Foundation director reveals scale of Hearts fans cash contribution cuts and makes Robbie Neilson admission
One in every 20 fans has withdrawn their pledges to the Foundation of Hearts, or reduced their contributions, following the team’s recent on-field slump in form.
Founding director of the Foundation, Gary Halliday has revealed 200 members have stopped their cash input altogether and a similar number have reduced their backing in the week of a Scottish Cup elimination to Brora Rangers and a home league defeat to Queen of the South.
He insists the Tynecastle hierarchy are well aware of fan feeling on recent performances and the Foundation’s figures have been passed on.
“When we went into administration we had 8200 pledgers, or just over that, and a couple of weeks ago we were slightly above that.
“We’re now down to around 8000 so there have been a couple of hundred cancellations and we’ve had a couple of hundred reduce their pledges - they’ve lowered their amounts - and we’ve had about 300 emails in to tell us exactly how the fans and members are thinking.”
Despite being on course for the Championship title and 13 points clear at the summit, many of the messages are calling for a change in manager following the ignominious defeat in the Highlands and sub-par defeat to their Championship rivals under Robbie Neilson.
Last week the Foundation of Hearts chairman Stuart Wallace questioned whether withholding pledges was a wise protest move but a number of fans have done so and made their feelings known.
A small protest was held outside the ground in light of the Scottish cup exit, and before another disappointment on Saturday with banners and stickers displayed outside Tynecastle calling for change.
Mr Halliday admitted: “I think it’s a long way back for Robbie to win back the fans if I’m honest.”
Asked on BBC Sportsound if the suspended pledges would return under a new manager he added: “That’s the message we’re getting. It’s always harder to get pledgers and members back on than new ones.
“The numbers are passed to the club - we don’t dilute any message - that’s passed loud and clear to the club whenever anything like this happens.
“The members’ views are put direct to the club so if a discussion is going on, and I’m sure there is, that will shape how some of the board will think. We have two nominated directors and the members’ views will form their standpoint.
“It’s a two-way street. The football club are always in touch asking how things are and how the fans are feeling and we let them know. We are a sounding board for the club and the message that we are getting from our members is that Robbie needs to go.”
Robbie Neilson admitted that “conversations” were coming after the 3-2 home defeat on Saturday.
Former Tynecastle director of football Craig Levein was also on the radio programme and criticised the performance before putting the impending league win into context, but did have a warning: “I’m sure Robbie’s remit was to get promoted and I think he’ll get promoted. I think what these two results have done is, if he doesn’t start next season on fire, then I think he could be in trouble.”
Hearts face Dunfermline at East End Park on Saturday and, if results fall their way, could be declared Championship winners.