February 2016

During a month which saw the most exciting transfer deadline day in recent history at Tynecastle the Foundation Board have been working hard on plans to make a few new signings of our own in the form of new pledgers in 2016. More below….

The FoH message

“The Stronger the Foundation, the Stronger the Club”. A message you will often hear from the FoH board members and people associated with the Club. Throughout January this message manifested itself in a number of press articles about the financial strength and stability of the Club and its future prospects. We thought it was worth sharing a few snippets which underline the enormous value of your monthly contribution and the impact it is having at the Club:

“Because of the backing we’ve had from the fans, from the Foundation of Hearts, from Ann Budge, we’ve got finances there that we can go and do something (in the January transfer window)……it all goes back to the backing the fans are giving us.”
– Robbie Neilson

“I hope the fans keep giving us that backing and support us because that’s so important. If you want to push the other teams as well, you have to continue to get stronger and they can help us. Their support has laid the foundations for what we’ve done so far but we don’t want to stand still”
– Alim Ozturk

“I have to say many thanks to the Foundation of Hearts. They supported me a lot and they’ve done a fantastic job in helping save the club along with Ann Budge………I hope the Foundation will always be around because a big club needs a big foundation around it.”
– Paulo Sergio

“It’s amazing what the Foundation of Hearts and the supporters have done for the club”
– Rudi Skacel

Take a bow folks.

FoH supports Big Hearts

Ann Budge has often referred to the three intersecting circles in her vision for Hearts; the Football Club, the Foundation of Hearts and the club’s official community charity Big Hearts. As a Board we are fully bought into this vision. In January we were grateful to Caryn Kerr and Craig Wilson from Big Hearts who joined us at the board meeting to share their exciting plans for the next 12 months. As well as continuing to increase the reach of the successful Kinship Care and Football Memories programs the team at Big Hearts will be launching their Big Hearts Supporter Movement in February. The movement will ask fans to sign up as Big Hearts Supporters and join the growing pool of volunteers who have signed up to help make a difference in the community. As a sign of our backing, every member of the FoH board has signed up to be Big Hearts Supporters. We have also decided not to host our match day drop in desk on the 27th of February to focus instead on helping the Big Hearts team launch their Supporter Movement at Tynecastle. Please look out for volunteers around the stadium and join us in getting behind this fantastic initiative. More information is available at http://www.bighearts.org.uk/.

It’s never too late…

We launched our ‘it’s never too late’ marketing campaign last month and handed out our new flyers around the Stadium before the game against Motherwell. This included a pop up stall in the Wheatfield Stand for the very first time. The increased presence meant we were able to speak to more fans than ever before and it was great to see supporters signing up to pledge in the stands on their way to the game. As part of our aim of reaching as many fans as possible we plan to do this regularly during 2016 and would welcome the assistance of any volunteers who share our passion and can help deliver our message. Please do get in touch if you are interested.

As part of the campaign we also asked members to spread the message and share their last minute goal memories. Our social media pages have been buzzing with some brilliant suggestions for our next set of flyers and we’ve picked just a few to share. Where were you when these went in? Thanks to everyone who has submitted their favorites and watch this space to see which pictures make their way into our flyers:

nevertolate

 

Donald-Ford

Plot Ceremony

On Sunday 31st of January saw another successful plot ceremony with another 50 loyal pledgers receiving a commemorative plot on the Tynecastle pitch. A number of you have now reached the 1,000 points required to qualify for an invitation. As a reminder, members will be invited in the order in which they achieve the required level of points and if you fail to respond to two invites we will assume you do not wish to attend. The next ceremony is scheduled for Sunday 13th March at 1pm and invitations are currently being circulated. If you have reached the points total and have not yet received an invite, please do be patient and rest assured that we will be in touch.

awards

If you have any questions or comments on this month’s blog please feel free to leave them below or direct them to info@foundationofhearts.org.

January 2016

Happy New Year! We hope that all of our members enjoyed a happy and restful end to 2015. In this, our first blog of 2016, we reflect on the year gone by and share some of our plans for the coming year.

Creating history

As well as delivering a Championship trophy, 2015 saw the Club make several announcements that made us extremely proud. The launch of the Forever in our Hearts memorial garden, the unique philanthropic shirt arrangement with Save the Children, the launch of Big Hearts Kinship Care and the announcement that we will be remaining at our beloved home, Tynecastle Stadium. These are all hugely significant markers in the Club’s rejuvenation, centred on values of community and integrity.

Our members have played a significant part in allowing the club to make such strides. This progress would not have been possible without a united and strong Foundation of Hearts. We asked you to create history. You may not realise it, but in 2015 you did.

In 2016, we must not rest on our laurels. There are challenges ahead which, with your continued support, we can face head on. The stronger the Foundation, the stronger the Club.

Our aims for 2016

At the AGM in December our Chairman, Brian Cormack, set out two key objectives for the FoH Board in 2016:

  1. To drive initiatives aimed at increasing the FoH membership; and
  2. To continue actively working with the Club on future governance.

We will report against our progress on both of these objectives in the coming year.

More details on our marketing plans are included in the section below.

In respect of governance, we are hosting another meeting on the subject with the club on the 25th of January. Representatives from HMFC will include newly appointed Head of Strategic Developments Martin Jesper whose remit includes working closely with FoH and planning the clubs future strategy for growth. Martin has very relevant recent experience having served as CEO of Darlington FC during their transition to fan ownership. We welcome his appointment and very much look forward to working with him going forward.

It’s never too late..

We launched our ‘it’s never too late’ marketing campaign this month and we hope our members will join us in spreading the message. The central idea is that it is never too late to pledge to the Foundation and play your part in securing the club’s future. We have designed a series of flyers and posters of iconic images from late Heart’s goals to underline the message; it’s never too late. Can you remember these famous goals?

 

January_16_2 January_16_1

 

Fortunately we have a multitude of memorable late goals to choose from (most of them against one team!). Why not get in touch and let us know your favourite last minute Heart’s goal and we may feature it on future designs. Wayne Foster anyone!?

As well as using these materials to get our message across we also plan to coordinate an increased presence on match days. Watch out for us in the Wheatfield stand and outside the Tynecastle reception before home games and why not bring along that friend who says he/she wants to sign up but hasn’t got round to it yet! We are moving quickly with this initiative on the back of feedback we received at the recent AGM and we are hopeful it will encourage those still on the fence to join our existing 8,000 loyal pledgers.

We are also currently in the process of identifying members who pledged to the FoH at one time but have left us along the way. Over the next month we plan to contact each of them with the hope of reinvigorating their belief in the Foundation and its role in the future of Heart of Midlothian. Whilst we may not convince them all, we also hope to gain insight and feedback on why members have decided to leave the FoH which will help us frame our future member strategy.

Financial update

Looking at previous trends, the months of December and January tend to be when our membership drops to its lowest level in the year. We attribute this, based on historical data, to the fact that Christmas is an expensive time of year for everyone and that members opt to pause their contributions during this time. It is heartening to look back at 2015 when, after a low month in January we seen a resurgence in members. This was thanks to the launch of fan rewards and also a number of members returning to the FoH.

In December we observed a similar trend as member numbers decreased to slightly below the 8,000 for the first time in 2015 (except January). Despite this, total contributions remained consistent with November at approximately £130,000. This was owing to one off contributions for pin badges as well as a small number of members who increased their pledge during the month. We are confident that our plans for the year ahead will see member numbers increase beyond the 8,000 mark again as they did in 2015 and we remain well on plan with the BIDCO agreement.

If you have any questions or comments on this month’s blog please feel free to leave them below or direct them to info@foundationofhearts.org. Better yet, why not come and see us in person at the next home game. You will find us at the Tynecastle reception on McLeod Street and we are always happy to take your questions.

