Today, the Evening News calls on Angelo Massone, the Italian businessman bidding to buy Hearts, to stand aside in favour of a takeover by the club’s fans.
A golden opportunity stands before the supporters to create their own piece of history by taking control of the famous Tynecastle club, and securing a stable future after so many years of turmoil. But one final push is needed in order to secure enough pledges to the Foundation of Hearts to secure the funds they need to make this dream a reality.
We urge Mr Massone to stand by the promise he made to walk away if he could not win the trust of the fans. He has failed to
do that and it is now time for him to go.
If Bill Shankly was wrong when he said football was more important than life and death, then he wasn’t too far wrong.
The passions which this great game stirs run deep. The success or failure of clubs like Heart of Midlothian can have a huge impact on the wellbeing of their home city, both emotionally and financially.
Rarely has that depth of passion been more clearly displayed than in the efforts of Jambos in recent months to raise the necessary cash to save their club. Soon they should know whether or not their efforts have been in vain.
A unique opportunity to make their own history stands within the grasp of those fantastic supporters.
For decades, football fans around the world have talked about the dream of owning the club that they love and taking control of their own destiny.
Right now, as a result of several factors coming together, the opportunity exists to make that dream a reality here in Edinburgh. After years of feeling powerless, subject to the whim of a feckless foreign owner, the fans could actually take control of the third best supported team in Scotland.
But there is a real danger that the opportunity will pass us by. Hearts stand at a crossroads today; one way lies the opportunity of a lifetime, security and stability for the future, the other disaster, or potential disaster.
The Evening News is proud to be known as the voice of Edinburgh and at a moment like this it is incumbent upon us to make our views heard loud and clear.
Today, for the good of Hearts, and the wider Edinburgh public, we appeal directly to Angelo Massone to withdraw his bid for the football club – and throw his support behind the Foundation of Hearts.
The fans stand ready to move forward united – but, despite his warm words about backing supporter involvement, Mr Massone is now standing in their way.
You might well ask, why would Mr Massone want to stand aside? Well, there are three reasons we believe it is the best solution for all concerned.
Firstly, as everyone knows, Mr Massone has yet to provide proof of his funds. To put it bluntly, it is now time to put up or shut up.
Haggling over a takeover price, negotiating the fine print, and so on, may continue for weeks yet, but the time to prove you have the cash to sit at the negotiating table in the first place has passed.
He should prove the money exists or stand aside. Otherwise, the only effect his continuing involvement will have is to artificially push up the asking price being demanded of the Foundation of Hearts.
Secondly, we believe that Mr Massone’s time at Livingston raises serious questions about whether he would pass the SFA’s Fit and Proper Person test for running a football club. That, ultimately, could wreck any deal struck with him.
Any evidence offered on this point by Livingston chief executive Ged Nixon – who has warned Hearts fans to tread his bid “sceptically and with caution” – would certainly make for interesting reading.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Mr Massone has not met the bar which he set for himself when he entered the bidding.
“I will only come back to Scottish football if I have the support and trust of a club’s supporters,” he reportedly said. “That is vitally important to me.”
Mr Massone has patently failed to win the trust of the fans. And it is clear to us that he will never be able to do that.
The fact that Mr Massone’s Five Stars Footbal Ltd has failed to include in its bid any working capital to cover the projected £2 million shortfall in Hearts’ running costs over the next year is damning.
In the event of him taking control, that would leave the club immediately facing the prospect of plunging straight back into another spiral of debt. It makes his bid look opportunistic, rather than being genuinely grounded in the long-term good of the club.
It is especially hard for fans to place their faith in him when his apparent financial backers remain anonymous.
On the other hand, the club legends and leading Edinburgh figures leading the Foundation bid inspire every confidence.
There is an honourable next step for the Italian businessman. He has talked of his willingness to help the supporters to own the club.
If he were to stand aside now, making clear he was doing so in the interests of supporting their bid, there would be no shame. In fact, quite the opposite, he would deserve the deep gratitude of us all.
This is a pivotal moment in the proud history of Heart of Midlothian Football Club.
The history books record their successes, four league titles and eight Scottish Cups among them. The sacrifice of both players and fans in the First World War in particular. Their record for the most goals scored in one season by a top flight club which still stands after more than half a century and may never be beaten.
A takeover by the fans would stand alongside those achievements in the annals of the club.
But that will not happen without one final push. Whatever Mr Massone decides to do, the Foundation of Hearts do not yet have enough money to buy the club. They are, however, tantalisingly close. Supporters have dug deep so many times in recent months that no one could blame them for saying now enough is enough. Yet, no one wants to wake up next week thinking if only . . .
For Hearts to have the best chance of survival, supporters need to pledge anything that they have left to give now. And then sit tight and hope. It is the best chance we have of securing Hearts future for another 139 years.
Reign at Livingston ended in turmoil
ANGELO Massone was born in Italy in 1971 and has a background in law.
He entered Scottish Football in 2008, taking over at Livingston FC as chairman, leading a consortium which bought the club for £1.
He told fans he had excellent contacts in football and promised new signings from across the globe.
But his reign in West Lothian was seen as disastrous, with wages to players regularly not being paid on time and financial turmoil surrounding the club. A year after he took over, all four fans groups at the club had called for him to quit the role.
By the summer of 2009, Livingston were in administration, with Massone resisting intense calls to sell up to give the club a chance of survival.
In the period he was also convicted of being drunk in charge of a car. He finally sold his shares in August 2009.
Last November he bid £4.5m for Hearts, although Hearts directors said they would not entertain a bid from the Italian.
With the sale of the club now out of their hands, he returned last month, launching a £4m bid as part of Five Stars Football Limited. However, he failed to show administrators proof of funds.