A CONCERTED effort by Hearts fans to bail out their ailing club has raised almost £250,000 in just seven days.
A Hearts spokesman confirmed that supporters had achieved the running total just a week after a plea for help was first issued in the face of a £450,000 unpaid tax bill threatening the club’s extinction.
The fundraising tally achieved through share investments, match ticket sales and cash donations was announced as Hearts director Sergejus Fedotovas held “constructive talks” yesterday with Supporters Direct. The government-backed body is negotiating on behalf of the consortium Foundation of Hearts, which is attempting to lead a fans’ buyout of the club.
Mr Fedotovas had earlier warned they could be facing a long-term funding gap of up to £2 million to ultimately stave off liquidation. In a statement issued yesterday, the club said: “We welcomed the opportunity to talk to Supporters Direct today and we expect further meetings in the future as we move towards a club owned and run by its supporter base.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead, but the current share scheme and the fans’ fund-raising efforts remain our priority.”
One unidentified supporter has purchased the club’s top share package in the past week, contributing £27,500 alone to fundraising coffers. The Tynecastle fighting fund will receive a further boost tonight when a team of Hearts Legends take to the field against an unnamed local football team at the Football Academy at Heriot-Watt University. Kick-off is 7pm.
The immediate closure threats facing Hearts have been stalled after Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) agreed on Tuesday to an extension giving the club extra time to pay off its outstanding tax bill.
The £450,000 debt can be paid in two instalments under the agreement. Tomorrow had been the original deadline. The majority of Hearts’ first-team players have also agreed to defer their November wages as the Edinburgh side pulls out all stops to battle its crippling debt.
Leading members of Foundation of Hearts will meet in the next few days to discuss plans. A website for the consortium – www.foundationofhearts.org – went live last night.
Director Alex Mackie said Hearts now needed to outline what they considered a reasonable offer, including expectations over the size of a potential lump sum payment. He warned fans negotiations would take some time.
What Hearts mean to me
Barnton’s Richie Laurie loves Hearts so much that he has named three dogs after goalkeepers from his beloved club.
The 29-year-old photographer’s first pet took the name of Nicky Walker, who made 50 appearances for Hearts during the 1990s. The two dogs he has owned since have been called Rousset and Niemi after two of the club’s best known international keepers.
Mr Laurie admitted: “I’m a bit Hearts daft and goalkeeper daft.”
The avid fan received his first season ticket from his father for his seventh birthday and has been a devoted Hearts supporter ever since. He said watching all-time club leading scorer John Robertson bring up his record-breaking goals against Rangers remained one of his favourite memories. “I was there,” he said. “That was a high point.”