Foundation of Hearts contributions to Edinburgh club rise to £9m
Fans' total donation reaches a new high at Tynecastle Park
Hearts supporters have pledged more than £9million to their club through Foundation of Hearts, the Evening News can reveal.
The remarkable figure was reached as the fan-led group collected extra cash between September and October - despite a slight reduction in monthly pledgers.
Since the Foundation began accepting direct debit donations in 2013, they have passed on more than £9m of supporters' money to the Edinburgh club. That includes £3m towards the cost of Tynecastle Park's redevelopment project.
The total number of FoH subscribers rose through July and August this year before falling during September and October as Hearts' on-field results suffered. Membership numbers are currently fluctuating around the 7,500 mark.
The Foundation are due to assume ownership of Hearts from Ann Budge next year in what is the largest fan-driven movement in Scottish football history.
"During this last month, we passed the £9m point for monies handed over to Hearts," confirmed the Foundation chairman, Stuart Wallace. "It's a phenomenal amount and we are extremely grateful to all our members over the last six years. The massive majority continue pledging and sticking with us and that is shown with us reaching this figure."
Some supporters have made individual one-off donations recently, while others have increased monthly pledges. That has helped offset those who have chosen to cancel direct debits with FoH.
"The number of individual pledgers goes up and down all the time. That has been no different over the last few months," explained Wallace. "In the month leading up to the new season, and during the first month of the season, there was an increase in the number of pledgers. The net number was up at that point. In the last couple of months they have slightly fallen back.
"Interestingly, the actual hard cash we received over the last month has increased compared to the previous month. That's down to the number of successful direct debits collected, coupled with some one-off donations from fans.
"I also had a member email me the other night asking me to check his direct debit because he had just changed it from £25 a month to £100 a month. I checked and it was successful, so that drives the hard cash coming in."
Wallace insisted the Foundation will always welcome new pledgers as well as returning ones. He is grateful that fans continue to support the group's long-term view, even though many are unhappy seeing their club currently tenth in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
"People see things on social media or fan websites and view it as gospel. When you examine the hard numbers it doesn't quite add up. There is noise out there saying something big is happening with pledgers but we tend not to see that in our numbers," he said.
"The most consistent reason we see for cancelled pledges is personal circumstances. Someone might lose their job, be between jobs or have their overtime cut. There are many reasons where people might need to suspend or reduce their pledge. Others will cut their amount back to £10 and then increase it again to £25 further down the line. It changes constantly.
"There absolutely have been months when pledgers have dropped off and individual amounts have fallen, but over a three-month, six-month or nine-month period, it's pretty constant.
"We do get people writing in to us saying: 'Stop my pledge. I'm not happy.' We always reply with a level-headed response along the lines of: 'We really appreciate it. You've helped bring us this far and we have collected an incredible amount to hand over. The journey carries on and we want it to be a pledge for life. Any time you feel able to come back and join us, we are here waiting for you. We understand you have the right to choose.'
"We think that's the correct reply to give, rather than get involved in the emotion of a football result. The Foundation is here for a bigger purpose, which is to secure the long-term future of the club at shareholder level so that the fans effectively become owners through us. The Foundation exists to make the club stronger."
Visit www.foundationofhearts.org to pledge to FoH.