December 2015

The Board hosted the second Foundation of Hearts Annual General Meeting at Tynecastle stadium on Thursday 3rd of December. Chairman Brian Cormack updated attendees on the Foundation’s year and this month’s blog is a transcript of his speech.

Chairman’s speech

Welcome
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 2nd Annual General Meeting of the Foundation of Hearts. My name is Brian Cormack and I am the chair of the Foundation. For those of you who don’t know me and expected Ian Murray to be here, so did we! We thought Ian would have plenty of time on his hands after the election in May. Apparently we don’t just save football clubs, we also save Labour MPs.

Quorum
During the day we need to conduct some formalities and the first one is to check that we have a quorum for the AGM. The quorum as per our articles has to be 51 members…that’s 5-1. I can clearly see that we have sufficient numbers so, I can officially declare the AGM open.

Ian Murray
Before I introduce my fellow Directors, I would like to thank Ian Murray for his service to the Foundation of Hearts. Ian stepped down as chair of the FoH and as a Director of the club due to his commitments in Parliament in June this year. Ian joined the FoH in 2013 at a particularly difficult time for the club just before administration. He helped bring the fans’ groups together under the FoH banner and guided the FoH through the period of the club administration. He was a very good speaker, a public face for the FoH and was always very professional. We wish him all the best in the future.

Thank Directors
I would like to thank the Directors of the Foundation for the tremendous amount of work they put in throughout the year. It is all done in their own time and for the love of the club.

Donald Cumming
Donald is a lawyer with CMS in Edinburgh. Donald led the FOH legal team as part of our bid to take the club out of administration with Bidco and Ann Budge. Donald joined the Board in October last year.

Garry Halliday
Garry was one of the founding members of FOH back in 2010. Garry is actively involved in all the marketing and is responsible for most of the fan reward ideas and Pitch Plot ceremonies, which some of you may already have enjoyed.

Alastair Bruce
Alastair has been part of FoH since nearly its inception. Alastair is our marketing expert who maintains the website and all of our social media activities.

Barry McGonagle
Barry is an accountant. He joined the board last year at the first AGM and was the first member to be elected from the wider membership. Barry has been an excellent find and he now presents all the financial information to the board on a monthly basis.

Marcia Campbell
I would also like to thank Marcia Campbell who has been a special advisor to the board for two years now. Marcia cannot attend today due to other business commitments.

Darren Johnstone
And finally to Darren Johnstone, a journalist, who has been helping us a lot with media and marketing issues.

FOH Report
As Chair of the Foundation of Hearts, I will give you the Annual Report. I have been involved in the FoH since 2010 and was one of the founding Directors. It is quite incredible how far we have come. The way everyone has worked together over this period has been exceptional. The backing from fans to buy season tickets, sell out home games, take monthly contributions to the FoH to an all-time high is the reason Ann felt confident to invest in the club in 2014. We must continue though as we are only one and a half years in to our five year plan. The support and trust you have shown to the Foundation has been fantastic and from the Board – I sincerely thank you for that.

Last year Ian said it had been a long tough 12 months for the club to come through administration off the park and to endure relegation from the top division and start in the championship. This year, by contrast, has flown by!!
One year ago, nearly to the day, we beat Rangers 2-0 here at Tynecastle, 14 games into our 20 game unbeaten run. The club went onto romp the league by 21 points from our nearest rivals to secure promotion back to the premiership where we belong. This season has continued in the same positive way with season tickets sales up on last year, home game sell outs and sitting 3rd in the league.

The Foundation has also had a positive year. Membership reached just over 8100 during the financial year. The average monthly pledge amount is also up from £15.50 to over £16.00. We have complied with the legal agreement with Bidco, have paid £2.4M to May 2015 and are on course to pay another £1.4M by May 2016. We have passed over 96% of all donations received which is also a stipulation of the agreement.

We said last year at the AGM that the issues we would be dealing with were member engagement, The Fan Reward scheme and working with the Club on the model for the transition to fans ownership. On the member engagement, we have progressed with quite a few initiatives. We send out a monthly newsletter detailing exactly what is going on with financial information, levels of pledge amounts and other issues we are working on to keep everyone informed. This was one of Barry’s commitments to the members when he became a director last year and it has been very well received. Thanks to the Club, we have also set up a stall at the reception area which is open before every home game. The directors are available to answer any questions, sign up new pledgers and generally be accessible to you – the members. I think this is one of the most important aspects of fan engagement, making the fans and the community feel that they are an integral, if not, the most important part of the club.

We are also engaging with members on social media in a positive way. We are very close to the club and to Big Hearts so we are constantly forging a stronger link as a community club. A Facebook post recently by the Foundation about the tribute kit had over 70,000 likes and over 2,000 comments from all over the world. Comments such as “this is how fans SHOULD be treated by their club”.

On a communication basis by email, we try to respond within a few hours to any requests/questions to our info@foundation email address. Again by making the effort to be accessible there have been some amazing stories. One gentlemen emailed in to say he was reducing his £20 to £10 and his wife would continue the payment as he didn’t have much time left on this earth. He sadly passed away the week after sending the email and I have since met his two sons, who are carrying on the Hearts tradition. We also had 13 year old Daniel Morrison who emailed in to say he would like to make a top up payment, Daniel had done some extra chores around the house and saved up £900 and wanted to donate it to the FoH. This is the young team that we want to be talking about as future Hearts fans.

Another couple of fan engagement initiatives that are ongoing are the FoH pin badges and the overseas ambassadors. We launched the Pin Badges a few months ago and the generosity shown by the fans has again been incredible. We have raised over £3,000 from the badges and a limited amount are still available. The overseas ambassador role is still evolving but we have around 25 members from around the world who have come forward to be part of this. We plan to get this information out in the coming months.

Bequest
Last year, a lifelong Hearts supporter passed away at the age of 93. He had not been able to attend matches at Tynecastle for a number of years, but his affection for the club was undiminished. In his will, he directed his executors to give part of his estate to a body which promotes the aims and objectives of Heart of Midlothian Football Club.

The executors gave careful consideration as to how they should implement these instructions, and they decided that payment should be made to the Foundation. The Foundation received a cheque for over £108,000 from the executors.
This bequest meant so much to us and the Club, and we can only express our deepest appreciation for the kindness and generosity of our benefactor. His gift reminds us yet again of how, in a quiet, unsung way, so many people are giving a helping hand to the club they hold dear. We had discussions with the Club and decided that assisting with the funding of the memorial garden at Tynecastle was a fitting way of putting the legacy to use.

Fan Rewards
We launched the Fans Rewards scheme back in January this year. The purpose of the reward scheme was to give acknowledgement to fans who were donating to the FoH and encourage members to continue to be involved for the full period of the agreement.

We tied the Fan Rewards to our 5 year plan where if you pledge £10 a month over that period you will receive a souvenir plot on the Tynecastle pitch behind you. Many members have already reached that total by pledging more each month and we have had 4 pitch plot ceremonies to date. We invite around 50 members plus guests to each ceremony and you receive your certificate from a player, the manager or even Ann herself. You have time to wander on to the pitch, get photographs taken on your plot and enjoy the experience. It is a joy to see all the members receiving this acknowledgement from the FoH and the Club. The feedback we have received has been excellent and every member will receive their plot certificate once the points total has been reached.

Our analysis to date shows in 2015 the cost to the Foundation of running the Fan Reward Scheme was 55p per member and we estimate that it has raised approximately £7.40 per member in increased contributions; which is over 1200% return on investment.

