VLADIMIR ROMANOV was today urged to hand over control of Hearts to supporters in an open letter from the Save Our Hearts fans’ group. They are asking the Russian businessman to give his majority shareholding to Alex Mackie’s Foundation of Hearts consortium, which aims to run the club on behalf of its playing public.
Foundation of Hearts had a bid for control rejected by Romanov on Tuesday, but will not give up in their quest for fan-based ownership. They want to implement a membership scheme, similar to that used by Barcelona, to fund the running of the Edinburgh club. The Foundation of Hearts website is already asking supporters how much they would contribute to a monthly membership, from £10 to £100.
Save Our Hearts have endorsed the plan in their open letter to Romanov. The group were heavily involved in ousting former Hearts chairman Chris Robinson from Tynecastle in 2004 and now want his successor to choose a “dignified exit” and give the club to its supporters.
The letter reads: “Dear Vladimir, when you swept into Edinburgh eight years ago, surrounded by mystery, we were really grateful to you for rescuing our club from the dastardly plans of Chris Robinson. We still remember that sunny day in September 2004 when we heard the good news that you had purchased Robinson’s share holding. We were in the central square of the town of Braga as we awaited the UEFA Cup tie between Braga & Heart of Midlothian. The original Save Our Hearts campaign had three main aims: 1. The removal of the (then) chief executive. 2. To remain playing at Tynecastle. 3. The long-term survival of the football club.
“At that time, and for the last seven years, we thought we had achieved all of these aims. As a group of activists, the SOH guys have been ‘dormant’, for want of a better expression, over that period. There had been no need to be otherwise.
“We’ve been doing what we love to do – having a few beers and watching the best football team (in our eyes) in world football. We’ve had a great time and wouldn’t change it for the world. We have witnessed two Scottish Cup wins – one a “squeak” against a so-called lesser team and the other a canter against our fiercest and closest rivals. We made it to the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, and who could forget our experiences against Tottenham and, more recently, Liverpool?
“Then, last Wednesday, the ‘rollercoaster’ that is Heart of Midlothian FC very nearly came off the rails. The club released a statement indicating that the St Mirren game could be our very last due to a winding up order from HMRC. That is when the ride got a little bit too scary. I now think that both parties – the fans and you – want to get off. The constant cashflow troubles at the club do not provide a stable enough environment for us to be convinced the club is financially safe and sound. Vladimir, you have done some great things since you arrived – debt for equity swaps of significant amounts for example, and we know that, unlike the aforementioned Robinson, you hold the traditions and history of this club in the highest regard.
“That is why we are now asking you to work together with the Foundation of Hearts so that 138 years of history can be preserved. We will give this group our backing and you can be provided with the fantastic legacy both of leaving the club in a stronger position than when you arrived, and in the hands of the supporters. We believe it’s now time for a dignified exit and to allow a new chapter in the history of Hearts to unfold. Thank you for all you have done for us – we will never forget you. Please do the right thing and Save Our Hearts.”