Do you remember football? That’s the game where 22 millionaires chase a white ball. When a decision goes against the players they roll on the turf in faux-agony. The clubs are often owned by foreigners who have no knowledge of the club’s history, in it only for profit and self-aggrandisement. Remember that game? It still exists, of course, but not in Edinburgh, where revolution is in the air.
From the ashes of the worst season imaginable for the Capital’s two big clubs, has emerged hope, optimism, triumph and a reassessment of values.
Hearts already have the league title. And wouldn’t it be great if Hibs were to take second spot and go on to secure promotion? Both Capital clubs have embraced the fan ownership model and can stick two fingers up to the financial merry-go-round at Ibrox. And don’t forget Hibs, in 16 days’ time, have a chance to make it to another cup final.
However, off the park has arguably been more impressive than on it. Today, Hearts demonstrated yet another strand of how fan ownership can put the love back into the beautiful game. The name of Save the Children will appear on the strips of Hearts for the next three seasons, after the club announced a historic tie-up – the first UK side to carry the name of a worldwide charity on their home and away tops having rejected standard shirt-sponsorship opportunities. This is a laudable and groundbreaking initiative.
Last October, the club became the first in the British professional game to adopt the living wage for all employees. Chelsea have subsequently followed suit.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, getting things right off the pitch has paid dividends: success on the park, a happy fan base and a club that cares about its staff and the community in which it is based.
It wasn’t easy. Hearts fans dug deep after the debt-ridden Romanov era to find a lifeline bridge to fan ownership. Now it has happened, everything is falling into place and all connected with the club should be proud.
And over at Easter Road Hibs are making huge strides in their community work where the Hibernian Community Foundation are developing a major public social partnership with NHS Lothian, local authorities and other public, private and third sector organisations. The aim is to harness the power and appeal of football to deliver positive social outcomes. This radical approach to how football clubs can support health and education could deliver genuine change and long-lasting benefits.
In short, lives could be transformed. Others will be saved. All thanks to the vision and dedication of chief executive Leann Dempster.
Happy times for our city clubs. We should feel proud.