Hearts: FoH need £6m for full fan ownership

Hearts owner Ann Budge. Picture: SNSHearts owner Ann Budge. Picture: SNS
Hearts owner Ann Budge. Picture: SNS
HEARTS fans will have to wait until the middle of this week to see their team 
finally exit administration but have been assured that Ann Budge’s new regime will be run so “the spectre of Hearts disappearing forever” never returns.

It had been thought that administrators BDO could formally cut their ties with the Tynecastle club today, 355 days since being brought in to save the ailing Edinburgh institution in June last year.

Some minor work remains outstanding, however, with “cordial” negotiations ongoing between the administrators and Budge’s Bidco to tie up the loose ends on the club’s balance sheet ahead of the required final legal process at the Court of Session. That is now likely to take place on Wednesday, eight days before June 19, when an extension to the 12-month administration period would be required.

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The formal exit from administration will be celebrated by all connected to Hearts, and will allow new head coach Robbie Neilson to strengthen his squad, with midfielder Morgaro Gomis and striker James Keatings apparently standing by to sign and goalkeeper Neil Alexander in talks. Further new faces are expected following the departures of half a dozen regular first-team members last month.

However, Ian Murray, the Foundation of Hearts’ (FoH) representative on the club’s new board, has warned supporters not to expect too much too soon.

He said: “Ann and her team have taken a prudent approach to planning that will support the safe growth of the club without putting its future in danger. While every effort and available investment is being targeted at strengthening the team and making the match-day experience more enjoyable, care has been taken to make sure the club is safe should, for example, it take more than one season to be promoted to the Premiership or should plans to revitalise and grow the commercial activities of the club – hospitality, merchandising, sponsorship, etc – take a little longer to come to fruition.

“The key message here is that the club will live within its means to ensure that we never again have the spectre of Hearts disappearing forever.”

With Bidco set to assume responsibility for around £500,000 worth of “football debt” once administration is exited, Murray has stressed the need for fans to remain supportive of FoH’s fundraising, with a massive £6.3 million needed to achieve the organisation’s goals of taking over from Budge within the next five years.

In a letter to the body’s regular monthly contributors, he added: “The position that Bidco has inherited is one of a club that has been left with no money in the bank – or, indeed, a negative sum as the process of administration concludes.

“FoH has signed up to providing £1.4 million of working capital in year one and £1.4 million in year two. Monies raised over and above this will be accrued over the next years to repay the loan provided by Ann Budge of £2.5 million; the loan that effectively saved the club. This means that the total that FoH will require to raise in the five years since its inception will be £6.3 million.

“We are keen to increase the number of pledgers and the amounts regularly being pledged – the more pledgers we have, the sooner we can get Hearts into full supporter ownership.”