Supporters have been busy speculating about who Hearts’ benefactors are after it emerged that the club have benefited from £5.5 million of mystery investment over the past two years.
However, football finance experts insist that, while it is an unusual scenario, there are entirely logical reasons why those ploughing their cash in may choose to remain anonymous.
“Most benefactors are publicity-hungry whereas these ones seems to be publicity-shy,” said Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at Liverpool University.
“Hearts have said that £4.5 million has gone towards stadium development and £1m has gone towards wages. These appear to be very precise amounts of money given by people who are clearly fond of the club but want to keep themselves to themselves. It’s clearly somebody who has done well for themselves, seen the nature of the developments of the ground and presumably wanted to help the team compete a bit more.
“There’s nothing untoward about it at all. If I won the lottery I’d stick a couple of million into my club. It’s probably somebody who’s sold a business or inherited money. Basically someone who has had some kind of windfall and wants to show their appreciation for their club but doesn’t want to get involved in the day-to-day running of it.”
Some have speculated that Ann Budge herself could be a ‘mystery’ benefactor but, while there would be no legal obstacles to such a move, observers doubt the Hearts owner would feel the need to act under a cloak of secrecy.
Meanwhile, Neil Patey, a finance expert from Ernst and Young, believes Hearts’ position in Scotland’s capital benefits the club.
“It’s the exception rather than the rule for this to happen. The more formal route for fans to invest in their club is via shares, but if there are wealthy individuals who want to support their club, then it’s not unheard of for this sort of things to happen. I don’t know where the benefactor is from, but Hearts benefit from being in a pretty wealthy city in a UK context. Clearly in this situation we have someone with a lot of money who wants to support the club and all the good things they’re doing under Ann Budge.”