71 Deanburn Park, Linlithgow,
Issue 67. ON SALE NOW £1
No Idle Talk - Message Board
Man of the match
LAST UPDATE 14/12/04
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Why not fill in a blank
WATCH OUT FOR A BRAND NEW NIT SITE SOON!
SAVE OUR HEARTS
We raised £2000 for SAVE OUR HEARTS. Look in the Linlithgow & District Hearts link for details and a couple of photos.
HEARTS PREMIER FANZINE
HEARTS SONG 2004
by Colin M
Away up in in Gorgie stood Tynecastle Park,
Its sadly gone know you can see the odd mark.
Where for one hundred years played the boys in Maroon,
Thrilling their fans entertaining the toon.
Hearts Hearts glorious Hearts,
T'was down at Tynecastle the played.
i remember the song as the cup came along,
on the day of that Sunday parade.
But the old jambos board just had no money sense,
could nae pay bills be they pounds or in pence.
So dear old Tynecastle was goodbye to you,
And we went cap in hand to the old SRU.
Hearts Hearts glorious Hearts,
was down at Tynecastle they thrilled.
The sight and the noise of those Gorgie boys,
Those it's gone i remember it still.
So now it's all housing to me it's much more,
It's the place man and boy were i'd stand and i'd roar.
To cheer on my heroes like Bauld and MacKay,
Why you had to go we can only ask why.
Hearts Hearts glorious Hearts,
We'd win cups we'd win leagues and we'd roar.
So as i pass Gorgie i'll turn and i'll cry
Does history not matter no more?
This is a temporary site, but updates will be made regularly until we get something more parmanent arranged.
Thanks to Robert Mitchell for taking the time to type in the whole meeting
HEARTS FANS' FORUM MEETING, Tynecastle; Wednesday 13th August 2003
"10 minutes to go, folks&ldots;.." warns Ali Hibberd.
As expected, tonight has seen a large turnout to this Forum Meeting; though a number of the 350 seats laid out remain surprisingly empty. The bar is open prior to the meeting starting, so several folk have taken the opportunity to get some liquid refreshments in. There is a projector linked up to a laptop, with 2 screens displaying:
"JOINT STADIUM PROPOSAL STRAITON - SUMMER 2003"
7:30PM; The Forum Chairman (Ali Hibberd) brings the meeting to order, and welcomes those present for attending tonight's meeting, including Chris Robinson and Stewart Fraser. Few notices to get through - requests that all mobile phones are put on standby; there will be a raffle (prizes being a signed Hearts football, and a DVD); and that a Forum member has 2 spare tickets for Sunday's derby available if anyone is still needing tickets.
As it is the Forum AGM, there are some formalities that need completed. The Chairman gives those new to the Forum some background information on how it works, who the Committee are, and encourages those not already signed up to the Forum mailing list to fill in the forms available and join up to it. It is revealed that the existing Forum Committee will continue to serve on into next year as no new candidates had put themselves forward for office.
The Chairman brings the meeting to the main purpose of the evening, the presentation on the Straiton proposals, and requests that we all give Chris Robinson the courtesy of letting him finish his piece before asking any relevant questions.
Chris Robinson: Thanks Ali and the rest of the Forum Committee, and appreciates everyone for coming along to this meeting of the Forum. He gives a brief history of the Club and the Stadium, hoping that he won't bore us too much, but feels that it will be useful to give some background to the debate.
Tynecastle - why do we have to move? After initially playing at the Meadows, the Club played at Powderhall until the City Fathers deemed that cricket was to be played there. Hearts were forced to move out to Gorgie, which was then a growing suburb on the edge of the city, and the original ground was across the road from Tynecastle, at Wardlaw Place. The current stadium was first just a park, until a grandstand was built in the early part of the last century, and the current Main Stand was built in 1914.
