BACK in 2013, Heart of Midlothian Football Club was in a sorry state. Off-field financial issues plagued the capital side and thanks to an ongoing legal dispute between the club and Lithuanian financial authorities, the threat of Tynecastle's doors closing - and remaining shut - was all too real. The club's very existence was on the line as it tottered over the precipice of finanical oblivion.

But then something remarkable happened. A group of supporters, the Foundation of Hearts, came together to save the club from its imminent death. The group, spearheaded by Ian Murray MP, raised the necessary capital to buy the club from Vladimir Romanov and Hearts' future was secured.

Now, six years on, Hearts are in a far more stable condition. Results on the pitch this season leave something to be desired but off of it, the club's bank balance is in a healthy state. As of next summer, the Foundation of Hearts will own an 80% stake in the club with supporters having raised over £10 million to keep the Tynecastle outfit afloat.


READ MORE: Is fan ownership the future of Scottish football?

Looking back, Ian Murray - who was the chair of the Foundation of Hearts at the time of the imminent collapse - admits that while getting involved with the club he is a lifelong supporter of wasn't always his goal, he is proud of the role he played in saving his beloved Hearts.

"The club was dying," he says. "Every passing day, the survival of the club – and the very existence of the club – became more precarious.

"[Foundation of Hearts advisor] Lawrence Brodie asked if I’d be willing to take on the independent chair of this group that included supporters groups and the Foundation of Hearts in its original form, and I was only too happy to take it on. But it wasn’t an easy task and I’d thought long and hard about it, both after and before.

"I’m obviously glad I did because the results are there for all to see."

Fan ownership saved Hearts, but Murray is quick to point out that this is not necessarily a solution for other football teams in dire financial straits.

Murray said: "I’ve always been pretty clear that one size doesn’t fit all in football. There is an increasing discussion about the ownership in football – about the ownership in sport, really – and how that all manifests itself.

"We have seen problems all the way from Barcelona to Manchester United, to Chelsea, all the way through the leagues to Stirling Albion in terms of ownership models that haven’t quite worked in the past and threatened the very survival of football clubs.

"We took the decision that there was no white knight out there that was going to ride to the rescue of Hearts and buy it from Romanov or buy it out of administration, so really, we were left in a crisis situation where the only show in town was the supporters. And manifested through that crisis was the fans coming together to try and put together a bid that would mean that they owned the club.


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"Now, it’s not a model that will fit everyone, it was borne out of crisis. Would it have worked if Hearts had the club not been at the end of its life? I’m not sure.

"Other clubs are now looking at partial and full fan ownership but the bottom line here is that if a club gets into crisis then there should be a support mechanism that allows fans to come forward, to see whether or not they can put a management buy-out if you like, being the biggest customers and most loyal supporters of the brand.

"It could be a way for owners at the moment who wish to either disinvest some or all of their ownership of a club to look at a model over a period of time where the fans can take over."

Murray is no longer chair of the Foundation of Hearts, but has recently chronicled the events from those turbulent times in Gorgie. His book, This Is Our Story: How The Fans Kept Their Hearts Beating, pays homage to the club's supporters who saved their club when it needed them most.

"It’s really a 262-page tribute to the supporters," Murray explained. "I wanted to write the story of that period of time of Hearts from the viewpoint of both an avid supporter but also chair of the Foundation of Hearts and latterly on the Hearts board as well.

"Really, the trials and tribulations that everyone went through to make this happen are quite extraordinary. I wanted to tell not just the inside story but also through the lens of a supporter. So it charters the history, from Chris Robinson to when Romanov came along, to some of Romanov’s spending and how the club got into trouble.

"It poses the question: is Romanov a pariah? We talk about a lot of the great games and the great victories – the Scottish Cup final, the semi-final, playing at Anfield, getting into the Champions League, all that kind of stuff. It charters when the club got in trouble and when it nearly went to the wall on more than one occasion through that process.

"It’s really the struggle of how eight thousand Hearts fans were on one side of the rope and the Lithuanian administrators and institutions were on the other side, and there was a tug-of-war for 51 weeks over who was going to win the football club and ultimately, of course, the fans won out."

You can find out more about Ian Murray MP's book at