THE FORMER chair of the Foundation of Hearts does not believe that the fans' group can turn to supporters to help with the day-to-day running of the capital club.

Tynecastle owner Ann Budge offered all players and staff a 50 percent pay cut last week with the Premiership outfit struggling to make ends meet during the prolonged hiatus of Scottish football.

The Foundation, which was set up in order to gain a controlling share in Hearts, does not have any financial reserves to support the Gorgie club's cash-flow issues – and Ian Murray MP, who served as chairman until 2015, does not believe the group will be able to raise funds to lessen the financial burden on the club.

"I don’t think asking members for more money is possible," he said. "The Foundation is consistently around the 8,000-mark. I don’t think we can go back. The Foundation’s main priority at the moment has to be the maintenance of their own income because individual household’s income is going to be under strain.

"When it comes to making tough choices at home over whether or not you’re paying the rent or the bills, or you’re paying another contribution towards the Foundation, there’s only really one decision to be made. So it’s not an option to go back to the fans and ask for cash.

"The Foundation don’t have any reserves built up. That’s a big question that needs to be answered because the Foundation were handing over pretty much every single penny over to the club, with the exception of £50,000 that they keep every year for their own marketing and admin. The £10million that’s gone into the club has been used for debt repayment, there was £3m put towards the new stand and they had to pay back Ann Budge’s £2.5m capital sum from before.

"Football is like any other industry, really. They’ve stopped taking income almost overnight and it doesn’t look like they’ll get any through the doors between now and whenever the football returns. Clubs are going to have to make some pretty strong contingency plans to see their way through this. Hearts are first off the block but I don’t think they’ll be the last [to offer their staff a pay cut]. Scottish football is not awash with cash, there are no big reserves sitting there waiting for a rainy day."

The Foundation was supposed to receive the majority of shares in Hearts by next month, but this has now been postponed. But the Edinburgh South MP suggested that once the share transfer goes through, the top priority should be to build financial reserves to cope with future crises that may arise.

"The share transfer was meant to be happening in April and then the Foundation would have had to decide what to do with their contributions," he said. "It’s supposed to be a pledge for life and I think those contributions could be diverted, at least in the first instance, to create a cash reserve for the club to use for rainy days.

"The big disadvantage of fan ownership, of course, is that when the proverbial is hitting the fan financially, there’s no-one to step in to try and plug the gap.

"I think it would be ridiculous at this stage to try and find a way of transferring the shares across and the ownership of the club at this really uncertain time. I think continuity and certainty are the two watchwords at the moment and I don’t think there’s anyone at the Foundation of Hearts that’s under any illusions that that should be postponed."

Last week, Hearts chair Budge admitted that she would consider legal action in the event that the season's current standings were declared final and her club were relegated as a result. Murray, though, insisted that concerns such as these are not what should take precedent at the moment – and called for the full season to be completed, even if doing so would impact significantly on the following campaign.

"These are all third-level issues at the moment," Murray added. "The first thing is to make sure that the people who work for the club’s incomes are protected and the second is to make sure this club – and any other – doesn’t go to the wall as a result of this coronavirus crisis. The third thing is about sporting integrity. I think it would be a difficult argument to make to relegate and promote people, whether it’s Hearts or otherwise, on a season that’s incomplete.

"I think when football does start again the first priority has to be to complete what’s already started and see what happens after that. There are lots of other ways you can mould a future season but there are very few ways you can mould the current one. As an example, you could conclude the current season and then look at how long that will take, which will let you determine what the following season will look like.

"If you could get everything sorted by August, you could start the new season in mid-September. You could take out the winter break, cancel the League Cup or maybe just play each other twice. There are lots of ways that you can sort this out without manipulating the sporting integrity of your league system."