By the 1930's the Club's Board did not consider the stadium to be suitable for the future of the Club, and this led to proposals for a stadium at Sighthill, plans which were scrapped by the outbreak of the war. After the success of the 1950's, the 1960's saw a deterioration of the stadium and a fall in crowd numbers, and the 1970's saw a further decline, with severe problems with maintaining the stadium and crowd trouble. Although the 1980's saw a reversal in Hearts' fortunes, the Hillsborough and Bradford disasters had a great impact on the future of football stadia in this country, and the future of Tynecastle. These tragedies led directly to the Taylor Report, which demanded that all grounds be converted into all-seater stadia. The improvement of existing football grounds was to be an expensive process and so the Football Trust was established, and they were able to provide financial grants to help Clubs fund the required improvements.
In this climate, Wallace Mercer looked at a number of plans at improving Tynecastle, or, indeed, moving to a new ground altogether. After consultation about developing a site at Millerhill planning permission was rejected, while options at both Ingliston and Hermiston saw no significant progress either. By the early 1990's, as the deadline for the Taylor recommendations (1994) approached, there were a series of discussions about a joint-stadium, and in 1992 the idea of sharing a stadium with Hibs was floated. Again the site looked at was at Straiton, and it was owned by the same group of businessmen who currently own it, but these discussions came to nothing. In 1993, plans emerged to redevelop Tynecastle as an all-seater stadium, but before this process was completed Wallace Mercer announced his intention to sell his controlling interest in Hearts. The next year, with construction under way, the Robinson - Deans' consortium took control of the club. The Wheatfield Stand was completed in 1994, and in 1995 the Roseburn was finished. Although 1996 saw no significant development, in 1997 Hearts floated on the Stock Exchange and the proceeds from the share issue helped to fund the Gorgie Stand, the Gorgie Suite, the Club Superstore, and helped to acquire Gerard's Yard. The cost was circa. £9m, with the Football Trust granting £2m, and the 500 Clubs a further £1.25m.
This expensive process of reconstruction was the last resort for the Club to meet the 1994 Taylor requirements - to have failed to meet them would have led to Tynecastle having a much reduced capacity (none of the terraced areas would have been allowed to have been used), a factor which could have put Hearts out of business.
In 2001, Uefa entered a consultation phase with Europe's football authorities about implementing proposals for a Club Licensing Scheme; a system comparable to an 'Investors in People ISO 9000'. A comprehensive paper, it covers criteria for infrastructure, sport and youth coaching, legislative and administration, finances, codes of practice, and sets standards for any Club hoping to participate in European football competitions; for example, under the Scheme's criteria, had they qualified, Motherwell would not have been permitted entry to Uefa competition because of their financial problems.
In 2002, Uefa formulated guidelines following a consultation process, and devolved management and authority of these criteria to the individual Football Associations. The SFA began adopting the licensing procedures in Season 2002-'03 and, currently, Hearts have a conditional and annual license. Although the license has been granted, unlike Rangers who have an unconditional license, we have a conditional one because we have a number of non-conforming items within the various criteria - our playing area (including the pitch size and run-off area), a lack of scoreboard, and the need for a secondary power supply or back-up generator - ours is currently linked directly to the main sub-station, and so we need our own one which can be run independently. 2006 is the deadline for the power supply and scoreboard criteria, but the pitch size is a major problem.
Uefa's specified playing area (i.e. white lines to white lines) should be 105m long by 68m wide, while ours is currently 98m x 68m. Furthermore, there needs to be an extra 1.5m of grass around the edge of the pitch, plus a further 5m of run-off area; this makes the total area required 120m x 80m.
Although the area of the playing surface is not essential in itself, the major issues are the safety of the players, officials and spectators. For example, I'm sure you were all here a year ago when we beat Hibs 5-1 in the derby; yes? Well, you'll remember that John O'Neil of Hibs was injured in front of the Section N part of the enclosure, when he fell and collided with an advertising board - he broke a bone in his shoulder, and I'm sure Uefa would not be impressed were anyone to suffer a similar injury during a European match here. The lack of a run-off track and the potential for collision with an advertising hoarding or even a spectator is a major concern.
