Hearts AGM: Kye Rowles won't be sold cheaply, £5m Euro income, £23m increase in assets, player wages rise

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Mutterings at the back of the Gorgie Suite conveyed the mood of many shareholders at Hearts’ annual general meeting this morning.

“This is the first time in my life that the club is actually being run properly,” remarked one. “For years it hasn’t been, and that’s going back to the days of [former chairman] Bill Lindsay. You wonder what they did with all the money in those days.”

Ann Budge received warm applause for her stewardship of Hearts after passing ownership to the fan group Foundation of Hearts last year. Still chairman of the club, she oversaw a hugely positive meeting with around 200 shareholders.

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Finances were explained in detail as £5million income from this season’s Europa Conference League adventure was confirmed, although those monies are not included in the latest set of accounts which only run to June this year. Net profit from European competition is roughly £3m.

Jacqui Duncan, Hearts’ finance director, said: “We generated in excess of £5m of revenue. There is still some money to come in so still a bit to count. We will probably be looking at a profit around the £3m mark from Europe. There were travel costs, the cost of enhancing the squad to cope with European and domestic matches, and the UEFA regulations. Because we were determined to play the matches at Tynecastle, we probably spent close to £500,000 to get the stadium ready. UEFA didn’t come cheap.”

Floodlights, media facilites and astroturf around the pitch were some of the expenses incurred. Chief executive Andrew McKinlay added: “Hopefully a lot of those are one-off costs so, in future, hopefully we will see greater profit.”

With 15,500 season ticket holders and a further 1,000 on a waiting list, fans’ appetite is clear. Duncan outlined that the club’s assets have grown from just over £1m in 2014 when Budge assumed control to more than £24m in 2022. Revenue sat at £6.5m eight years ago and after the Covid setback it now sits at £14.6m. The average player wage at Riccarton is now 50 per cent higher.

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One question from the Heart of Midlothian Shareholders’ Association asked if funds are available for the January transfer window and whether the club expect bids for defender Kye Rowles following his recent World Cup performances for Australia.

Tynecastle Park hosted the Hearts AGM on Thursday.Tynecastle Park hosted the Hearts AGM on Thursday.
Tynecastle Park hosted the Hearts AGM on Thursday.

McKinlay responded: “Yes, there will be money. We will always look to come out of a transfer window stronger than when we come into it. I’m very positive we will come out of this window better. On the expected bids, unlike other teams, we don't welcome bids. You might have seen other teams recently talking up their players. It’s fair to say someone who has played four games in a World Cup, every minute of those four games, is not going to leave here cheaply.”

Joe Savage, Hearts’ sporting director, added: “To reiterate what Andrew said there, we have heard there is interest in Kye but you can only deal with something when it comes across your table. We’ll be very difficult to deal with, I imagine. I can see Kye wanting to stay, to see out the season with us and try and help us achieve our goals. We won’t welcome bids but if anyone does come for him they will have to pay top dollar to get him out. He’s a top player who has played at a World Cup now. He’s our player and teams need to realise that.

“We are happy to look all over the world for players. We want to make sure we are developing the academy. We believe we’ve got good players in the academy who could potentially become first-team players for Hearts. To be a Hearts player they need to be a good player, they need to reach a level which takes us to finishing third, challenging the Old Firm, winning cup competitions. That’s the aim for us.

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“The academy players have done really, really well. We are trying to tie them down to new contracts. It is probably well documented there is one [James Wilson] who has been in the press that quite a lot of clubs are interested in. We are doing our best to make sure he sees the pathway is here and he can break into the first-team.”