for 18 seasons in total in two different spells, said he participated in the launch after emotional pressure had been applied. He also pointed out that without fans’ involvement at the time, Hearts would have gone into administration last season, and would have likely been relegated to the First Division.

“I said at the time [of the share issue] I wanted honesty, transparency and clarity,” he said. “They told me how badly they needed the money at the time and wanted to do the share issue.

“It’s not a question of what the fans tried to do, it’s what they did do,” Robertson added. “They saved the club from going into administration during the season.

“We were told that, come the end of the season, that the club would be self-sustainable and they’d be able to reduce the budget down to a level where the club could go forward and trade properly.

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“But there seems to be one bill after another that’s come out and the club’s had to apply for administration. I don’t think any of the senior players will be left on the books due to the administrator going in and cutting the bigger wages that are left.

“My concern would be of clubs interested in some of Hearts’ young talent: Walker, Holt, Paterson, McHattie etc. If Hearts were to lose them on top of the transfer embargo then it would be nothing more than the current under-19 team with one or two under-21s.

“It would look like they’d head towards the First Division,” he added. “We knew this day was coming and it’s not a total surprise that’s come out of the blue. When you see the likes of Dunfermline, Dundee, Livingston etc, we’ve all had our problems dealing with them.

“Scottish football needs to heed these warnings and move on,” he added. “We’ve talked about the revamp of Scottish football in general and have seen the first steps of that happening. Our game is suffering from ill-health and Hearts will have to accept the consequences.

“The supporters realise that and we all understand that. We have to do it with dignity and move on.

Robertson echoed Ian Murray’s thoughts, when the MP for Edinburgh South was moved to describe Monday’s events as Hearts’ “darkest day”.

Murray, who is the independent chairman of the Foundation of Hearts group, wants fan to pledge their support to buy a controlling stake in the club, something Robertson also wants to see happen. “Although it’s the darkest day, tomorrow could see the dawn of a stronger club that’s run within its means,” he said.