Despite having his latest offer for control of Hearts rejected yesterday, consortium leader Mackie stressed he will not relent in his attempts to conduct a takeover on behalf of supporters. Foundation of Hearts aims to create the same kind of membership scheme which is run so successfully by Barcelona and their huge following, known as “socios”. The Hearts version would be on a much smaller scale with up to 25,000 fans asked to pay £10 a month to become members.
Supporters Direct are brokering talks between the Foundation and Hearts after the Tynecastle board resisted yesterday’s takeover attempt, and Mackie is determined to persuade majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov to relinquish control.
His group offered to pay off an outstanding £450,000 tax bill in return for ownership of a debt-free club but Hearts FC officials said the bid was “at best opportunistic” and “demonstrates a staggering misjudgment of the value of the club and a worrying lack of understanding of the situation”. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs last night agreed to a payment plan for the tax bill, which allows Hearts to make staggered payments of the £450,000 between now and December 3 instead of having to pay in full by 5pm tomorrow. High-earning players also offered to defer wages to let the club prioritise the tax payments.
Having had their intentions placed in the public domain, Foundation of Hearts will now increase their attempts to force Romanov’s hand to let them run Hearts in a fan-led takeover based on Barcelona’s success.
“How will we raise money? We’ve always intended for it to be through a membership fee like Barcelona,” Mackie told the Evening News. “There are 300,000 socios (members) at Barcelona all paying a small membership fee. If we could harness 25,000 Hearts fans, and we think we can, paying £10 a month then that’s £250,000 a month coming in. The fans should know that would be used legitimately.
“We would be nurturing the club, making sensible moves, transferring players when suitable, having no debt and using a balanced budget. There would be absolute clarity about everything. The club would present the budget and monthly monitoring statements to the Foundation to ensure the budget was balanced. We’ve got the budget all worked out. We’ve been at this almost two years.
“We’re now dealing with Supporters Direct Scotland, who are advising me not to be confrontational. Yet there are statements put up on the Hearts website about me which aren’t very nice. We weren’t dealing through the media but we kind of have to now. But this is not the end for Foundation of Hearts, it’s only the beginning.
“My father would turn in his grave if he thought I’d turned my back on this. I remember him breaking down one night at a shareholders’ meeting in the late 1970s, saying he would not let this club die. We were searching for a saviour at that time, we found Wallace
Mercer, and my Dad stepped up as chairman of the consortium which shoe-horned Wallace in. It was an incredible time.
“My Dad was getting exhausted trying to put things together and I still have a good friendship with the Mercer family to this day. I simply have to do this. I’ve realised nobody else is going to. That’s why we’ve gone public now.”
Meanwhile, tickets for the Scottish Cup tie between Hibs and Hearts at Easter Road on December 2 went on sale to Hearts fans with 102 loyalty points or more last night. Prices are £25 and £14 (concessions).
n HEARTS goalkeeper Mark Ridgers enjoyed a winning comeback from injury last night as the club’s Under-20s overhauled a 2-0 deficit to beat Motherwell 4-2, with Jamie Walker scoring a hat-trick.