HEARTS have given the strongest indication yet they are ready to leave Tynecastle as they revealed three quarters of fans were willing to accept a new stadium up to five miles away from their current home.
The club said while it did not want to leave the 125-year-old stadium, the time had come to pursue alternatives. Difficulties with planning are known to be frustrating owner Vladimir Romanov, with the problematic main stand being described by officials as “onerous”.
A mass consultation on a possible move was launched in May, with the club receiving more than 8,000 responses from 40 countries – 51 per cent of which were from season ticket holders. It did not ask fans whether the club should stay at Tynecastle but sought comments in the event that a new stadium had to be built.
The results, published today, revealed two-thirds wanted to remain in either the west or the centre of the city, while 76 per cent were prepared to go within a five-mile radius.
That would include options such as tycoon David Murray’s proposed stadium near Edinburgh Park, and Straiton - the site of a failed proposals to get Hearts and Hibs to share a ground. The radius would even include more controversial locations, such as Leith and the east of Edinburgh.
A spokesman told the Evening News: “Naturally we are exploring every opportunity to remain at Tynecastle but we are approaching a point where a decision will have to be taken on our future at this location.”
Hearts made it clear the ideal preference was to remain at the current 17,590-seat stadium in Gorgie but they have to consider alternatives because of planning restrictions at Tynecastle, with the ageing main stand costly to maintain.
They are desperate to avoid a repeat of the Murrayfield saga a decade ago, when then chief executive Chris Robinson announced his intention to groundshare with the Scottish Rugby Union without any involvement of the supporters, prompting a protest which eventually led to him leaving the club. Despite sour memories of the Murrayfield possibility, 71 per cent said they would not mind rugby matches taking place on their turf, provided Hearts had the primary use of it and it was of financial benefit. In Glasgow, Partick Thistle lease their ground to rugby side Glasgow Warriors.
A similar deal with Edinburgh Rugby – as mooted under the Murray plans – would seem to be acceptable to the bulk of supporters.
Most respondents voted for a capacity of between 20,000 and 30,000 and for it to be in a two-tier, bowl-like structure. There would be no substantial objection for the stadium to be used for other events like concerts, and 75 per cent backed the idea of being able to buy alcohol in the ground, although that would require a change in the law.
The spokesman added: “Whatever direction the club takes we will maintain the firmly established dialogue with our supporters and all other key stakeholders as we understand that the decisions that we take now have to be made in the interests of the club for generations to come.”
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