Hearts delay transfer of shares to supporters’ group

The Foundation of Hearts group was due to complete the transfer of Ann Budge's shares.

Hearts have delayed the transfer of Ann Budge’s controlling stake in the club to the Foundation of Hearts after the coronavirus pandemic brought financial uncertainty to Scottish football.

The supporters’ group was due to take the majority shareholding in April but the move has now been postponed until “a more settled time”.

Measures taken to cope with the spread of coronavirus have included a complete shutdown of football in Scotland for the foreseeable future, leaving club struggling without expected matchday revenue and other income.

Hearts owner Budge has closed some areas of the business for the time being, and has asked all staff and players to take a 50% pay cut until football resumes.

Foundation of Hearts owner Stuart Wallace told members it was not the right time to complete the planned share transfer.

In an email, he said: “Given the troubled situation, the board of the Foundation of Hearts has taken the decision that this is not the time to be adding any further potential disruption by pushing forward with the handover of the majority shareholding.

“All parties remain totally committed to fan ownership and this handover will, of course, still happen, but such a historic event must be conducted at a more settled time – a time when the handover enables the club to proceed seamlessly with its business and a time when we can properly celebrate the achievement of the fans in reaching this milestone.

“Sadly, this is not a time when any of us, we believe, has the inclination for a celebration, however well merited.”

Budge has also updated supporters on the club’s financial situation, defending her position on the cuts at Tynecastle. She rubbished reports that the club was holding a transfer kitty in reserve for the close season.

She wrote: “I feel for the sake of our supporters I need to address the enormous amount of ill-informed and self-opinionated commentary coming from some sections of the media at the moment,” she wrote in a statement on the club website.

“Firstly, let me reassure all Hearts supporters that our financial position is no worse (nor better) than almost every other senior football club in Scotland, despite the recent continuous supply of misinformation and malicious speculation.

“In line with most other clubs, we aim to hold sufficient cash reserves to cover two to three months of normal trading operations.

“The reason we are implementing cost control measures is because we could be facing up to six months of totally abnormal operations.

“I see absolutely no reason for sitting back and waiting either on a miracle or for the Government to bail out every company in the country. Neither of these options is likely to happen and I make no apology for putting immediate plans in place to mitigate the problems heading our way.

“Nor do I make any apology for being open and transparent with staff, players and supporters about the potential scale of the issue.

“I did so quickly, not to create panic, but to give everyone time to plan and consider their own circumstances. Cost-cutting is going to come and I see no point in sugarcoating this news.

“We must continue to plan for football returning and make sure we are in the strongest possible position possible when that happens.

“I would however like to make it clear there is no pot of money sitting in the bank that could be going towards player or employee wages and there is certainly no intention of paying transfer fees under the current circumstances.”

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