So, can Tynecastle be adapted to meet the new regulations? What about this argument I often hear, about removing 2 rows of seats at the front of the stands? Well, unfortunately, that just isn't an option; although the seats could go the concrete steps they're on would remain. Also the concrete pillars at the corners could not be removed - we've covered them with protective padding but this would not be acceptable under Uefa regulations. To achieve the required dimensions would mean 8 rows of seats in each of the stands would have to be removed, and structurally this is not possible. The width requirements could be achieved if we were to rebuild the Main Stand further back, but this would leave large gaps between it and the end stands. Other options might include the demolition of the Roseburn Stand and its reconstruction further back, closer to the School. However, the School is a "B"-Listed building, and so any work on that site might be impossible.
The SFA currently accept our pitch size, and Uefa have a policy of derogation so it would be eligible for Uefa matches, but the simple facts are we do not comply with the required dimensions and cannot rely on year-on-year approvals of non-conformance. If we chose to rebuild the stadium, we would never be able to raise the necessary finance to even build a new Main Stand - that would require a 2-tiered structure, with club offices and extensive corporate and hospitality facilities. The build cost would be estimated at circa. £8m, while we would be required to purchase the land behind the current Main Stand - the offices, the Social Work building, as well as the Nursery. Under statutes the City authorities would not be allowed to sell any land owned by them to the Club on the cheap; it just wouldn't happen. Taking land value into account, purchasing extra ground needed could add £2m or £3m onto the project's costs.
So, is there an option to rebuild Tynecastle and remain in Gorgie? We've looked into this, primarily though the potential exploitation of the land surrounding the stadium, but costs would be huge and would be even larger than the costs to build a brand, new, out-of-town stadium. There are also safety considerations we have to consider. As you may be aware the Chemical factory round the corner owned by McFarlane and Smith has a license to legally manufacture narcotics. Under new health and safety regulations, there is a safe zone that must be placed round the factory, and as the Wheatfield Stand's Section G clearly falls within this zone we would be unable to re-develop it. If there were flats on the Tynecastle site then it would not be a problem, as there might only be a dozen or so people in a block, but with a football match you're looking at about 15,000 people and its this high density of people that could be at risk that could prevent redevelopment under health and safety stipulations.
What are the alternative options open to us? Well, currently we are in a fortunate position to still be awarded a safety certificate for the Main Stand. Asbestos has been detected in the roof, and as it is so old and brittle we've had to install netting under it in case of any bits falling in. The floors are still made from the original timber and so could constitute a clear fire hazard, while the exits are very narrow, something which could prove dangerous were we to evacuate the Stand in the event of an emergency.
We have conducted extensive land searches for any potential site within the City boundaries, one big enough and accessible for the demands of a large football stadium. The result of this search is that there are no suitable sites available to us. We did work alongside City planners to put the Braehead site forward as an option, but that failed on planning grounds, and safety considerations as it would have been so close to the airport flight paths. There was a site examined in the Ingliston area; I won't name the individual landowner involved as that wouldn't be fair, but we were in discussions about a large site close to Edinburgh airport and the Royal Highland Showground. However, any land deal was not achievable, while planning application could have gone on for many years with no guarantee of a positive outcome.
Regarding Greenbelt options, the City of Edinburgh Council advised us that building on the Greenbelt was impossible due to recent planning guidelines and Greenbelt legislation set by the Scottish Executive. We are unable to develop anywhere along the Greenbelt to the west or south-west of Edinburgh, and so the only remaining option left anywhere close to this as possible is at Straiton. The land to the west of the city, out by the Gogar roundabout and beyond, is simply sacrosanct for town planners - the only successful development out that way has been the new HBOS H.Q., but that was due to them redeveloping the site of the old Gogar hospital, which had the added benefit of being screened by dense trees. And besides, the City are hardly going to turn down a huge and prestigious international company from keeping their company H.Q. and thousands in the Edinburgh area&ldots;.
What about Murrayfield? Certainly, it has to be considered - it's within walking distance of Tynecastle and is a state-of-the-art stadium. However, there are a number of factors which might pose problems.
