Ian Murray knows the pain of administration was necessary to enable a fresh start at Hearts.
He recognised that almost £30million of debt was unsustainable. The club will return to normality with one thud of a rubber stamp at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, and Murray today demanded that they are never again used as a megalomaniac’s toy.
Exiting administration will be a major relief for supporters who have spent the last 12 months fearing for their club’s future. As Foundation of Hearts chairman, Murray has been heavily involved in trying to broker a deal to keep Hearts alive after former owner Vladimir Romanov led them to the brink of extinction.
The financial collapse at Tynecastle leaves an opportunity for a new dawn under Ann Budge, who has paid £2.5m to take Hearts out of administration through a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). She will eventually pass control on to the fans through the Foundation. Murray stressed that the days of one single owner must never return.
“Ann Budge is in charge and she has fronted up the capital. We’ve got a strong movement towards fan ownership in five years’ time, or perhaps quicker,” he said. “All of that added together shows that the supporters will own this club. Never again will we go back to the stage where we have someone in here just using the club as a toy for their own needs.
“Although some success on the park has come from that, I think supporters want to know the club is secure for the future. The hard work starts when we come out of administration. We have that ability to make the club solid for the future and that’s something the supporters will welcome.
“Nobody wants an administration process because people lose money, people lose jobs and it’s a really bruising process. You don’t know what’s coming at the end of it. We now have the opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper and, because of that, you can start growing the club again in the right direction.
“I don’t think Hearts would ever have been able to cope with £30m of debt. I don’t think we should really blame the previous ownership too much for that. There were a lot of external factors, like the economic downturn and problems in the banking sector. Of course, it was a bank which owned the club.
“All of those factors, when you stack them all together, there was no way the club was going to get out of that position. Unless you get a Champions League run, you can’t really generate the kind of money required to get rid of that kind of debt. We are starting from scratch. It’s been a painful process. Nobody ever wants to go through this process again. People have lost a lot of money. People have lost their jobs and we have to remember that is part of what this process has done.”
Murray has his own plans to celebrate should Hearts’ exit from administration be completed today. “I’m in the House of Commons for the Queen’s Speech debate and I’m not back in Edinburgh till Thursday night,” smirked the MP. “Myself and George Foulkes might have a small glass of something fizzy on the terrace if it goes through.
“The best way people can celebrate is to look to the future – buy season tickets as they always do and pledge to the Foundation if they can afford to. We said back in January when things were starting to progress that they could put the champagne in the fridge but don’t quite open it yet. Maybe this week they will get a chance to pop the corks.”
The push towards fan ownership is intended to benefit Hearts and their supporters for generations to come. Once Budge is repaid, the Edinburgh club will be debt-free and governed by their own fans. Next season’s away kit carries the Foundation of Hearts logo as a symbol of the club’s gratitude towards their public – more than 8000 of whom are backing the Foundation with monthly cash contributions.
“The away kit has been launched with a thankyou to supporters on it,” said Murray. “People can buy that kit and keep it and pass it on. They can say ‘this is a kit which was worn because the club was saved because of me going through the turnstiles, or contributing to the Foundation, or buying scarves or attending fundraisers and keeping the club afloat’.
“It should be a real strip of pride for people, but you also need to reflect on how difficult the season has been for people involved at Hearts and the fans. Let us never go back here but let us never forget how difficult it’s been. Hopefully, in 100 years’ time when we’re commemorating the second century of World War I and the ultimate sacrifices people made, we still have a club to support to take forward those commemorations.”