Vladimir Romanov wanted £70m for Hearts but Foundation put faith in fans to save Tynecastle club
Garry Halliday is stepping down from Foundation of Hearts after 11 years with some fascinating tales about how he helped save his football club.
In the week Ann Budge passed ownership of Hearts to supporters through FoH, Halliday confirmed his time with the fan-led group is ending. He is one of five founding members who set up the Foundation to oust former owner Vladimir Romanov, and who boked when the Russian asked for £70million to sell the club.
The foresight, passion and tenacity of Halliday and his associates helped keep Hearts alive after they lapsed into administration in 2013. Now he is stepping aside after the handover.
“I’ve done 11 years,” he explained. “You’re only supposed to do nine but because of the BidCo agreement there was a couple of years added in. So I’ve been 11 years and at this next AGM I’m going to step down and I’ll go back to being just a fan.
“I’m not running away. I’m heavily involved in a fan reward scheme. We do a lot of good stuff. We get the fans in and give them awards when they’ve reached a certain amount of pledge. If the board want, I’ll continue to do that, but I’ll just be a listening ear now.”
Halliday detailed how Hearts legend Gary Mackay was instrumental in getting the original five together – Alex Mackie, Jamie Bryant, Brian Cormack and Donald Ford being the other four.
“The length of the journey goes back to the ‘Save our Hearts’ guys and Gary Mackay played a big part in that,” he said. “We were moving from here to Murrayfield, so we were giving up the spiritual home and that’s when the first idea came up.
“Gary Mackay heard that I had wee idea, so he got me in touch with Jamie Bryant and Brian Cormack and they had a similar idea. I think Jamie’s idea was having 8,000 fans give £3000, but that was the idea at the time, to buy the club and clear the debt.
“Alex Mackie came on board and drove it forward. We tried to get a price from Vladimir a few times. It went from £50million to £70m at one point. That’s what he wanted.
“The whole aim was to secure the future of Hearts. When we went into administration Ann Budge said if the fans get behind Foundation of Hearts she would step up with the money. The fans stepped up behind us and here we are.”
As the Romanov regime unravelled at various times, fears that Hearts could go out of business entirely increased. That makes the Foundation’s achievement all the more satisfying for all concerned.
“At that point, we were worried at how it was being run,” admitted Halliday. “We had George Burley as a manager, we were top of the league and he got sacked, so I’m sure you had Hearts fans wondering, ‘what’s going on here?’
“As a fan, I was worried. People on the Foundation board at the time, especially Alex Mackie, started to have a real concern that this is only going to end one way. That’s why we set up the Foundation of Hearts.”