Firstly, there is the issue of the size of the ground and the affect it would have on the atmosphere at matches - it's a huge stadium and the crowds might feel lost in it. There is also no concourse or catering facilities at Murrayfield. Rugby isn't like football, and its fans don't really eat Pies or Bovril - they eat their tuna sandwiches in the car park before the games. We would have to try to install catering outlets, possibly suspending them from the girders, but that would require extensive structural and engineering work. The running track by the West Stand would keep the crowd a long way, away from the action. I saw a few Claymores matches when they played at Murrayfield, and while you might not have any problem in the East Stand, if you are in the West Stand you are a long way back from the pitch. The surface might have difficulties coping with the demands of both football and rugby being played on it, while Murrayfield itself is on a flood plain and as we saw recently there is a danger of the whole stadium being flooded and the pitch ruined.
The Club did consider Murrayfield - we had to. But, we reluctantly turned it down. We are concerned that the Club's move has to be absolutely right, and felt that Murrayfield didn't have good enough facilities for a football audience.
Whenever a Greenbelt site for a football stadium is located, it raises issues about location, transport links, and the surrounding infrastructure. Straiton would certainly be a break from tradition for us all; I'm sure we can all close our eyes and picture our favourite games, favourite players or favourite goals here at Tynecastle, but Straiton offers us a way forward, a modern alternative. It would be a state-of-the-art stadium - it would be a modern, all-enclosed arena (you'd find it wouldn't just be 4 separate stands, with 4 floodlight pylons). There would be thousands of car parking spaces - potentially up to 4,000 - and high quality facilities for both supporters and those in corporate hospitality. Obviously there would be concerns about traffic and ease of access to the site, and the project would clearly have to deliver access for both home and away supporters. We would have to ensure there are adequate parking, public transport links, and even rapid transport to the stadium available to all.
People are concerned about potential congestion or trouble getting there. Well, we would offer early advice, encouraging all supporters to try to make their way to the ground as soon as was possible. There is also a worry that the nearby commercial outlets, like Sainsbury or IKEA, would add any problem of access. I suspect that would be self-regulatory; what I mean by that is just because the husband is going to the football at Straiton, doesn't mean the wife will be going shopping at IKEA at the same time. Just like if there is a big event going on in town people might avoid any congestion by going out the Gyle or somewhere else, people would not still flock to these shops and you would probably find that IKEA and the like would actually be quiet when a match is being played. A slip road from the bypass would definitely need to be constructed as a necessity for ease of access to the new site.
We carried out a detailed study concerning postcode analysis, to establish where fans lived and how they'd find transport to games at Straiton; the same study that caused such an outcry not so long ago. Although some might not like it, the fact is that less than 2,700 supporters on our database live in a City postcode which is not adjacent to the bypass. The perception is that all Hearts fans come from Edinburgh - that just isn't the case. The reality is that more come to matches from the Lothians, from Fife and beyond, than actually come from Edinburgh. We do accept, however, that there can be no assumption that living outside Edinburgh will mean you have an easier travel to Straiton.
Another argument against a move concerns the lack of Pubs at Straiton, and the tradition of a pre-match drink. Again, the perception is that every Hearts fan goes to the pub before a match, but the reality is that we estimate only 20 - 30% maximum of match-goers go to pubs in Gorgie and the surrounding area. Now some of you might not drink in Gorgie but somewhere else before games - the new stadium will offer licensed premises on a significant scale, so people will still be able to have pre-match drinks, only this time they can have it right at the ground.
The area surrounding the stadium will grow with landscaping and become a pleasant environment where people will want to come to watch their football. It is well located, and offers great views to the Pentland Hills and surrounding countryside. We would also be looking to install an artificial surface at the Stadium. As you know, Dunfermline will be using an artificial pitch this season and Uefa very much see this as the future for playing surfaces. I'm not knocking the ground staff here, they do a great job in maintaining the pitch, but you come in here midweek, come down the tunnel and you'll find "keep off the grass" signs. We cannot go near the pitch during the week for fear it'll get damaged - we can only use it on match days. Synthetic surfaces have improved greatly, and with one at Straiton we could use it all-week long - you could have teams hiring to play on it, you could have marquees laid out on it for special events, it gives us more opportunities.
