FANS from around the world have rallied to support Hearts in their hour of need, giving the cashless club a fighting chance of climbing out of administration.
Hundreds of Jambos supporters flocked to Tynecastle Stadium’s merchandise store yesterday to spend their hard-earned cash on season tickets and player strips.
Staff reported eight times as much traffic as in the days before administration, and five hundred tickets were sold in the space of just 24 hours, making a large dent in the target of 3000 that administrators BDO said was needed within 14 days to guarantee the club’s immediate future.
Pledges of support have also been flooding in from fans across the globe desperate to help save their stricken club.
And outside Tynecastle, fans spoke of the sacrifices they were making in order to buy a season ticket many of them admitted they could not afford.
Many were buying season tickets for grandchildren, while one fan vowed to renew his father’s season ticket, even though his “old man” had passed away in September last year.
Supporters who had snuck out of work during office hours to buy a ticket were coy, but no less determined.
It was a clear, unified message to those ruling over the darkest period in the club’s 139-year history – that Hearts would not be allowed to die.
Engineer Chris Goodsell, 48, of Slateford, had previously held off buying a season ticket, but decided to cough up after hearing the appeal for help issued late on Thursday.
“It’s just because the club needs me,” he said. “I think we’ll get there, people seem quite resolved to do what they can.
“Last season I couldn’t afford it. This season I can’t either, but the club needs it.
“I don’t mind what happens, as long as the club stays afloat. If someone buys or if the fans get ownership, I’ll be happy.”
Kevin Pearson, 43, from Broomhouse, had not renewed his season ticket amid fears about the club’s stability.
The postman, who has been going to matches since he was five, had a change of heart after hearing the plea from administrators Bryan Jackson and Trevor Birch.
He said: “I was going to buy it from game to game, but obviously the club needs it so I have renewed it now.
“I think there will be no problem getting the 3000. I’ve been talking to people here and they say it’s been busy, so it’s a great start.”
Company director Robert Bon, 59, bought a season ticket for himself and son James after reassurances from the administrators.
“I listened to the administrators and I thought they were very professional and honest in the way they put things across,” he said.
“I’ve supported them [Hearts] for 50 years and I think it’s an apt time to help them in their time of need.
“They are coming to the fans again and asking for help and I think they should be listening very seriously to the fans’ bid.
“I have pledged to the Foundation of Hearts as well and I think it’s time the fans are given their rightful place within the club.”
Lynne Panton, 26, of Oxgangs, joined her dad and eight-year-old nephew who had recently bought season tickets.
The mother of six-month-old Bella had not owned a season ticket for five years, but decided now was the time.
“I’d been talking about it, but I’ve been busy the last few months with Bella,” she said.
“I want the team to be there for her to support when she’s older. Her dad’s a Hibee, but she’s Hearts like my side of the family.
“[My husband] Robin doesn’t know we’re down here, so it will be a surprise to him.”
Few did as much as airline check-in assistant Bobi Anderson, from Saughton Mains. The 22-year-old and her family dug especially deep to buy seven season tickets yesterday.
“I’ve got a wee niece who’s three and my nephew who’s three – they’ve both got a season ticket,” she said.
Amid the wave of support was a sobering reminder of the fragile state at Hearts. The club issued a statement asking fans to buy all season and match tickets and hospitality packages using only cash or cheque.
“This is necessary at the moment as the club is currently seeking to resolve a matter concerning credit card payments,” the statement said.
It was a reflection of the instability that cost 14 back-room staff, including nine full-time and five part-time workers, their jobs two days ago.
Four players will be following them out the door, with even manager Gary Locke admitting he had no say on who went.
Mr Jackson revealed on Thursday that all the funds generated from the earlier sale of 7000 season tickets was already gone.
Hearts’ known debt to Lithuanian firms Ukio Bankas and UBIG stands at £25 million, but the administrators have not ruled out finding more as they continue to dig through the finance books.
The debts still be settled lie largely abroad, but the help for Hearts has not been limited to the Capital.
Andrew Gray, 27, drove an almost 90-mile-round trip from Kelso in the Scottish Borders to buy Hearts’ away playing strip.
He has also pledged £30 a month to the Foundation of Hearts – the supporter-driven consortium attempting to round up funds to make a genuine bid for ownership of the club.
“Somebody will come forward to put a bid in that’ll be accepted,” he said. “Until then we’ve just got to rely on the fans to get us through. It’s a family club.”
William Morrin, 50, who is part of Save Our Hearts, said the club’s plight had generated massive interest from fans abroad.
The postman, from South Queensferry, said donations had flooded in from across the globe.
He said: “They’re watching it all happen on Hearts World and are desperate to help save this club.
“We’ve had people from Australia, New Zealand and Canada who have been desperate to give what they can. We’ve got support that goes far beyond Scotland.”
Even high-profile figures like First Minister Alex Salmond were expected to buy a season ticket.
Ian Murray MP – independent chairman of the foundation – said he had no fears over raising the money after a meeting with administrators last night.
He anticipated the syndicate could put an offer on the table “very shortly”, adding: “We can come up with the funds because if the 6000 people who have pledged convert to direct debits and we get a few more on top, we will certainly be in a position to come up with the money.
“Over 2000 have converted in the last 36 hours, which is an absolutely incredible achievement.”
Fundaraising efforts will continue over the next fortnight. Former Hearts left-back Danny Grainger is auctioning off his Scottish Cup final vest. The foundation was also due to host a drop-in session at 66 Gorgie Road from noon until 4pm today.
Lithuanian leaders want Hearts to successfully haul themselves out of administration, a leading club figure has claimed. Former Jambos chairman George Foulkes held discussions with the Lithuanian ambassador on Thursday.
He said: “It’s clear that there is a will within the Lithuanian Government to get Hearts back up and running again. I think they, like me, feel a responsibility to see it back as a going concern, as a viable and successful football club.
“She’s been in touch with the administrators in Lithuania. They know that a CVA [company voluntary arrangement] is necessary.”
Administrator BDO confirmed yesterday they had sacked the club’s three Lithuanian directors – Sergejus Fedotovas, Roman Romanov and Vitalijus Vasiiauskas – in a definitive end for the old regime at Tynecastle. Fedotovas had not been seen at the club since last month, but an email from his address was issued to staff on Wednesday telling them the club had officially entered administration.
Charity begins at home
SCORES of season ticket holders have been buying extra tickets – with many being given to charity.
The die-hard supporters, desperate to see the club survive, will not rest at simply securing their own entry next season.
Lynne Panton, 26, of Oxgangs, joined her dad and eight-year-old nephew to purchase season tickets. And Ronnie Booth, 63, said that he had to make amends for living on Easter Road.
The retired printer made a celebratory banner which was hung outside the stadium after their famous 5-1 victory over Hibs last year.
He already has a season ticket but was buying a second one to donate to charity.
“I have got one already last month but I’m buying another to help a wee bit. I’ll just give it to charity or something.
“I don’t know if we will get the number we need or not, but I hope so.
“I think fans are all worried but we need to do our bit and help this club survive.”
Online, lots of ardent supporters wrote on Jambos Kickback that they had bought extra and urged others to do the same.
Others suggested buying for children, as season tickets for under 12s are just £50, which would help add to the clubs’ earnings on match day, shift more merchandise and also ensure a large fan base for generations to come.
One fan wrote: “The more season tickets given to kids then the more strips bought and the more catering bought at games.”