Exclusive: The cash Hearts will bank from the most profitable European campaign in Tynecastle history

Figures behind Hearts’ Europa Conference League involvement confirm it is the most profitable European campaign in club history. Chief executive Andrew McKinlay stated today that a seven-figure net gain is certain following this season’s group-stage matches.
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Whilst Tynecastle officials are still tallying final numbers and adding up sums internally, the Evening News understands that the club hope to make a profit of around £2.5m to £3m from the eight UEFA ties played. Hearts lost to FC Zurich in August’s Europa League play-off before dropping into Conference League Group A, where they met Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir, Italian giants Fiorentina and Latvian champions RFS.

UEFA wired a parachute payment of £250,000 for losing that play-off, plus a £2.6m participation fee for reaching the groups. Ticket income from four home matches reached £2m and a further £875,000 came in prize money for two victories over RFS. That income was offset somewhat by considerable expenditure. Charter flights, hotel bills and transport for players and staff in Switzerland, Latvia, Italy and Turkey meant a heavy outlay. That’s before the squad's win bonuses for six group points achieved. Add in security, policing and necessary stadium upgrades to meet UEFA requirements, and Hearts have had to spend more than £2m in European competition.

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Their last group-stage continental games were back in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup and did not generate anything like the same level of income. This year has been a landmark. Hearts are therefore eager to finish third in this season’s Premiership again to potentially return to the group phase next year.

The club’s chief executive Andrew McKinlay told the Evening News: “It has been a memorable European campaign and we ended it as the only Scottish club to win group-stage matches, and our supporters represented themselves and the club magnificently all over Europe.

“At the start of the season, the club set out a budget for participation in European football. While points accumulated exceeded expectations, bringing with it an increased income, our associated costs were plentiful. The budget for player investment, including wages and bonuses, was enlarged for the purpose of assembling a squad capable of competing in Europe.

“There were numerous stadium improvements required in order to meet UEFA’s criteria for hosting group stage matches, for example new floodlights, higher quality trackside astroturf for player warm-ups and a larger TV studio, to name but a few. Standard income generators, such as hospitality, were limited as UEFA take over a large part of available suites on matchdays, as were opportunities like sponsorship as UEFA control this area, and selling hospitality packages on club charter flights which were hindered due to the issues surrounding aircraft availability in the aviation industry at present.

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“As we continue to evaluate all of the income and costs associated with the Europa Conference League campaign, and prepare for next month’s AGM, we are not yet at the stage where we can definitively comment on any profit made. We can, however, assure our supporters that, thanks to both our forward planning and the first team’s two group-stage victories, we will post a profit that is into seven figures.”