Foundation of Hearts director talks new training ground and future plans with next three years 'critical' at Tynecastle
Hearts are entering a crucial three-year period as a new-look Foundation of Hearts board prepares to drive the club forward.
Louise Strutt, an existing FoH director standing for re-election next month, believes the fan-led group have unlimited potential since taking ownership of their football team in August.
Hearts are now the biggest supporter-owned side in Britain and the Foundation are due to appoint three new directors from five candidates at December’s AGM. Strutt feels things like diversity, passion, legacy and potentially even a new training ground should be high on the agenda.
She is often seen on the concourse on matchdays at Tynecastle listening to fans’ views and points. She also attends the fans’ bar helping with pledging issues and a range of other things.
Enthusiasm and vision go hand-in-hand for the Edinburgh businesswoman who runs her own financial consultancy company.
“Passion comes down to it. I applied for a position on the Foundation six years ago because of my passion for this club. My company advertise and sponsor and I was at all the fans’ rallys during the Vladimir Romanov era. I’m a bit dangerous at auctions, actually,” she laughed.
“Look what we have achieved. We built a new main stand, Hearts are back on their feet and we now own the club. FoH are giving £140,000 a month to Hearts. A global pandemic hasn’t helped but the sky is the limit for Foundation of Hearts.
“We are the envy of many rivals. I’d like to see the job through by doing another three years and pass on a legacy to the next generation. There has to be a succession plan and that means getting kids involved in Hearts.
“It’s the biggest fan-owned club in British football history. It’s incredible and this story isn’t finished yet. The next three years are critical. It’s a transition period. We started out of chaos and crisis to generate money for Hearts, now we need to drive this forward.”
The club's training base at Heriot-Watt University is on her mind. The facility is rented and Strutt would like to explore the possibility of Hearts owning their own place.
“It’s not ours. It’s costing us money. Where is our ambition there?,” she queried. “Should the Foundation say: ‘We need to hang our coat on this.’ Could we help the club with things like our own academy? What difference would it make if we had our own.
“How would it change the first-team performance, the women’s team performance, and how would it help the kids academy? We want to become a driving force in every area from grassroots up. The return on investment could be massive, just like the main stand.
“As a board, we need to show we’re building lifelong relationships with every stakeholder in the club. We need to be a lot more accountable, helping FoH and the club become stronger.”
Strutt also wants to see more women involved in different areas, both within Hearts and the Foundation. “We need different perspective across the FoH board and I’m a massive advocate of diversification,” she explained.
“Research shows that helps company performance. It also makes us less susceptible to group-think. Independence of thought is paramount in the boardroom. You can’t be frightened to stand up against someone because they are a friend.
“I find it quite sad that I’m on my third election and I’m still the only female to put themselves forward. We have a huge fanbase of clever, smart women in all areas but there is that differential. We have a woman, Ann Budge, at the helm.
“We also need to be bold and understand. What’s happening with the first team? How is their training set-up? What do they need to make it better? The fans need know their money makes a difference to that.
“Hearts women are getting some great results and there is a lot of emphasis on that side now. There is still so much to achieve.”