Foundation of Hearts – September 2019 Blog

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Update from Foundation of Hearts Chair, Stuart Wallace

Welcome to our latest blog – hopefully plenty of content to keep you up to date on all matters at Foundation of Hearts.

You’ll find below some commentary on the recent third kit launch with the legend ‘pledge for life’ on the back, in recognition of every one of our members. We understand sales are exceptionally strong – like us, you clearly love that strip! There is also another ‘why I pledge’ story, this time from one of our Italian pledgers Carmine Rutolo. We also provide a funding update which makes clear the scale of your pledges to date and some detail on how to keep up with your maroon points.

It is worth a word on our governance structure in light of some questions we’ve received on email and social media since the start of the season. The Foundation exists to protect the long-term future of Heart of Midlothian Football Club. That is our mission and we’re fully committed to it. Fan ownership is big step toward that objective but, as we’ve always said, fan owned does not mean fan run. Both now and when majority ownership transfers, the Foundation will have a board separate to that of the club. The main channel connecting both boards will continue to be via the two Foundation directors who serve as non-executive directors on the club board. In keeping with that structure and ethos, the Foundation won’t comment publicly on any club related matters and that extends to first team performances.

We are often asked, too, about how the pledge numbers are and what we have to report is that they remain strong. We all know that the Foundation was born out of the club’s darkest days – it’s a unique and precious movement and so many fans, across all of football, recognise this.  Some fans are envious of our success, while others have a grudging respect for what we have demonstrated can be achieved by sticking together.  There are some, too, who would much prefer that we didn’t exist at all.  What we should remember is that talk of cancelling pledges is not only potentially harmful to our club, but also plays right into the hands of those rivals who want us to fail. We are happy to let you know that we have more pledgers now than we did three months ago. That tells you everything you need to know about the commitment and resilience of Hearts fans. Times may be tough, but the Foundation continues to move forward towards fan ownership, thanks to you, the fans – the one true constant.

It’s worth me also commenting on the ‘pledge for life’ mantra that is now quoted regularly and appears on the new third kit. As we confirm below, this rose up from our members and is clear recognition of what could be achieved once we are beyond the point of majority shareholding. I often describe the potential impact of these pledges at our plot ceremony like this: when you gave us £1 toward operating costs, the return on that £1 was about £1! When you gave us £1 to assist the club in developing the new stand, the return on that £1 became a ratchet that none of us can estimate, but it is clear the revenue generated will in time be many multiples of that £1, allowing the club to build fantastic revenue streams far into the future. The pledge for life mantra talks to that leverage. Our first objective as a Foundation was to take the club into fan ownership. We are close to that objective, though not quite there yet. We were always likely to pause and ask what next, but in truth you the fans gave us the answer – #pledgeforlife – who knows where it could take us.

Pledge for life

Berra_1July saw the launch of the club’s distinctive new third kit, which met with a great reception by pledgers and indeed all fans. We were absolutely delighted that the new jersey, which will be the centrepiece of the third kit for a two-year period, features the Foundation’s ‘pledge for life’ message. As one pledger put it, a message on the back for the badge on the front.

We were honoured to welcome not only club captain Christophe Berra but also a group of pledgers, representing different generations, to the launch of at Tynecastle.

Berra_2The pledge for life message was coined by our pledgers, as mentioned above, and is one that we’ve increasingly used in recent months. “My pledge will go on for as long as I will” is a quote from a recent letter from a pledger which you can hear beautifully read by fan and pledger Ken Stott here. This is a sentiment shared by many among our number and a message we wish to carry forward beyond the transition of majority shareholding in the club. By the time we reach that milestone, we’ll have collectively raised pledges totalling close to £10 million, secured the future of our club, and ensured its ownership lies with the people who will always hold its best interests at heart – the fans.

Ann’s August statement emphasised how far we’ve come and the progress the club has made against the audacious goals set at the start of this journey. As she puts it herself: “As we move forward, the financial and emotional backing of our fans, pledgers and sponsors will remain as vital as ever.”

There is so much more we can go on to achieve together beyond fan ownership. And encapsulating this aspiration for our club, the pledge for life message has never been more significant.