As for the suitability of the site, I've heard some justified concerns about the old mines in the area. However, the mining hasn't deterred or posed problems for the likes of IKEA, Costco, or Sainsbury's. It is a concern, but we would have the best engineering advice available to us on this matter. It would also be incumbent on those engineers to make sure we received the best and most reliable information available; if anything happened they would be liable for it. The colour of the seats has not been decided yet, although Rod Petrie joked that they could be speckled maroon and green, but nothing has been decided yet. There also aren't any definite plans for the Clubs to permanently occupy different ends of the stadium. It would certainly make away matches against Hibs a whole new experience.
So, why should we consider sharing with Hibs? Yes, Tom Farmer is the landowner out at Straiton, but he is the landowner along with 2 other businessmen. The land at Straiton will not cost Hearts or Hibs anything. Would there be any loss of identity for us? A move would be cost-effective and cost saving; currently, Tynecastle is only used 20-30 times a year - it is underused and it is extremely hard for us to generate any extra revenue from it. Also, both Clubs would operate at their separate training facilities - we'll have the Academy at Riccarton, and I don't really care what Hibs have; if they want to train at Portobello, fine, let them train there, I don't care. The Clubs would also maintain there own separate offices and administration, though we have looked at the possibility of establishing joint shops and ticketing outlets, both at Straiton and in Edinburgh city centre.
We've visited and looked at new stadia in England and Europe, and Clubs have prospered with moves such as the one we're considering. Fans are able to easily get to grounds thanks to the provision of transport out of town. Just ask supporters of Derby County, Southampton, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland; ask them if they'd want to give up their new grounds and return to the old ones. Ask them and they'll tell you, "No". Yes, it will be a huge wrench to leave Tynecastle. It's a bit of a conundrum that the rebuilding of Tynecastle, making it such an enclosed theatre with an imposing atmosphere, is one of the main reasons we have to move. The move would also make it possible for us to clear our debt and start afresh. There is a chance the new stadium may be funded by a separate entity - the daily use of the stadium (i.e. the hiring of conference facilities, the hiring of the pitch, etc.) would help contribute towards the total build costs. It is an opportunity for the Club to grow, to find new commercial opportunities, to increase the capacity and fanbase, and for us to meet any Uefa criteria and standards.
To sum up, we can't breathe or expand at Tynecastle, but we can custom build a new home to suit our needs. We want to give Hearts supporters the best facilities available, as well as maintaining a competitive team on the park. Is it a done deal? No, nothing has been finalised or committed to. It is, however, a deal that can be done.
The Chairman (Ali Hibberd) thanks Chris Robinson for the presentation, and concedes that even if we don't agree with the issue we certainly have been better informed about it. There now follows a question-and-answer session, with anyone with a pertinent query able to confront Robinson; though we are all encouraged to be as brief as possible.
Question: If we have to move away to meet regulations so we can play in Europe, is that not an expensive option? In our entire history, we've only ever played 26 home matches in European competitions - 27 this season. Rather than build a new ground, is Murrayfield not an option for us to stage European games?
Answer: (Chris Robinson) No, it's not a possibility. Only in exceptional circumstances could one be allowed to move grounds to stage European matches. At the start of every season, we have to register our ground with the SFA and, once registered, that is the only ground we can play at for that season. You'll remember when Celtic Park was being rebuilt Celtic played at Hampden - well, even if the rebuild had been completed ahead of schedule, in say April, Celtic would still have had to play that season out at Hampden. As it happens, if we were to stage Euro matches away from Tynecastle, Easter Road would be my preferred option to generate an atmosphere for a football game. We were also concerned that a move to Murrayfield would mean a lack of atmosphere and this leading to a loss of supporters. The difference between a stadium with a 67,000-capacity and our average gate from last season of 12,000 is vast.
Q: (From representatives of the Hearts Supporters' Trust) A recent survey of the members of the Hearts Supporters' Trust found that there was a clear "No" to the proposals for a move to Straiton. However, what we also found was that 75% were unaware of the details for the proposals, and how they might impact on the local area. Will you try to make the presentation you have just given more readily available to the majority of supporters?
A: (CR) Yes&ldots;.. Sorry, Ali asked me to be brief, so yes we would invite any interested parties amongst the Hearts support to come and look at our proposals. However, we have to look at the Club's economic case rather than any local socio-political issues - you might find that some locals might actually want us to leave Gorgie.
