HEARTS yesterday took a major step towards exiting administration, but buoyant fans were today warned that they will need to continue digging deep into their pockets to help complete the process.
Everyone connected with the administration-hit Edinburgh club breathed a huge sigh of relief when creditors and shareholders voted in favour of a CVA proposal lodged on behalf of prospective new owners Foundation of Hearts. It was the most positive news Hearts have had since they entered administration in June, with administrator Bryan Jackson outlining the significance of the day’s events when he admitted afterwards that, had the proposal been kyboshed, there is no guarantee tomorrow’s Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at home to Celtic would have been able to go ahead.
While there is now light at the end of the tunnel for Hearts, Jackson and Foundation of Hearts chairman Ian Murray were keen to stress that supporters cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
Jackson warned that the process of exiting administration could yet take several months and admitted things could get “hairy” financially if there is no resolution to their predicament come February/March time. As a result, he said, albeit with an element of tongue in cheek, that fans will have to cancel Christmas and spend all their disposable income on the club as he pleaded for supporters to redouble their efforts to buy match tickets, hospitality packages and merchandise to help the club towards safety.
He said: “When the money runs out will depend on how much the supporters give us, but, on the basis of what we have now, then I would say things will get a bit hairy going into February and March. We have enough funding to get to March, but once we get past that then we would be forced to start selling next season tickets for the following season to raise money, and that is a very difficult thing to do. There are legalities to drawing down money for games that haven’t been played – you would probably need to change the terms and conditions if you ask them to buy something they may not get. It is like a donation when you get to that stage.
“We have been asking and asking – and I know it difficult to keep asking fans for support – but the reality is that I don’t know what lies ahead and, if we start to run out of time, then I have nowhere else to go. I have always said this is a question of survival – and this is still the case. We might effectively need a loan from fans, although things will be clearer when the sale purchase agreement moves forward. We will be working closer with the Foundation of Hearts, planning ahead and – if we are optimistic – looking at cash flows together. That crossover period will help us to look at timing and cash flow. If we can get out of administration earlier our cash might be okay, if we get out later it might be okay as long as we have windfall, or it could be reverse.”
Murray, meanwhile, is hoping that yesterday’s news will inspire any fans who haven’t already done so to pledge to the Foundation. He said: “We’ve got 7600 pledges already and we’re collecting each month at 99 per cent. You’ll always have one or two failings as it’s a difficult time of year for everyone in the run up to Christmas and the economy’s still in a difficult position and job security is undermined by the economy. So we’re really pleased with what we’ve got. Hopefully now we’ll be able to increase those pledges as that makes the deliverability easier.
“We reached 4000 and everyone thought that was a great milestone, then we reached 5000, then 6000 then broke through 7000 and we’re now at 7600. We’ve stabilised there since we began collecting in September, so we’re pretty pleased with where we are, but I can’t really put a figure on where we’d want to go. If we get 25,000 it’s easy, if it’s 10,000 it’s slightly easier. Anybody who’s not pledged yet should do so.”