Throughout the period there are also other acknowledgements, notably the FoH Tribute shirt. This was launched officially 2 weeks ago and worn by the team against Motherwell last week. This has really grasped the imagination of everyone. The initial sales have been fantastic with the original order of 4000 shirts being close to sold out and a new order has been already been placed. It has been such a success and a great honour to think that the Hearts players ran out with 8,000 fans names of members who helped save the club. The Tribute Shirt came from an idea from a past FoH director Dougie Masterton and our marketing team worked with the Club to take this through to completion. The Club fully supported the initiative, especially at a time when the kit manufacturer was changing and is an example of our close working relationship.

Governance Update
In the final section of my report, I’d like to update you on the work we have been carrying out on future governance arrangements.

During this year, a working group, set up by the board and assisted by Professor Andy Adams of Heriot-Watt University, and with representation from the Club, has been examining different governance options. At this stage, this is clearly work in progress, but I’ll briefly describe some of the areas we have been looking at.

Appropriate governance arrangements need to be in place at both the Foundation level and at the Club level. At Foundation level, we believe our current constitution gives us a solid starting-point for our long-term arrangements. It already incorporates best practice from a wide array of resources, and we do not anticipate carrying out a fundamental redesign of it. But we are exploring a number of specific long-term design issues. For example, we are looking at whether we might introduce a membership forum or council to act as a consultative body to engage with the Foundation board.

We believe it is important that the Foundation board should have an appropriate mix of specific competencies, so we are examining whether a nominations committee should be established to evaluate the skills and experience of applicants for board membership. Another topic we are looking at is, what form the long-term fan funding though the Foundation might take. Work on these matters is continuing, and no final conclusions have been reached yet.
In relation to governance arrangements at Club level, it is clearly a matter for the Club to ensure proper governance is in place. At present, the Club is managed and run by an executive team, accountable to the Club board. The supporters’ interests are represented by the two FOH Board Members who sit on the Club Board. Those representatives are there to provide a blend of support and challenge and to contribute at the highest level to the strategic development of the Club.

In looking to the future, we are having an ongoing dialogue with, and listening closely to, Ann and her management team. We very much welcome the Club’s appointment of Martin Jesper as head of strategic developments. The Club has made this appointment specifically to ensure that senior resource is available to assist FoH and to provide a direct conduit into the Club at a senior level on a day-to-day basis. We very much look forward to working with Martin over the coming months.

I would sum up by saying that, at Foundation level, we want to encourage effective engagement and participation across the whole membership of the Foundation, by creating governance arrangements which are practical, simple and clear, and command the confidence of our members. At Club level, governance arrangements must respect the role and responsibilities of the management team, help to maintain long-term financial viability and provide a platform for constant and sustainable football success.

I know not every member has a deep interest in studying organisational structures, but designing our future governance arrangements is important. If we get it right, we’ll go a long way to ensuring that the Club can never again be controlled by any one individual.

The Coming Year
So during the coming year we will continue with increased fan engagement and the rewards scheme. We have two main issues to focus on, maintain and increase the membership so that we fulfil the agreement and work on the governance model. We have done fantastically well over the past 18 months but we still have 3 and a half years to go to complete the 5 year plan. It is a challenge to continue to meet the targets set out in the agreement but if we work together this can be achieved.

What do we want as Hearts fans at the end of the 5 year period and beyond? A Club that is never again put in danger of going out of business. A Club that is managed to the highest standards with financial stability and sustainability at the core. A Club that is playing at the top of the Scottish game and challenging for trophies. A Club that invests in youth and is at the heart of the community.
I believe that is the goal and if we continue supporting the club as we have, how far can we go? Could it be that the club continues to receive additional revenue through the FoH from the fan base for life? That is a decision to be made as we move forward.

It has been a fantastic year for the Foundation, the loyalty and support of the fans has been incredible and everyone in the room should feel very proud.
Brian then proceeded to introduce Ann Budge who presented on behalf of the Club. He then laid the annual accounts before the meeting for member’s questions.

Two questions were raised on the day and one subsequently. These, together with the Foundation’s response, are listed below:

1. It was suggested that the FoH could be doing more in terms of marketing, specifically having more of a presence on match days across the stadium. We have considered this previously and welcome the suggestion. We are looking into the possibility of having volunteers around the stadium on match day rather than only using the match day stall.

2. It was suggested that the FoH should consider allowing pledgers to increase their pledge by small 10% increments. We are in discussions with GoCardless to explore the possibility of adding a simple button to the website and are currently working though the technological steps required to bring this to fruition.

3. I was queried whether we should be pushing to accelerate purchase of the shares from Ann. The FoH Board has always been clear in its view that acquiring a controlling interest in the Club is a five year process. This is central to our agreement with BIDCO. The timeframe allows Ann and her executive team to rebuild the Club back to the institution we all want it to be. It also affords the Club and the FoH sufficient time to forge an ever closer working relationship such that when the five years come to an end the transition of ownership is seamless and the Club can continue to flourish. We are therefore of a view that we should stick to our five year plan and that any steps to alter this timeframe would not be in the best interests of the Club or the Foundation.

New Director
We now move on to the final formal part of the AGM.

Over the past few weeks the members have been voting to elect a new Director to the FoH Board. We ensured the independence, management and efficiency of the whole election process – and it’s reporting – by commissioning the Electoral Reform Services to run this professionally on our behalf. We have had 4 nominations and all were of a very high calibre. Thank you to Andrew Burton, Scott Culbertson, Keith Sorbie and Louise Strutt for putting themselves forward and conducting a well fought election. All candidates have been canvassing through the ERS website, social media and fan forums. The vote closed at 12 noon on Monday 30 November.

There were 8037 members eligible to vote and we had 1210 votes cast.
The new director received 46.5% of the votes cast
I would like to welcome the new Director up to the stage to have a brief interview with our host Willie Hunter
Ladies and Gentleman, the new elected director of the Foundation of Hearts is Louise Strutt.
Thank you very much and we are looking forward to working with Louise over the next few years.
That is the formal part of the AGM complete.

Brian concluded by thanking the following people:
• Thank you to Ann Budge for her contribution.
• Thanks to the staff today in the Gorgie Suite.
• Thank you to Willie Hunter for hosting today.
• Thank you to the pupils of Tynecastle High for enrolling everyone.
• Thanks to Steven Campbell of Scott Moncrieff.
• Thank you to all the members for coming along today and see you all next year.

We hope you enjoyed reading our December blog and welcome any comments.

On behalf of all the Directors have a fantastic Christmas and a Happy New Year!

November 2015

In a month where the Jambos went from strength to strength on the pitch, moving up to 2nd place in the SPL table, FoH has been busy preparing for our second AGM. In this month’s blog we confirm AGM arrangements, provide news of our fan ownership away day and also share notes from our Governance committee on the “50+1” German ownership model.

AGM and election arrangements

Members should now have received confirmation of the arrangements for the Foundation’s Annual General Meeting to be held at 2pm on Thursday 3rd December. Documents included in the recent correspondence include notice of the AGM, proxy form attendance card as well as the signed annual accounts for the year ending 30 June 2015. These documents are now available for member’s inspection at this link: http://www.foundationofhearts.org/elections/. The accounts show that during that period the Foundation provided £1,472,000 of working capital funding to Heart of Midlothian Football Club.