Q: Are we being forced to leave Gorgie out of choice, or are we being forced out by factors such as the European issue.
A: (CR) It's not an easy answer. After all the achievements we made in the late 1990's - rebuilding the stadium, challenging for the league, winning the Cup, back into Europe - it was a bit of a shock to suddenly receive this huge Uefa document, requiring accounts, cash flow, transfer details, Craig Levein to get a coaching badge, etc., and to find that we don't have a lot of things they require. The scoreboard isn't a serious issue, but the back-up power supply is. We have to make a judgement on whether Tynecastle is good enough to meet the criteria. To buy the land behind the Main Stand would cost £2m and any building work would be well over £8m. Some people don't come to Tynecastle because of access issues, others because of behavioural problems, and some because of the Old Firm. The Board have to look at whether they would be justified in spending £8m on the stadium and whether it is in our best interests to remain in Gorgie.
Q: If Murrayfield was to be an option, could it not be possible to section off the parts of the stadium that are not getting used?
A: (CR) That was one of the first things we looked at. The bottom tier of Murrayfield alone can hold 30,000, and so it would require an engineering solution to install banners and screens to create the impression of a smaller stadium. It might be possible, but I suspect it's an imperfect solution to the problem.
Q: If, as it is looking increasingly likely, Hibs don't agree to share, will this cost Hearts more?
A: (CR) Yes, it would cost us twice as much.
Q: You spoke about installing rapid transport links to Straiton, but where will you put them?
A: (CR) The road to Straiton has been designated as part of the new Tram routes into the city, and would incorporate a new, rapid tram service. We might have to subsidise Bus Companies, to get them to start up services from the City centre out to the Stadium via the main trunk routes. There's nothing to say we couldn't even put on buses for supporters from Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, Stirling, the Lothians, Fife and further afield. I'm not here, tonight, to tell you how it will be done, but rather why it should be done.
Q: Taking into account the land behind the Main Stand, what would be the total area of land available for redevelopment at Tynecastle?
A: (CR) Were you to include the buildings behind the Stand, plus the Roads' Depot, you could have up to 12-15 acres, but the Tynecastle site is only 6.5 acres.
Q: Would the scheme still be viable without Hibs?
A: (CR) I'm not here to comment on what the case is at Hibs. However, from next season the Uefa Cup will transform into a group format, with small groups similar to the Champions League. You also won't play everyone in your group twice - you'll have 2 home matches and 2 away matches. Now, you might say, "sod Europe - we'll just stay at Tynecastle", but look at the evidence. The VFB Stuttgart game was the most profitable game in the Club's entire history. It was more than the TV revenue generated by both teams for the Scottish Cup Final, and the earnings from that 1 game were worth half of our Season Ticket revenue. I do not underestimate the impact European football can have on this Club.
Q: Regarding the eradication of our debt, how much would be wiped off the Club's debt? Also, there are rumours of the Council redeveloping Meadowbank, with football, rugby, and athletics being staged there; would you care to comment on those?
A: (CR) A significant proportion could be wiped off our debts - I won't make a rod for my back by giving a precise figure. We had hoped to come out and announce our plans by ourselves, but it would appear you can't talk to councillors in this City and expect them not to talk to Radio Forth! Meadowbank would not be adequate as a football stadium and it, too, poses transport problems. It's just that, rumours. The commerciality of Hearts can't be held up by an athletics track - football just doesn't sit well with other sports, with issues of access and priority. It's a great idea of a huge sports campus, but I can't see it coming to fruition.
Q: People have suggested that you are only looking to sell Tynecastle to protect your investment. What's your view on that?
A: (CR) My job is to do my best for Hearts, and by doing that I'll be doing the best for my investment in Hearts. I just wouldn't be allowed to sell Tynecastle if it wasn't for the best of the Club.
Q: Do we have to move- a simple answer, yes or no? Also, you said that Roseburn School is a listed building but don't know what part of it and why. Should you not do some more research into that?
