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.
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:
- £1m on completion of the agreement in May 2014 to HMFC;
- £1.4m in year 1 of the agreement to HMFC toward working capital;
- £1.4m in year 2 of the agreement to HMFC toward working capital; and
- £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.
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.
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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Thanks and have a great May!