While the formal business of the meeting is to consider the Company’s financial accounts for the year ended 30 June 2015 (together with the Directors’ Report) we will also report on the Foundation’s activities in 2015 as well as announce the result of the ballot to elect our new Director. Four members have stepped forward commencing what will be the Foundation’s first competitive election process. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Andrew Burton
  • Scott Culbertson
  • Keith Sorbie
  • Louise Strutt

We are grateful to each of them for stepping forward. You can find out more about them and their vision for the future at the link below. Please take time to consider their election addresses, ask any questions you may have and cast your vote. This is a significant landmark our journey toward fan ownership and every vote will count.

http://www.ersvotes.com/foundationofhearts15

Financial update

Contributions to the Foundation increased in October despite member numbers remaining broadly consistent with the previous month. This was thanks in part to an immensely generous £1,800 top up payment from father and son, Alan and Daniel Morrison. Daniel, a 13 year-old fan, saved up an incredible £900 of pocket money by doing extra chores with Dad Alan agreeing to match the amount he raised. It was wonderful to hear Alan and Daniel speak about what the Club means to them and their family and was yet another reminder of the importance of ensuring the longevity of our beloved Club for generations to come. Thank you to all who are part of making that happen.

Fan Ownership Away Day

Hearts travel to Fir Park on 28th November to play Motherwell and we have teamed up with the Well Society to mark this occasion as a celebration of fan ownership. The FoH Board will be in attendance and we will be on hand to answer your questions and sign up new pledgers at our first ever match day stall in the away end. Earlier this month we offered members the chance to nominate match day mascots and were delighted to receive over 200 responses. The 15 lucky winners were randomly selected and announced on our Facebook page last week. We hope they have a fantastic day out.

As well as having Foundation and Well Society mascots there will also be a half time penalty shootout and a few other surprises. The Club also announced last week that the team will be wearing the new FoH tribute kit at Fir Park. For the first time in their history, Heart of Midlothian Football Club will take to the pitch for a League match with the names of thousands of supporters who saved the Club on their strip. It promises to be a great occasion and we hope to see you there. Further announcements will be made in due course so please stay tuned to our social media channels…….

50+1: The German Model

This section of the blog looks in more detail at the fan ownership structure adopted by many clubs in Germany known as the “50+1” model. The information provided is a factual summary and is not in any way an avocation of the 50+1 model nor a suggestion that we intend to adopt this model or any element thereof. The intention is purely to share our ongoing research with members for consideration and comment.

Until 2000 Bundesliga regulation required that all participating teams operated as not for profit member associations. The rule was predicated on the principal that clubs play a crucial part in their local communities and on the belief that such a model of governance promotes economic stability and long termism in decision making, thus preserving the integrity of the league competition.

The league’s governing body (The German Football Association) came under increasing pressure to change its model as other European leagues appeared to thrive under much less restrictive rules. The Association finally relented in 2000 when a new system was introduced allowing clubs to choose from three potential governance structures: membership body, public company or private company. Whilst this may have appeared a dramatic change in direction for German football the governing body retained much of the spirit of the previous rules by mandating that where one of the new models were adopted by a club, 51% or more of the voting shares must still be retained by a membership body. It should be noted that two exceptions were made in the case of VW Wolfsburg and Bayer Laverkusen owing to the fact that two German behemoths (Volkswagen and Bayer respectively) had substantially funded the clubs for more than 20 years preceding the change in rules. Both entities were allowed to hold a controlling stake in the clubs they had traditionally funded.

Under the 50+1 model various different governance structures have emerged. One of the most common arrangements is a structure under which the club is operated by an Executive Board with the interests of the membership body represented by a Supervisory Board of 6-12 individuals. The Executive Board is fully responsible for the day to day operations and running of the club with a constitution determining how it interacts with the Supervisory Board. The Supervisory Board will typically have the remit of hiring (and firing) the Chief Executive and may also have certain matters reserved for their approval. The Supervisory Board typically contains at least 1 individual elected from the membership association and will have an overarching goal of acting in best interests of the membership and the club at all times.

Since the change in rules the Bundesliga has continued to operate as one of the most successful leagues in the world and is sometimes held up a shining example of how financial stability is achievable within modern football. FC Bayern, for example, are the 3rd richest football club in the world by revenue according to Deloitte (Deloitte Football Money League 2015) and have maintained profitability despite high running costs. They also do not appear to be an exception; in the 2013/14 season two thirds of German football clubs reported a profit. Whilst there is evidence to suggest this is partly as a result of the 50+1 principal it should be noted that German clubs undeniably benefit from operating within the largest economy in Europe. Corporate sponsorship levels in particular are significantly higher than most European comparators (292m euros or 60% of FC Bayern’s 2014 revenue came from corporate sponsorship, compared to 232m at Real Madrid or 226m at Manchester United; the two richest clubs in the world). That said, the 50+1 model is undeniably an illustration of how a form of fan ownership is currently operating and breeding success at the highest level in football.

A reminder if you have not yet seen our ‘Keeping the Hearts Beating’ video mentioned in previous blogs this can now be viewed here. The video tells the story of how the fans of HMFC saved the Club and we hope all members view it with pride.

We hope you enjoyed reading our November blog and welcome any comments.

October 2015

In a month in which the wee Jambos lifted the East of Scotland shield the FoH Board have been working hard on your behalf. In this month’s member blog we provide an update on the AGM, FoH finances and also take a look at how a version of fan ownership currently operates at FC Barcelona.

AGM confirmed

Members should have now received confirmation that the Foundation’s Annual General Meeting will take place at 2pm on Thursday 3rd December at Tynecastle Stadium. All formal papers will be sent to members at least 14 days in advance. Among other things, the confirmation of our AGM date also begins the election process for the next FoH member to join the Board following Ian Murray’s departure in the summer. The nomination period is now closed (further details and the process are available here)and we looking forward to a successful and exciting election process. We will update members on this very soon.

Tribute strip

Last month we launched the first ever Heart of Midlothian fan tribute strip in association with the Club. Almost 2,000 strips have already been pre-ordered and both the Club and the Foundation have been absolutely delighted with the response it has received. Here are just a few of the comments received on the FoH Facebook page in the last month:

“What an honor to have our name beside club legends! Well done every pledger. We kept the heart beating” – Ross Warner

“Another amazing idea and gesture from the best run club in the world!! Proud to be a Jambo” – John Crossan

“I love this!! What an amazing piece of memorabilia to show your grandkids one day.” – Lorraine Wiseman

The shirts will be in-store from 15th November 2015 and can be pre-ordered online at www.heartsdirect.co.uk or in person at the Hearts Club Store on McLeod Street.

Plot Ceremony

On Sunday 11th October we hosted another successful member plot ceremony at Tynecastle Stadium. The event was attended by members of the Hearts squad and Ann Budge as well an excited group of FoH pledgers. Over 300 plot certificates have now been issued to members and we will be sending out 150 invites per month going forward, with ceremonies arranged based on acceptances. As mentioned in last month’s blog, if you have reached the 1,000 point level you can expect to hear from us soon but please do be patient. Members will be invited in the order in which they hit the required level of points.

FOH-EventFOH-Event_1

FoH October Plot Ceremony

Financial update

Contributions continued at a level consistent with previous months in September, with a few one off payments (including pin badge donations) increasing average donation per member to over £16.20. With member numbers continuing to hold above 8,000 this means we remain well on track to deliver the BIDCO agreement on time and in line with plan. The Board will continue to look at initiatives aimed at growing the membership in the coming months. You can also play your part in the push for pledges by encouraging fellow supporters to join our movement and become part of creating history.

Match day stall

We’ve been in our usual location at the Tynecastle reception this month at the Aberdeen and Kilmarnock games. More fans than ever before have popped in to pledge, pick up a pin badge or just simply to chat directly about anything Foundation or Hearts FC related. It is never a chore to field your questions and we’ve also received useful suggestions and feedback. Last month one fan insisted on paying £70 for one pin badge, re-emphasising how much he loved his club and point blank refusing to take any change. An amazing gesture. We will never take such trust and commitment for granted.

Total donations from pin badges at our stall has now exceeded £2.5k. Thanks to all who have bought one so far. A limited number still remain and will be available before the Ross Country game.

