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Hearts forced to delay transfer of controlling stake in club to fans

Hearts have been forced to delay the transfer of owner Ann Budge’s controlling stake in the Jambos to supporters because of the coronavirus crisis.

Budge was due to hand over her majority shareholding to fan group the Foundation of Hearts next month.

But the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus has forced a postponement.

Budge has already told Daniel Stendel’s team and the rest of the Tynecastle staff they will have to accept 50 per cent wage cuts as the Gorgie outfit battle a cash-flow crisis.

However, FoH chairman Stuart Wallace has now emailed members to reassure them that the club remains committed to fan ownership.

“As we all know, the current situation at Hearts and across the footballing world is critical,” he wrote. “With very little income and little prospect of that position being reversed any time soon, we have seen the prompt action which Ann Budge took to try to address the challenges and keep the club functioning.

“Hearts may have been the first to go public with such a tough announcement – it will not be the last, as news from clubs as diverse as Aberdeen, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Leeds United has demonstrated over the last few days.

“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 an 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.”

FoH and Budge helped rescue Hearts from administration back in 2013.

And Wallace has been encouraged to see an increase in fans rushing to support the club in its latest hour of need.

He added: “On a related front, I am delighted to let you know that despite the current public health crisis and the impact that is having on all our lives, we have had almost 100 new or upgraded pledges over the past week alone.

“This is absolutely astonishing and demonstrates, if that were needed, just how passionate and committed Hearts fans are to our club. This email comes, too, on the day that the total pledges broke through the £10 million figure, which is quite incredible.

“We talk often about the fans being the very lifeblood of this great club, the one true constant when so much has threatened our very existence. This continues to be proven right now at another very difficult period for Hearts and for the supporters.

“We and the club cannot thank you enough.”