Hearts fans have pledged almost £7.5million to their club through Foundation of Hearts and are on course to reach the £10m mark in 2020.
The staggering figures were confirmed today by Foundation chairman Stuart Wallace in an exclusive Evening News interview. The fan-led organisation first started collecting monthly cash from supporters in 2013, and since then nearly £7.5m has been donated to Hearts. The latest payment came earlier this week when Wallace handed over the final instalment of FoH’s £3m contribution to Tynecastle Park’s new £15m main stand.
With nearly 8,000 subscribers, the Foundation will now begin repaying Hearts owner Ann Budge for the £2.5m loan she provided to help the club out of administration in 2014. FoH are due to assume control at Tynecastle from Budge in 2020.
By then, Hearts supporters will have contributed £10m of their own money in the biggest fan-driven movement in Scottish football history. “The totality of the Foundation money from the start until now is just under £7.5m, which is an enormous amount,” explained Wallace.
“Initially we got close to £4m, which went on operating costs to get the club back on its feet after administration. The plan was then to start repaying the £2.5m loan to BidCo [Budge’s company], but then the club decided to build the main stand.
“Our membership were asked to approve FoH putting £3m into the stand project and I think 98 per cent voted in favour of it. You watch it clock up and now we’ve paid all of that £3m, which brings the total contribution to almost £7.5m.
“By the time we repay Ann, we will be at £10m. Who would have thought that? If you’d have said in the beginning that all of this would generate £10m, I think everybody would just have been stunned by the sheer scale of it.”
The Foundation are keen to increase the number of monthly pledgers beyond the 8,000 mark. “We’re still shy of 8000,” admitted Wallace. “We’ve had about 10,000 people in total contributing to the Foundation since it began. You have that core who have always been there, plus people who join and leave at different times because of personal circumstances.
“When we’re very active, it encourages new and increased pledging. We constantly think about ways to engage, like Foundation Day at Tynecastle [in January this year]. I think we got around 250 notes of activity from that, a mix of new pledgers and increased pledges.
“We were really visible around the stadium that day. Players had Foundation of Hearts t-shirts on and we were all over social media with it. That shows the appetite is still there.
“We aren’t materially away from the 8,000 mark, but the average pledge amount has actually increased slightly. We’re very comfortable that what we have just now takes us to fan ownership within the timescale expected.”