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.

Leave a comment

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!

April 2015

Glorious Hearts

What a month we had in March! The Championship trophy ribbons are now officially maroon and white! Thanks to the outstanding work of Robbie, Craig, the players and everyone associated with the Club we are now back where we belong. From the brink of liquidation to plotting our Premiership come back in the space of 12 months; what a journey we have been on together. You joined the revival. You made everything possible.

We hope our pledgers shared the pride we felt watching the scenes of celebration at a packed Tynecastle on Saturday against Queen of the South: pride in the team which has performed so fantastically throughout the season; pride in the Board that has worked tirelessly to put us back on a sound footing; and, above all, pride in the knowledge that we, as members of the Foundation, played a part in making it all happen.

In between the title celebrations, the Foundation has been hard at work on your behalf in March. In this month’s blog we give an update on finances, up and coming plot ceremonies and feedback on the Foundation’s new working groups.

Keeping up the momentum

March was another positive month for the Foundation with contributions holding steady against last month’s record high. This was despite a number of one off contributions in February which were replaced in March by more members signing up to monthly pledges. The match day inquiry desk has seen a number of fans sign up to become Foundation members in the last month. We hope to see many more coming through the door over the rest of the season and beyond.

Your continued support means we continue to be on track on our agreement with BIDCO. The funds we have provided to date have directly supported the fantastic progress we have seen at Tynecastle both on and off the field. The Foundation cannot rest on its laurels, however. We have achieved so much through the financial backing of 8,000 members and can achieve so much more in the future if we grow from this base. This is the message we want you as members to help spread to those supporters who have not yet joined our movement. We need to carry our momentum into the Premier League and beyond. Now is the time to Pledge for the Premiership.

Win Win Win

Continuing the good news story, the Club announced last Wednesday that Save the Children will be the name on our shirt next season. This ground breaking partnership is the first of its kind in the UK and will see the charity and the Club working together over the next three years. The move underlines the values of responsibility and community now central to our Club’s philosophy. I am sure we speak for all members and supporters when we say that we are immensely proud of this announcement and can’t wait to pull on next season’s strip.

Plot Ceremonies

Arrangements are now in place for the first Fan Reward plot ceremony which is due to take place at Tynecastle on Sunday 19th April. The souvenir plot scheme gives members who have achieved over 1,000 Maroon Points ownership of a virtual plot on the hallowed Tynecastle pitch. We can’t wait for the opportunity to shake hands with members who have hit this level of points and thank them for the massive contribution they have made to the Foundation. Plot certificates will be presented by a club legend and it promises to be a special day for everyone involved.

Invitations have now been sent to the first 50 members to have reached the required level of points and will continue in groups of 50 thereafter. If you have achieved this level of points and have not been contacted yet, watch this space.

A model for the future

In last month’s blog we reported that we were in the process of establishing a series of working groups to assist the Board in driving forward specific Foundation objectives. The working groups are now established, with members of the Foundation Board participating in each. The groups are:

  • The Governance working group – set up with the objective of working closely with Ann Budge and the Club to ensure the many different models for fan ownership are fully researched and understood such that the chosen Hearts model can be implemented smoothly, seamlessly and successfully when ownership of the club is transitioned to the fans.
  • The Marketing and Members group – set up with the aim of growing the Foundation’s membership as well as engaging with and involving members in the Foundation’s activities; and
  • The Audit and Risk group – put in place with the remit of ensuring the Foundation maintains the highest possible standards of financial control and fully adheres to the agreement with BIDCO.

These groups will ensure that matters central to the future success of the Foundation are given due attention and will report to the Foundation Board on a monthly basis.

Look out for updates on the progress of our working groups in future blogs. In next month’s blog we will feature more on the Governance working group. If any member has any matter they wish to bring to the attention of a working group please contact us at info@foundationofhearts.org.

 

Match day information desk

Thanks to those of you that have popped into the match day information desk over the last month. We have signed up a number of new members at the desk but it has been just as encouraging to hear the positivity and commitment among our existing members.

We be available at Tynecastle reception from 1.30 at the Raith Rovers and Rangers home games before the end of the season. Look out for the FOH pop ups which will be displayed at the reception door (weather permitting after we almost lost them both on Saturday!).

Your Blog

The blog received over 2,000 visits last month. The comments and messages of support you left were nothing short of inspirational. Reading of what the Club’s survival and stability mean to so many of you underlined the importance of our cause.

This is your blog and we hope you continue to find these update useful and informative. Please feel free to use the comments section below for feedback and to let us know of anything you would like to hear about in future blogs.

March 2015 Blog

From strength to strength

After an astonishing February which saw a 10-0 victory at Tynecastle, a three minute hat trick, and a record contribution month for the Foundation, we thought it would be the perfect time to launch the official Foundation of Hearts blog!

The aim of this blog will be to keep members up to date with the goings-on at the Foundation as we continue our journey towards fan ownership.

In this month’s post we share news on February’s financial results, Fan Rewards, how to find us on match days and our plans for March and beyond.

Record contributions

Following the successful launch of Fan Rewards in collaboration with the club, we were absolutely delighted to see contributions reach record levels of over £130,000 for the month of February. This was due to an increase in membership as well as an increase in average member contributions. This fantastic response from our members means we remain well on track with our contributions to HMFC.

Ann Budge has continually stressed the importance of these contributions to the continued financial stability of Hearts and we are delighted to see our members pulling together behind the cause. Thank you for your continued support.

Fan Rewards update

We launched Fan Rewards in collaboration with the club in January and we have been really pleased with the response this initiative has received from members to date.

The fans tribute kit has certainly captured people’s imagination and the deadline for reaching enough Maroon Points to get your name on the strip passed on 28 February. All members who achieved the required 180 points by that date will automatically be included on the 3rd kit next season. The list of member names will be provided to the kit manufacturer this month and the name used will be your name per our member database.

Premium Benefit and Premium Benefit Plus cards provided by the club are also now available for collection from the club shop so make sure you get down there to take advantage of some fantastic discounts on meals, hotel stays, spa treatments and much more.

Foundation website

Our shiny new website was launched mid-January to coincide with the launch of Fan Rewards and we are really pleased with the final product. The site has been in development for a number of months and since its launch has received over 24,000 visits.

We hope members are as proud of it as we are and use it to continue to stay in touch with the Foundation over the crucial weeks and months ahead. If you do have any comments or feedback on the new website, please let us know using the comments section below or the “contact us” section of the website. Most recently, we added some Foundation FAQs to the site to provide help and support for issues such as logging on, changing your password and increasing your pledge.

Reception on match days

The club has kindly given us an area in reception for use on match days and you may have seen our pop up stands (or massive “pledge now” arrow!) in and around the main stand before kick-off. Our aim is to be available for all home games going forward to give members the opportunity to ask questions and keep in touch throughout the season. We were delighted to see a number of fans popping into the reception before the Livingston and Cowdenbeath games in February to pledge to the Foundation and play their part in creating history. It is heartwarming and humbling at times to hear how much the club and its history mean to so many.

Whether you want to increase your pledge, catch up on Foundation activities or even just steal a bit of Hearts rhubarb rock, our door is always open.

Looking forward

This blog is just the start of our plan for increasing interaction and engagement between the Foundation board and members. We are in the process of establishing a series of working groups and a support network of volunteers to assist the board in driving forward specific Foundation objectives. There will be scope for members to get involved in this new structure and we will keep you updated on our progress.

Feel free to use the comments box below to leave feedback and questions on this month’s blog. If there is anything specific you would like to hear about in future posts, let us know.

With a bit of luck by the time we issue the next blog the Championship title will be in the bag….