FC Barcelona: A fan ownership case study

We mentioned in our August blog that a key task for the Foundation’s Governance committee is to research successful fan ownership models. FC Barcelona is widely regarded in the football world as the poster-child for the fan ownership/non-profit governance model. Its affairs have been in the spotlight recently, with the election in July of a new club president. This section of the blog looks in more detail at the club’s structure. The information provided is a factual summary and is not in any way an avocation of the model adopted by FC Barcelona or a suggestion that we intend to adopt this model or any element thereof. We will include a look at models operated by other clubs in future blogs in order that members can share in and comment on our ongoing research.

Like Hearts FC and the Foundation, FC Barcelona is a legal entity, separate and distinct from its members. It has over 175,000 registered members (socios), including around 24,000 who live outside Catalonia. The annual adult membership fee is currently €177. This entitles the member to benefits such as a free tour of the stadium, discounts in the club shop, a copy of the club’s bi-monthly newsletter and eligibility for season tickets (which are historically cheaper than in the UK). All profits and surpluses stay within the club.

With such a large membership, the club’s constitution does not provide for annual and other general meetings of members. Instead, there is a members’ representative body called the “general assembly”. This is made up of approximately 3,000 members. Most of these are drawn at random from the full membership, but a small number of places are also reserved for veteran members and members chosen by the board of directors of the club. The term of office as a member of the general assembly is two years.

General assemblies meet annually and are able to vote on a range of issues. These include (i) approval of the annual accounts, (ii) approval of the annual expenditure budget, (iii) setting the membership fee, (iv) proposals to incur significant borrowing commitments or enter into certain material transactions, (v) changes to the constitution, and (vi) first team shirt sponsorship.

The main democratic right of the full membership is to elect the club president and board of directors. The board is made up of a minimum of 14, and a maximum of 21, directors. A system of block nominations is used, whereby each of the candidates standing for election as president must put forward their own list of board candidates, who automatically join the board if their candidate is successful. Under Spanish law, the directors may have to provide a bank guarantee against financial mismanagement. This makes it potentially difficult for rank-and-file members to stand as candidates. Voting to elect the president and board is by secret ballot, with members of the club voting in person at a designated polling station.

Directors (including the president) have a six-year term of office, and the maximum continuous term is 12 years. At any time, 5% or more of the club members, or 50% of the assembly delegates, may call for a vote of no confidence against all or some of the board members. To be effective, the vote of no confidence must be passed by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast. If the vote is passed, the censured directors must stand down.

Presidential elections at FC Barcelona are very high-profile affairs. Candidates participate in televised debates and woo supporters with big promises to sign superstar players. In the recent 2015 presidential election, voting took place at Camp Nou, and, on election day, the club went to great lengths to create a party-like atmosphere at the stadium for members, friends and family. Over 47,000 members voted, and flashbulbs popped as players, ex-players and famous fans posed in front of the ballot boxes. The winning candidate, Josep Maria Bartomeu, stood for election on a platform which included plans for a stadium redevelopment which would increase capacity to 105,000.

It has to be said that, as a model of fan democracy, the FC Barcelona structure is not without flaws. The main shortcoming is an over-concentration of power in the president. Although the president is democratically elected, there is insufficient transparency and accountability to members once he or she is in office. The general assembly of members has no formal influence over many areas of club policy, and, at board level, there is no independent oversight of the president’s activities, as the other directors are beholden to him for their seats on the board. Consequently, most recent presidents have tended to exercise a high level of personal control over the club’s management.

Nevertheless, the model is largely effective in practice. Members do exercise real influence. The club’s affairs are widely debated and candidly discussed, and members are not slow to make their dissatisfaction with a president known. The model consistently delivers a successful football team on the field, and it has enabled the club to develop into the fourth largest football club in the world.

As ever, all feedback and comments on this month’s blog are welcomed. Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

A reminder if you have not yet seen our ‘Keeping the Hearts Beating’ video mentioned in previous blogs this can now be viewed here. The video tells the story of how the fans of HMFC saved the Club and we hope all members view it with pride.

September 2015

Welcome

Welcome to the September edition of the FoH blog with news on what has been another extremely busy and productive month.

Foundation of Hearts tribute kit

Last week the Foundation, in association with the Club, was delighted to announce the launch of the new Hearts third kit featuring the names of some 8,000 pledgers. Those that reached the required FoH fan reward threshold in February now have their name displayed on the unique top.

jamiewalkerheartsstrip_6 Jamie Walker with the Foundation of Hearts tribute Kit

A delighted FoH chairman Brian Cormack made the following statement on launch day: “This is an immensely proud and emotional moment for everyone associated with the Foundation of Hearts, and we are absolutely delighted to see this project come to fruition. The shirt does not just feature a list of fans’ names; it pays fitting tribute to the 8000 and more supporters who have together saved this great club. Their extraordinary achievement – and the legacy that they are passing on – is to have kept the Hearts beating, and the jersey is a very appropriate way to mark their accomplishment.

“We would like to make special mention of Dougie Masterton, a former director of the Foundation, whose idea this was. Above all, we’d like to thank the club for turning this idea into reality and for making this the official third strip for the team. Players and fans can now wear this very special jersey with real pride.”

The kit and the story behind it has already captured the imagination of thousands of football fans across the world after being featured in a story in The Sport Bible which received over 70,000 likes and 1,900 comments on Facebook in the space of a week.

The shirts will be in-store from 15 November 2015 and can be ordered online at www.heartsdirect.co.uk or in person at the Hearts Club Store on McLeod Street. You can also now view the shirt in all its glory at the Club Store if you want to join the hundreds of pledgers who have already found their name. Please share your thoughts and pictures and don’t forget to use the twitter #FoundMyName.

Plot ceremony

The Foundation hosted the second commemorative pitch plot ceremony at Tynecastle on Sunday 23rd of August. A further 40 committed supporters were awarded their own unique virtual plot of the Tynecastle pitch, including a certificate of ownership, after being among the first pledgers to reach the 1,000 points milestone as part of the Foundation’s Fan Rewards scheme. Attendees had the special privilege of seeing the premier of the Foundation’s new “Keeping the Hearts Beating” video as well as getting the opportunity to meet with players and club officials.

The feedback received has been extremely positive so far and we will be hosting further ceremonies in the coming months. If you have reached the 1,000 point level you can expect to hear from us soon but please do be patient. Members will be invited in the order in which they hit the required points and in the event that the proposed date is not suitable you will be invited to the next ceremony. Please note that if you fail to respond to two invites we will assume you do not wish to attend. We very much look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible to Tynecastle in the coming months to say thank you for your unstinting support.

Keeping the Hearts Beating

We are delighted to have launched our new video, “Keeping the Hearts Beating”, at the most recent plotholders’ award ceremony. The video was created and produced by a small team, all of whom donated their time and expertise to put this together. FoH would like to thank Nick Alexander, John Ferguson, Prentice Robertson and Darren Johnstone for their efforts in creating the video as well as all those who agreed to be interviewed. We hope you enjoy it and that it might inspire people to support the Foundation and continue to create history on behalf of our Club. The video has been viewed over 7,500 times in the space of two weeks and we hope members and fans alike will continue to watch, comment and share. It can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fYnmx5rPy0

FoH director election

Members will likely be aware of the current vacancy on the Foundation Board in light of Ian Murray’s decision to step down over the summer. The Foundation will be holding an election for the position at our next AGM (date to be confirmed). Any member aged 16 or over, with the support of 25 other current FoH members, will be entitled to stand for the position and the Board has opted on this occasion not to require that the role be filled by an individual with any specific skillset or level of experience. We would encourage any member who believes he or she has the capabilities to be an effective and engaged board member, to consider standing for election. Among other things, the election process presents an opportunity to address gender diversity on the Board and we would therefore particularly encourage our female members to consider standing for the position.