Why I Pledge – Carmine Rutolo

We never cease to be amazed by the geographical spread of our pledger base and the messages of support that roll into the FoH inbox from all over the world. We asked FoH pledger Carmine Ruotolo from Italy what pledging to the Foundation means to her:

I’m Carmine Ruotolo and I’m 25 years old. I’m Italian, I live in Rome and I’m a football lover. About 12 years ago I fell in love with Scotland, in particular Edinburgh, and as the months went by being a football lover, I fell in love with Hearts, my future passion, since the age of 13. The story, the colours, the fans, Tynecastle, all with a unique charm, with a unique passion. I read the club’s story, I made it my own, I learned it, the games in streaming and a little dream in the drawer, a live match in Tynecastle, among fantastic people and in the middle of a unique atmosphere. How could I not participate when the Foundation started its growth path for the good of the club, its path aimed at acquiring the team we support? I immediately noticed the unique spirit of this union of fans, also reflects mine, I am honoured therefore to be part of this large family, so distant, but so close.

Funding update

At the time of writing the Foundation has received more than £9m in pledges. We’re in the process of repaying the Bidco loan with £1.9m, 74% of the required £2.5m, now having been advanced to Bidco. We expect to have made our final payment toward this loan iwithin the next year and, upon doing so, we will acquire a majority share in the Club. Each and every pledge continues to be precious as we approach this milestone and we’re grateful for your incredible support.

Plot ceremonies and membership clubsCeremony

The next scheduled plot ceremonies will take place on 27th of October and we will continue to hold ceremonies approximately every three weeks (fixtures allowing). Every pledger who hits the required Maroon Points total will receive an invitation to this special event. Please bear with us as we work through the large number of you who have now reached this level of points.

We’re also continuing to schedule the 1956 and 1998 membership club evenings at Tynecastle with the next events coming up on the 30th October and 1st November in the Museum and Fans Bar respectively.

Any questions in relation to our ongoing ceremonies should be addressed to invitations@foundationofhearts.org.

Update on your Maroon Points

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from pledgers relates to the speed of updates of their Maroon Points total via our website dashboard.

We’ve experienced a long tail of issues relating to connections to our payment provider, which in the past has meant that it could take up to a month for Maroon Points to be updated after pledges has been collected or, for a smaller number of you, that Maroon Points didn’t show in the dashboard at all. After months of effort by a group of volunteers, we finally cracked this nut, and are delighted to confirm Maroon Points updates will now happen automatically when payment in taken for all who pledge via GoCardless. Pledgers who use Paypal or Standing Order can continue to request updates on their Maroon Points total by contacting us at rewards@foundationofhearts.org. We’d  like to thank all of those pledgers who gave up their time to work on this project with us.

Important information regarding the Plus £1 pledge

You may recall a few years back we announced our Plus One initiative which allows pledgers to add £1 to their existing pledge via our website. We’re extremely grateful to the pledgers who have clicked the button since with well over a thousand of you clicking the button. Every single pound counts and pushes us toward the goal of fan ownership.

More recently, a number of you have made us aware of issues with the process which have led to your pledge not being collected. The issue appears to be that a number of you did not receive or missed the second email from GoCardless which triggers the setup of the new pledge. We’re in the process of contacting impacted pledgers. We’ll also be performing some maintenance on some legacy Plus £1 pledges that have never been confirmed. As part of this we will be cancelling pending pledges where there is already an existing pledge in place. If you are impacted by this, you will receive notification from GoCardless that a pending pledge has been cancelled. If you’ve any concerns or questions, please contact us in the usual way.

A reminder of the steps for the Plus One function are set out below.

Plus One:
Login to your account at https://www.foundationofhearts.org/my-account/
Navigate to your dashboard and the blue £1 pledge box.

Click the ‘Click to Increase Your Pledge’ button. This will trigger two emails:
The first email allows you to cancel your old pledge. Action is required; you need to follow the instructions in the email to cancel your old pledge amount otherwise you may end up pledging two amounts.

The second email asks you to confirm your new pledge amount. Action is required; you need to follow the instructions in the email to confirm your new pledge amount otherwise this will not be initiated.

Your new increased pledge will be taken on the 5th of the next month. To change this date – visit the Manage section and enter your new Pledge amount and date.

If you do not receive the emails described at steps 4 and 5, please check your spam folder or contact us at info@foundationofhearts.org and we can resend your email.

Contacting us

We want to make it as easy as possible for pledgers to contact us and receive a prompt response. We have three inboxes for specific purposes to help with that. Each inbox is manned by a different FoH representative, set up to respond to your queries. The details are below:

Contact rewards@foundationofhearts.org for questions about your Maroon Points, including issues with the number of Maroon points displayed on our website.
Contact invitations@foundationofhearts.org for questions about plot ceremonies and membership clubs.
You can also continue to contact info@foundationofhearts.org for general FoH queries.