Hearts fans have helped their club qualify for Europe by ploughing nearly £4 million into Tynecastle through Foundation of Hearts.
More than 8000 pledgers have contributed a staggering £3.8m since the fan-led group began collecting monthly cash from supporters in September 2013.
Foundation chairman Brian Cormack today thanked fans for their overwhelming backing after Hearts secured a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds. Cormack stressed he would like more people to join the Foundation because more money could equal even greater success on the field. Since emerging from administration in June 2014, Hearts have won the Scottish Championship title in record time and been promoted to the Premiership. They are now back in European competition. It is a dramatic recovery from their financial collapse and just reward for fans who have donated.
“Qualifying for Europe is a reward for all Hearts fans. Season ticket sales are at an all-time high, Tynecastle is sold out for every home game, hospitality is full every week,” said Cormack. “The £3.8million provided by the Foundation over the last two years helps give a really stable base for the club to build for the future. Look how far we’ve come in those two years: From Wonga to Save the Children. The memorial garden is opening this summer and the stadium is being redeveloped. The Foundation has had 8000 people pledging for more than two years but the backing from the whole Hearts community throughout that time has allowed this to happen. It’s just an amazing story.”
Cormack added: “For so long, it looked like Hearts would go into administration but when it actually happened, that was the darkest day. There have been quite a few high points since we came out of administration which we didn’t expect so soon. To win the Championship like we did, now we’ve qualified for Europe.
“We’re over-achieving but I think there’s a real plan behind what the Hearts board are doing. There’s a plan on the playing side and we are behind all of that. Our job is to make sure we keep the funds coming in.”
Foundation of Hearts has a legal agreement to continue funding the Edinburgh club. They handled over £1m as soon as administration ended, followed by £1.4m last season and another £1.4m this season. They will, in time, also repay owner Ann Budge the £2.5m she invested to take control.
“It was always part of the agreement that we would supply that £3.8m over the first two years. Then we start paying Ann back,” explained Cormack. “When you actually say it out loud, ‘£3.8m paid in by the Foundation’, it’s an amazing figure. That’s separate to money generated by the club itself. I’ve always said I want to push on and get more people signing up to pledge and I still think that’s possible. I don’t want the club to rely on this extra money coming from the Foundation. What Ann and the board are doing is making sure Hearts are sustainable on the revenue they are generating by themselves. If we can provide another million, million and a half, or two million pounds a year, what club is going to refuse that? That’s always been the Foundation’s plan. If you don’t miss £10 a month, and if we all stick together, that could become another million or two which goes into the club. If everybody looks to the future, then you see what is possible. Look what we’ve done in two years. What could be do if we continue this for another five years and beyond?”