It is our expectation at this stage that the process will operate as follows:

Step 1: FoH issue nomination forms and instructions to all members
Step 2: Submission of nomination forms by those wishing to stand and verification of nominations by FoH
Step 3: Announcement of candidates, followed by period of campaigning
Step 4: Ballot papers distributed to members
Step 5: Voting to take place over a period of 14 days, each member having one vote
Step 6: Counting of votes and announcement of the result at the FoH AGM

Further details, including specific dates, will be made available in due course,

As ever, all feedback and comments on this month’s blog are welcomed.
Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

August 2015

Stepping up

Football is back! The Championship flag has been unfurled and we are off and running in the SPL with five wins out of five. It has also been another productive month at the Foundation and this month’s blog includes news on members’ fundraising initiatives, our first overseas ambassador as well as some of the other FoH activities in July.

Financial update

July was the last ‘non footballing’ month of summer for the FoH and we are delighted to report that contributions and member numbers have held up during this period, despite previous experience suggesting there may be a degree of attrition. As at July our member count were just under 8,100 and total contributions were just under £130,000. This, together with the generous bequest we reported in last month’s blog, means we continue to be well on track with our agreed payment plan.

Governance session

In July the Foundation hosted an extremely fruitful governance session with representatives from the club. The afternoon started with presentations from club officials on their role at Tynecastle, further deepening the FoH board’s understanding of the inner workings of HMFC. The agenda then turned to an open forum on fan ownership facilitated by Professor Andy Adams from Heriot-Watt University in which different examples of innovative ideas and best practice were highlighted. The meeting was hugely useful to the FoH board and underlined our intention to work ever closer with the club as we move toward fan ownership.

FoH leading the way

Successful fan ownership continues to be the number one objective at FoH and as a result we continually look at other models of ownership both in the UK and abroad. We have learnt a great deal in the last 18 months and are increasingly being sought to offer advice to other fans’ movements considering a similar model. In recent months representatives from Leeds United, Rangers, Motherwell, Raith Rovers, St Mirren and Newport Country have contacted the Foundation for advice. We are proud to be blazing the trail for fan ownership and our stance will always be to help other fan movements as best we can.

Members’ fundraising

Hearty Ale

Hearts fans in York and two breweries in the north of England raised funds for the Foundation in July. The York Hearts Supporters Club worked with Tyne Bank Brewery in Newcastle and Brass Castle Brewery in Malton, North Yorkshire, to produce a Tyne-Castle beer, called Hearty Ale. The breweries agreed to give the Foundation 10p from each bottle or pint sold. All 1,200 bottles and 30 casks have now sold out, raising £336 for the Foundation.

Hearty-AleTynecastle Hearty Ale

Gavin Aitchison, secretary of York Hearts, said: “This started as an idea in the pub one day, and we’re really grateful to the two breweries for making it possible. We’re delighted to be able to help the Foundation in this way and we enjoyed being able to add to the proceeds in a few of our local pubs down here.”

The Foundation are hugely grateful for the efforts of York Hearts in making this initiative happen.

Proud to pledge pin badge

Last month we released the first FoH pin badge and since then hundreds of you have picked one up at our match day reception. We have raised well over £1,000 in voluntary donations for the badge and we still have a limited number left. If you want to get your hands on one, they will continue to be available at our matchday reception for the rest of the season until they are sold out. The Foundation would like to thank Merchiston Hearts Social Club whose members bought the badges in large numbers in July.

Can’t make it Tynecastle on a matchday? Please send a stamped, addressed envelope with your address details along with your voluntary donation to the address below and we will be more than happy to send you a badge.

FOH Pin Badges
Heart of Midlothian Football Club
Tynecastle Stadium
Gorgie Road
Edinburgh
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Second FoH director to join the club board

We reported in the June blog that Ian Murray had taken the decision to step down from the FoH and HMFC boards effective from 30 June 2015. On behalf of Ian, we would like to note our thanks to all members for their heartening messages of support that we have received over the last few months.

Brian Cormack has assumed the position of Chair of FoH and attended his first HMFC Board meeting in June. Members will no doubt be aware that our agreement with BIDCO stipulates that, at this stage, two members of the Foundation board should represent the Foundation on the club board. We are pleased to confirm that Donald Cumming, our legal specialist on the Foundation board, has now joined the HMFC board. Donald is heavily involved in the design of the future governance model for the Foundation and the club. Through his membership of the club board, he will experience first-hand how the club operates which in turn will assist greatly in devising a governance model for the future.

First Overseas Ambassador appointed

We were delighted to welcome our first Overseas Ambassador to Tynecastle for the opening league match against St Johnstone. Alec Peck is based in Bahrain and will be one of the network of (unpaid!) ambassadors who will promote the Foundation in their region with the aim not only of adding to the number of pledgers but also to sharing news and views and bringing fans together. Overseas fans have played a very significant role in their support of the Foundation from its outset and we have been keen to recognise this and to ensure that their perspective and opinions are built into the fabric of the Foundation as we move forward. Alec and future ambassadors will be playing a central and constructive part in making this happen. Thanks to the response to earlier coverage of this initiative, we are building up a strong network of potential ambassadors worldwide and we will be formalising this shortly. Thank you to everyone who has already been in touch and if you’d like to contact us about the scheme, please email us on info@foundationofhearts.org. We’d be delighted to hear from you. In the meantime, an interview with Alec is now on our website at http://www.foundationofhearts.org/news/overseas-ambassador-interview/

As ever, all feedback and comments on this month’s blog are welcomed. Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

July 2015

FoH July Blog

Welcome to the July edition of the FoH Blog. We hope you are enjoying the summer as the exciting transfer news from Tynecastle rolls in. Like the Club, we are working hard to make sure we are ready for the new season ahead. This month’s blog provides an update on our latest news.

The Kindness of Strangers

The Hearts community is a family, and, like all families, there are natural endings and beginnings. Lifelong supporters, steeped in the club’s folklore and legend, pass away, and their endlessly recounted tales of Hearts’ golden era and the feats of the Terrible Trio become ghostly memories. But as they leave us, the next generation of supporters are up and coming – young kids, bursting with pride and excitement at attending their first match with their parents. A page is turned and fresh ties with the club start to take root.

Last year, a lifelong Hearts supporter (we have been asked not to divulge his name) passed away at the age of 93. He had not been able to attend matches at Tynecastle for a number of years, but his affection for the club was undiminished. In his will, he directed his executors to give part of his estate to a body which promotes the aims and objectives of Heart of Midlothian Football Club.

The executors gave careful consideration as to how they should implement these instructions, and they decided that payment should be made to the Foundation. We are delighted to share that, on 24 June, the Foundation received a cheque for £108,725 from the executors.

This bequest means so much to us and the Club, and we can only express our deepest appreciation for the kindness and generosity of our benefactor. His gift reminds us yet again of how, in a quiet, unsung way, so many people are giving a helping hand to the club they hold dear. We will be discussing with the Club a fitting way of putting the legacy to use. In the meantime, we thank our unnamed friend – and you all – for being part of our journey. You are amazing.

Remembering McCrae’s Battalion

The Foundation was privileged to be invited to travel to Contalmaison this month as part of the annual pilgrimage made by McCrae’s Battalion Trust in remembrance of brave soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country during the First World War. Garry Halliday and, our chair, Brian Cormack proudly represented the Foundation and Brian shared his thoughts on the experience:

Garry Halliday and I travelled to Contalmaison in France at the start of the month on behalf of the Foundation of Hearts. We were honoured to be invited, along with Ann Budge and Eric Hogg from the club, to the ceremony organised by the McCrae’s Battalion Trust. This was the 99th anniversary of the first action of the Battle of the Somme where Hearts players and supporters were part of McCrae’s Battalion. It was an amazing day which closed the small village of Contalmaison and saw the officials, police officers and school children all join together with the visitors from Scotland to commemorate the fallen soldiers.

