HEARTS will hold further talks with Supporters Direct next week regarding the possibility of a fan-led takeover of the club.
Paul Goodwin, head of SD Scotland, described yesterday's meeting with Hearts directors Sergejus Fedotovas and David Southern as "another good step forward" and will return to Tynecastle on Wednesday with more detailed proposals on how supporters could assume ownership from Vladimir Romanov and Ukio Bankus Investment Group.
Goodwin believes there is a willingness on the part of Romanov and UBIG to move on after seven years at Tynecastle but acknowledged that "the devil is in the detail" when it comes to finalising a deal. Hearts have already thrown out an opening bid from the Foundation of Hearts consortium led by businessman Alex Mackie. Goodwin, though, has not been deterred by that setback and believes substantial progress is being made.
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"The meeting [yesterday] was very productive and there was a genuine appetite to discuss the way forward with the fans' involvement," he said. "We plan on meeting again next week at which point we hope to introduce further proposals for discussion. I'm feeling very positive about the whole thing."
A Hearts spokesperson added: "We welcomed the opportunity to talk to Supporters Direct and we expect further meetings in the future as we move towards a club owned and run by its supporter base. The current share scheme and the fans' fund-raising efforts remain our priority while we establish a more stable financial position."
Mackie, the accountant leading the Foundation of Hearts consortium that includes property developer Brian Cormack, financial advisor Jim Bryant, and former Hearts player Donald Ford, revealed the group intend on following the Barcelona membership model for funding if their bid for the club is successful.
"There are 300,000 socios at Barcelona all paying a small membership fee," he said. "If we could harness 25,000 Hearts fans, and we think we can, paying £10 a month then that's £250,000 a month coming in. The fans should know that would be used legitimately.
"The Foundation clearly has business minds but it's going to be a representative organisation. We would be nurturing the club, making sensible moves, transferring players when suitable, having no debt and using a balanced budget.
"The Foundation would act as a watchful and nurturing parent of the club, almost like a notional bank for the club. The Foundation will hold the club to account for a balance budget but will also supply the club with money as and when required. We'll be taking money in through the fans membership base and we have other plans to raise money which are innovative and quite far reaching. There would be absolute clarity about everything."