HEARTS fans have raised more than half a million pounds in just three weeks through a share issue scheme as players and management took to the pitch before Saturday’s home fixture to salute their efforts.
Capping an emotional weekend – which threatened to be their last after HMRC issued a winding up order for unpaid tax – a fundraising rally at Tynecastle attended by 300 guests including manager John McGlynn raised around £24,000 for the troubled club.
Hearts siblings Dylan and Ryan McGowan were in the crowd for the auction which saw a host of memorabilia go under the hammer with the brothers’ framed strips from last Saturday adorned with McCrae’s battalion badge and poppy fetching £2,000.
Stadium announcer Scott Wilson was master of ceremonies for the auction, while comedian and columnist Tam Cowan was among the after dinner speakers to address the crowd, all of whom offered their services for free.
Items being auctioned off included a signed pair of Ryan McGowan’s boots worn during Hearts’ Scottish Cup Final defeat of city rivals Hibs, a corporate box for eight people for a match at Pittodrie, the chance for your child to be a mascot for a day at Tynecastle and a corporate hospitality package for the Edinburgh derby on January 3 among many others.
A spokesman said: “A power of work has gone into organising the event and it was attended by well over 300 fans, it was the latest in a number of fundraising functions and the support on the day once again underlined how much Hearts of Midlothian FC mean to so many people.”
Former Hearts chairman Lord George Foulkes, who attended the fundraiser, said he was “quite taken aback” by the level of generosity he had seen.
“I thought it was a tremendous success and absolutely unbelievable amount was raised,” he said.
“That so many people gave their time such as the three brilliant speakers which included [former referee] John Rowbothan and Tam Cowan who were great. And players past and present arrived one by one. There was lively bidding in the auction and shows the strength of feeling and support among the Hearts community, and it is a community, with players, staff and supporters working cooperatively together to save the club.”
Ahead of Saturday’s 1-0 win over St Mirren, which was seen by a 16,000-strong crowd, manager McGlynn led a public show of appreciation for the Hearts fans who have rallied around the club to stave off the threat of liquidation. The club have been given a payment plan until December 3 to meet the £450,000 debt.
With that figure outstanding, and talks ongoing over the sale of Vladimir Romanov’s controlling share, McGlynn has warned their future remains uncertain.
“We’ve got to put a brave face on things and show a good front but you are worried,” he said.
“It is great that £500,000 has been raised and it looks as though we are going to get past that one. But we need everyone to continue to back us.
“We can’t thank the people enough who put their hands in their pockets and bought the shares but there is still a long way to go.”
A statement on Hearts’ official website read: “Heart of Midlothian FC can today reveal that more than half a million pounds have been raised by the share issue.
“Just three weeks after the launch of the scheme on Saturday, October 27, the Hearts supporters have sent the total crashing through the £500,000 barrier.
“The immense effort from the fans was instrumental in the club gaining a reprieve from HMRC after the recent winding-up order and ensuring that the Clydesdale Bank Premier League meeting with St Mirren [went] ahead.”
Meanwhile, against this backdrop of urgent fundraising, majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov reportedly said Hearts’ financial problems were nothing more than journalists “spreading false stories”.
He reportedly said: “Hearts don’t have any financial problems for eight years already. Only journalists spreading false stories about that”.
WHAT HEARTS MEAN TO ME: Susan McGhee
JAMBO-since-birth Susan McGhee, 27, lives in Leith and attended her first game at Tynecastle aged just four years old – when she fell asleep.
Her mum brought her up as a Hearts fan and the pair remain diehard supporters despite most of her step-family being Hibbies.
Asked what Hearts mean to her, Susan said: “I think this probably sounds a bit cheesy but life.
“When I think of Edinburgh, I think of it as my home and Hearts. I can’t imagine Edinburgh without Heart of Midlothian – it would be nothing.”
On the recent financial troubles affecting the club, she said: “I have been devastated to be honest, as much as every other fan. It would be heartbreaking to lose them.
“It’s a horrible situation to be in, but how everyone has pulled together has been amazing. You sometimes don’t think people could be that passionate about something.
“But it’s been great to see everyone come together for the club.”