Jack Alexander, the author of McCrae’s Battalion, made a very emotional speech, as did Major Gary Tait of The Royal Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. The Mayoress of Contalmaison also spoke of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. After the ceremony we were taken to nearby fields where the soldiers from the Royal Fusiliers gave us accounts of the battle on the 1st July 1916.

In the afternoon the village hosted a lunch for the McCrae’s Battalion Trust where guests from Raith Rovers, Dunfermline, Falkirk and Hibs attended. The Scottish Government and the Edinburgh Council were also represented.

This was my first visit to Contalmaison but will not be my last. It was an amazing and very humbling experience.

cairn
Lest we forget: The Contalmaison Cairn

Brian and Gary both travelled to Contalmaison at their own expense to represent the Foundation for which the rest of the Board are extremely grateful.

Managing our costs

One of the most significant costs to the Foundation each month are transaction fees associated with collecting pledges by direct debit via GoCardless. We are charged 1% of every direct debit collected, a very competitive rate when compared with other providers.

However, we are always investigating ways of reducing our operating cost to maximise the funds flowing to the Club. This month we managed to renegotiate our arrangement with GoCardless to include a maximum cap of 39p per transaction. This means that we will save on costs for every pledge over £40 from July onwards. We are very pleased to have agreed this with GoCardless and are grateful to them for their continued support.

FoH in the international press

The Foundation was delighted to be featured in an article in the Brazilian newspaper Valor this month. The article was entitled “Passion FC: stories of love for football show the strength behind fans interest in the sport” and spoke of the Foundation (and of the Hearts support) as an example of the love and passion that still exists within football. It also included a Q&A with our Chair Brian Cormack. The interest from abroad is a reminder that our message resonates beyond Scotland and we are delighted that the Foundation is being held up as an example for others to follow.

Overseas Ambassadors

We have recently been developing a plan to recruit our members based overseas to act as ambassadors of the Foundation in their home countries. The number of FoH members not located in Scotland, or even the UK, is quite simply remarkable and each month we are overwhelmed with the feedback we receive from our members from abroad. This spawned the idea of a group of overseas ambassadors with the remit of promoting and sharing information about the Foundation to members and potential members in their geographic region.

We are still working through the finer details and have already received a number of emails expressing an interest in getting involved. If you are a FoH member and you are keen to learn more, please contact us at info@foundationofhearts.org and we will be in touch.
We will keep members up to date on the progress of this initiative and plan to feature details of our overseas ambassadors in future blogs.

Premium Benefits

A reminder to members that Premium Benefit and Premium Benefit Plus cards provided by the club are still available for collection from the club shop so why not pick up your card when you are collecting match tickets or buying our next season’s kit. Details of the range of discounts and benefits on offer are available at http://www.heartsdeals.co.uk/home.php.

Proud to Pledge

In our June blog we announced that we had arranged for the manufacture of the first ever Foundation of Hearts pin badge. We are pleased to confirm that our first batch were delivered this week and will be available to fans at our match day stall for a voluntary cash donation. As ever, all proceeds raised will be used to support the Club on its return to the Premiership. We hope members will wear the badge with pride.

pin
Proud to Pledge: The Foundation of Hearts pin badge

The badge will be available before the Everton game on Sunday 26th July from 1pm at the Tynecastle reception on McLeod Street. We look forward to seeing you there.

Please feel free to leave any comments or feedback on this month’s blog below. By the time we publish the next blog, the season will be under way and, all going well, our first three points will be in the bag!

June 2015

Intro

The Foundation continued with its forward momentum throughout May with membership again reaching its highest ever level. Commitment to the cause is as high as ever and we will be working hard to ensure that this continues over the summer months.

Our blog this month includes Ian Murray’s heart-felt resignation letter, my own personal reflection on my first six months as a Director and other news from the Foundation.

Ian Murray Resigns

At the May Board our Chairman Ian Murray announced his intention to stand down from his position as Chairman of the Foundation and Director of the Club. Ian has contributed an enormous amount during his tenure; acting as a spokesperson, advocate and leader. His resignation letter to the Board was a moving tribute to the progress we have made together and is included below, unedited and in full:

 

Dear Friends,

RESIGNATION FROM THE FOUNDATION OF HEARTS BOARD

I write this letter with a very heavy heart.

It is with great regret that I write formally to the Board of Directors of the Foundation of Hearts to formally tender my resignation as the Chair of FoH and a Board Director with effect from our financial year end of 30 June 2015.

Since my re-election last week I have taken on a number of senior responsibilities that will reduce the spare time I have available to dedicate to others interests.  I have, after much soul searching, taken the decision that the FoH requires a new Chair and Director that can give maximum attention to growing the membership beyond 10,000 and prepare the organisation for full supporter ownership.

I never envisaged that I would be involved in the saving of my beloved club.  I always remember sitting on my father’s knee when I was very young and he would recall stories of Hearts greats and games.  The main topic of conversation when the family got together at Christmas and for other social occasions was our favourite club. All those stories were not always favourable but they were cherished memories nonetheless.

Hearts means so much to me and tens of thousands of others.  We can all say why, but for me it is because my father died at the same age I am today.  He left my older brother at 13 and me at 9.  The glue that stuck our family together was the maroon glue from Tynecastle both before his death and certainly afterwards.  The few memories I have of him are from the terraces watching Hearts. That is why we should never let any club die.  It means too much to too many people, regardless of who you support.

Over 30 years later I, myself, can recall too many times watching Hearts that I have shed a tear of joy or disappointment, hugged and kissed a complete stranger, danced for joy on a concrete terracing, and sang myself hoarse.  Those are what memories are made of.

When I answered my mobile a few years ago and was asked to help Hearts, I did it without hesitation despite the considerable political risks.  It has not been an easy few years but just to see smiles on the faces of supporters that are proud of their club again has made it all worthwhile.

I’m very proud that Ann Budge is transforming the club and Scottish Football.

I’m very proud of each and every one of the supporters who dug deep time and time again to save our club.

I’m very proud of everyone, both past and present at FoH.

I’m very proud that FoH and Ann have made sure that fathers, uncles, mothers and aunties of the future can recall the stories of the past to their loved ones.

I’m very proud to have been part of the team who helped to own the history and create the future – but there is a time for everyone to move on.

Generations of future Jambos will look back on these times and say “we did that” and I’m glad to have played a small part in that story.

I will also as a result be standing down from the Club Board.  I wish the new Director and Chair all the very best of luck in the future and offer my help and advice whenever it is required.

Long may our beloved club continue to play an integral part in Edinburgh, local communities and in the lives of everyone who loves her.

It’s been one of the greatest pleasures and privileges of my life.

Best wishes and good luck.

Yours for Hearts,

Ian Murray MP

 

Ian leaves with the best wishes of the Foundation and the Club Board. He will remain a member of the Foundation and, as a member, will continue to play an important role in creating history at Tynecastle.

Brian Cormack, who last month joined the Club Board, will succeed Ian as Chairman of the Foundation. Ian’s departure also leaves a vacancy on the Foundation and Club Boards which will be filled by due process in the coming months.

