ANN BUDGE today spoke for the first time about her plans for Hearts as she petitioned fans to back her for the next two years and beyond to enable her to hand over a financially secure club to Foundation of Hearts.
The Edinburgh businesswoman stressed she cannot succeed in her rebuilding job without supporters behind her. More than 7800 people have subscribed to the Foundation’s monthly pledge plan and Budge is keen for more to sign up.
Through her company, BIDCO (1874) Limited, she will fund the Foundation’s £2.5million Creditors’ Voluntary Arrangement to take Hearts out of administration. That should happen before the end of April, allowing Budge to become chairwoman at Tynecastle. She will not seek repayment of the £2.5m until two years down the line.
Between now and then, the 65-year-old needs as many fans as possible to buy into her vision and help create supporter ownership. She expects to hand over complete control of Hearts to the Foundation within five years. This morning, she communicated directly with supporters for the first time via an email to 55,000 fans on the club’s database. In it, she thanked those who have pledged money to the fans’ umbrella group and have helped in other ways since the descent into administration last June. Budge also made clear her need for further backing in future.
The email read: “It has been a very busy few days since we announced some of the plans for trying to secure the long-term future of Heart of Midlothian Football Club. Hopefully, the statement made last week has provided some degree of clarity, albeit we recognise the need to provide more details. Please be assured we will furnish more information as soon as we are in a position to do so.
“We all know the task ahead. Firstly, to ensure the club survives; secondly to ensure it is re-stabilised financially, with the strongest possible foundations to ensure its future. These are the tasks I am offering to take on; but I will not succeed without your continued support.
“My task, as I see it, is to ensure that when I hand the club over to you, the supporters, I will be handing over a club in good shape and with sufficient resources to face the challenges of the future. To achieve this the club needs investment over the next two years to stabilise and then build a solid financial base.
“Some of you are asking how long you might be asked to contribute. Right now, the club needs your financial support to see us through the next two years. Thereafter your contributions are required to secure supporter ownership.
“Beyond that, and once ownership passes to the fans, it will be for you, the supporters, to agree the financial priorities of your club. To all the supporters who are helping the club, either by attending games, contributing to the Foundation of Hearts, buying merchandise, fund raising – the list goes on – I thank you.
“It has been said many times over the last few months, but it is absolutely true that without this support we would not be here today.
“To those of you who have already pledged, I thank you. To those of you who have not yet done so, I would simply say that if you believe in the journey we are about to undertake, and only if your financial position allows it, please consider joining your nearly 8000 fellow supporters, who are contributing.
“These supporters have started to build the cash reserves to enable fans ownership to become a reality, which will ultimately put an end to private ownership of our club. I will do my part to the best of my ability. Thank you, in advance, for continuing to do yours.”