THE Hearts shareholder who wrote an official report urging the city council to work with the club to build a community stadium to replace Tynecastle today defended his role.
Stewart Cobb, a partner in surveyor Doig & Smith, insisted there was no conflict of interest between his shareholding in Hearts and the £30,000 “independent” report, jointly funded by the council and the club, which recommended the council should “seriously consider an active role” in the creation of a new community stadium.
Mr Cobb’s father Eddie was part of a consortium which tried to buy Hearts in the 1990s.
Councillors also said they had been passed information indicating Mr Cobb was “an active member of the Heart of Midlothian Shareholders Association”, which states that its mission is to “advance the interests of Heart of Midlothian FC”.
Councillor Jason Rust, Conservative economic development spokesman, said: “There is a bit of uneasiness that this undermines the recommendations of the report and £15,000 of public money went towards that.”
But Mr Cobb said: “There is nothing controversial in the study. These kind of community stadium developments are fairly common elsewhere in the UK and around Europe.
“If I was writing it from the point of view of a Hearts fan it would have recommended staying at Tynecastle.
“My shareholding is simply something that has been passed down through the family.”
Hearts is pressing ahead with a further study into finding a site for a communitystadium. The council has played no part in funding the second, more detailed report, but expects Hearts to share the findings by next May.
Dave Anderson, director of city development at the council, said: “The fact that one of their partners is a shareholder in Hearts is actually a good thing, because it means they have the best interests of the club at heart going forward.
“The choice of Doig & Smith was made because they have carried out a number of studies of Tynecastle over the years.
“They are a professional company and the fact that one partner is a Hearts shareholder is not a reason not to accept their advice.”
Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “There was an allegation that this somehow tainted the process. My view is our interest in the report was in the area around Tynecastle and we were not looking at it from the same perspective as Hearts, so this was their issue.”
Hearts director Vitalijus Vasiliauskas said: “We are grateful for the support the council can provide.”