Proud to pledge pin badge

We’ve listened to comments on previous blogs as well as feedback from members at our match day stand and are pleased to confirm that we have arranged for the manufacture of an official Foundation of Hearts pin badge. Having succeeded in supporting the Club through one of the most difficult and testing periods in its history, we believe our members have a lot to puff out their chests and be proud about. We hope members will wear the badge to show they are part of our movement and are proud to pledge. The badge will be available for a voluntary cash donation and we are working to have it available for the new season. As ever, all proceeds raised will be used to support the Club on its return to the Premiership. Watch this space for further details.

6 Months at the Foundation

Six months have passed since the Foundation’s inaugural AGM last December and, as the Foundation’s first member to be elected to the Board, I thought it apt to conclude this month’s blog with some personal reflections on my involvement.

I admit I had a degree of nervousness on the morning of my first Board meeting. The prospect of an audience with the likes of Ian Murray and Ann Budge, people I had previously only read about with admiration, was a daunting one. I have to say, however, that everyone associated with the Foundation and the Club could not have made me more welcome. I’ve felt the full support of the Heart’s family since the day I was elected. Everyone is open and receptive to new ideas which makes every meeting interesting, engaging and productive.

Since my election I’ve sought to be involved and share my ideas wherever possible. I’ve supported several of our initiatives and have worked on things ranging from member communication to getting up to speed on financial control (being an accountant, I just couldn’t resist!).

In terms of member communication, the feedback we have received suggests that this blog has gone some way to improving communication between the Board and members. However, I think we can still do more and our Marketing and Member Engagement Committee meets regularly to ensure members continue to be engaged in and informed of our ongoing activities. I’ve also spent time at Tynecastle and our match day stand talking to members and listening to their views and feedback on the Foundation. The idea for the pin badge, for example, came from a member who sits next to me at Tynecastle, so I can’t take any of the credit for that!

From a financial point of view, I’ve drawn on the expertise from my accountancy background to enhance the monthly financial reports reviewed by the Board. The contribution of every member is precious and I think it is important we continue to adopt our ‘every penny is a prisoner’ approach to costs to continue to make sure that more than 95% of our income flows directly to the Club.

My first six months at the Foundation have been exciting, fascinating and challenging in equal measure. I’ve been struck by one thing above all and that is the absolute and unrelenting desire from everyone involved to do the right thing by Heart of Midlothian Football Club. Every decision made at the Foundation is centered on that core principal. Hearts people making the decisions for Hearts. The way it should always have been. I am massively proud every day to be a part of that.

May 2015

Marching on

April was another huge month for the Foundation in which membership numbers reached an all-time high, we hosted the inaugural plot award ceremony at Tynecastle and we reached a significant milestone on our agreement with BIDCO. In this month’s blog we update on these successes and all other news from what was a busy month.

Inaugural Plot Ceremony

On Sunday 19th of April the Foundation was delighted to welcome the first group of pledgers to the inaugural commemorative pitch plot ceremony at Tynecastle. Some 50 committed supporters were awarded their own unique virtual plot of the hallowed turf, including a certificate of ownership, after being among the first pledgers to reach the 1,000 points milestone as part of the Foundation’s Fan Rewards scheme. Representatives from the club including Ann Budge, Robbie Neilson and Craig Levein were on hand to present the plot certificates and to show their appreciation for our pledger’s unstinting support. Pictures from this momentous occasion are available to view here.

As part of the occasion, the Foundation was proud to present Ann Budge with a special award in recognition of her devotion to the Club and support of the Foundation. Ann, the Queen of Hearts, was allocated the centre circle plot and was presented with a commemorative turf cube as a mark of our appreciation.

The feedback from attendees has been extremely positive and we will continue to host these ceremonies in coming months as the number of pledgers reaching the 1,000 points target rises. We look forward to welcoming you to Tynecastle and having the opportunity to thank you for the amazing support you continue to show the Foundation.

Another Milestone

Under the agreement with BIDCO we entered into last May, the Foundation undertook to meet certain financial conditions. The conditions, set out below, are effectively the hurdles we must pass on our path to fan ownership:

  1. £1m on completion of the agreement in May 2014 to HMFC;
  2. £1.4m in year 1 of the agreement to HMFC toward working capital;
  3. £1.4m in year 2 of the agreement to HMFC toward working capital; and
  4. £2.4m to BIDCO over the remainder of the agreement in order to buy the rights to the loan BIDCO made to HMFC at the start of the agreement and to acquire BIDCO’s shareholding in HMFC.

The first condition was achieved on the Club’s exit from administration and In April we successfully met the second condition in line with our financial plan. This is a huge achievement and is testament to the loyalty and commitment of every single member of the Foundation. We have been told over and over that our dream of owning and shaping the future of our Club is not possible. Every single month, when you pledge to the Foundation, we take another huge stride forward and you prove these cynics wrong.

However, we still have a long way to go. The Foundation of Hearts cannot rest on its laurels and we would therefore ask all supporters to take this simple message to your fellow fans who have not yet signed up to this vital cause on behalf of the club we love: we have achieved so much through the financial backing of 8,000 members; how much more can the club achieve in the Premiership with an even bigger membership delivering more financial resources? It is never too late to become a pledger and play a part in creating history.

On Board

Some of you may recall that part of our agreement with BIDCO requires that a second member of the Foundation Board join the main Club Board one year from the start of the agreement. With that landmark now upon us we are very pleased to announce that Brian Cormack will be joining the Hearts Board as Director in May. Brian was one of the original founders of FoH and has been a pivotal part of the Foundation’s early success. His business background is in construction and property and as part of his role he will assist the Club in this area. He joins the Heart’s board with the full backing and best wishes of the Foundation and the rest of the Board have no doubt that he will be a great asset to the Club.

Brian’s appointment further underlines the close links between the Foundation and the Club and our shared commitment to work together to ensure a smooth and seamless transition to fan ownership.

Governance Working Group Update

At the Foundation, we are constantly struck by two things – firstly, the amazing number of people who, simply because they love Hearts, are willing to help us with their time and talent, and secondly the enormous range of expertise which resides within our membership. Here is one illustration.

At our first AGM last December, our chairman Ian Murray said that one of the board’s priorities in 2015 would be to set up a working group to assist the board in developing a long-term fan ownership model and governance framework for the Foundation. Put simply, as we transition towards acquiring control of the Club, we are determined to create an enduring ownership model which will meet both our members’ expectations and the needs of the Club and will be the gold standard which others wish to emulate.

Within minutes of the meeting ending, two members – Andy Adams and Josh McLeod – came forward to ask if they could help the working group. Andy is a Professor of Finance at Heriot-Watt University and Josh is one of his post-graduate students. Andy has pursued a strong academic interest in fan-owned football clubs and Josh is currently researching this subject for his PhD. The growth of fan ownership of football clubs has attracted a lot of academic research in the UK and elsewhere and it was clear that Andy and Josh’s expertise would be valuable to the working group as it investigated best practice and considered what would be right for Hearts.

In March, the working group had a very useful brainstorming meeting with our two resident experts where we explored the strengths and challenges of supporter-ownership and discussed the particular priorities for a Foundation/Club structure. This has provided an excellent basis on which to proceed with our research and we will hopefully be able to continue to draw on Andy and Josh’s expertise and advice as the group continues its work.

It goes without saying that, further down the line, as the options for long-term ownership and governance become clearer, there will be open consultation with our members to help us gain a first-hand understanding of your priorities and concerns.

Strip Survey

We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who responded to our survey about the fans tribute strip. We had an unbelievable response with more than half of FoH members answering the question. And of those replying, a healthy majority indicated that they are likely to buy the strip (either one or more). We’re very grateful to everyone who took time to do the survey which is a really helpful guide for the Club.

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As ever, we welcome your comments and feedback on this month’s Foundation blog. Do let us know if there is anything you would like to hear about in future blogs.

Thanks and have a great May!