A: (CR) The Club believes that we have no alternative, and the sooner we move the better for our future. Regarding the School, Historic Scotland, who deal with listed buildings, will not tell you the precise details until you give an application for redevelopment. "B"-Listing means that it wouldn't be impossible for us to demolish the site, but simply acquiring the site would be a major problem.
Q: What's your reaction to Ernie Walker - who is now head of Uefa's Stadium Group - and his quotes that it would be "inconceivable" for Hearts to have their license refused by the SFA? Also, is there any possibility of developing out at Riccarton?
A: (CR) I've not seen Ernie Walker's quotes and I suppose they depend on what questions he's been asked. Certainly, I do know that he wouldn't allow any 2004 or 2008 matches to be staged at Tynecastle as it is. Non-conformity is a problem for us with all regulators. There would also be no possibility of building a new ground at Riccarton.
Q: (Ali Hibberd) Who would actually own any new ground? Tynecastle is seen as an asset of the Club, so would any new stadium be considered an asset by the Banks were it to be shared between Hearts and Hibs?
A: (CR) The likelihood is that the stadium would be owned by a third party, with Hearts and Hibs major shareholders - our equity would be owning shares in the stadium. It is possible the stadium could be built on a PFI basis, with the Clubs being tenants and renting it on 25 or 30-year deals. It's what we do on the premises, rather than sitting on real estate, that provide security on the debt; for example, Hotels don't own their own Hotels, but usually lease them. Football Clubs are not in the position to create significant sums of debt like they have over recent years. Clubs should have learnt lessons that will take effect over the foreseeable future.
Q: Can you clarify the current state of the share price?
A: (CR) The share price is 15.5p, simple as that. When we floated in 1997, it was on the back of the wave of enthusiasm for football and football flotations. Our price did start high (well over £1), but the problem Hearts have is that there is no fluidity amongst the shares - there is no great interest to deal shares. This means the Company price keeps coming down and doesn't reflect the performance of the business. The trade of around 2% of the shares knocked the price from 24p to 15.5p. We are not unique in the football or small company sector.
Q: (Peter Wilson - former Forum Chairman) You've sold the deal reasonably well tonight, but I have a number of misgivings. You said you had investigated the old mine workings in the Straiton area, and said that other companies in the area have had no problems. However, I know for a fact that there have been examples of dangerous subsidence occurring, and I feel that further investigation of this matter is possibly needed. You also are concerned about traffic access, but not all supporters have cars while the city have waited for years for the establishment of good transport links. What guarantees are there that they'll be in place for any stadium at Straiton? Previous attempts to build slip-roads there have been refused, so what makes you think one will be permitted just to be used on a Saturday afternoon?
A: (CR) As a former local politician, you'll be well aware that people have had the opportunity to deliver. There is no reason to believe transport links won't be delivered, but they're something I can't guarantee. Whatever happens, the Club have to ensure there are interim transport solutions. Regarding the old mine workings, those who would be investigating the matter would have the responsibility for providing the necessary and accurate advice. There is piling under Costco and IKEA, but it is rare to find a perfect Greenfield site - whether you have to perform piling or landscaping action of some sort will always have to be taken. We have been advised that permission would be granted for a slip-road, and a study into the A701 leads us to believe that it could be built. Also, a new Football Stadium might well hold great weight in any debate.
Q: Did the Club consider the possibility of re-siting at the Waterfront?
A: (CR) We did look to the area near Granton, but access and land limitation would merely create just as many problems as we face here.
Q: If the Stadium was to be build as a PFI project, would it just go to one, single contractor, and would there not be a danger of facing potential problems, just as the Royal Infirmary are experiencing?
A: (CR) I'm not aware of any problems faced by the new R.I. It would not be a direct PFI project but based on a similar model. It would be built in line with one business plan, with consultants working on it. We've had to engage with transport, environmental, structural engineering consultancies, and with 6 other consultants over various relevant issues. Yes, it is on a Greenbelt site, but it is one with a greater chance of development that any site on the other side of the City. We have identified consultants but won't employ anyone until all the figures have been collated. The Club will not be stitched up by anyone over this and what we want is a top-class football facility.
Q: (Ali Hibberd) As far as the Forum Committee is concerned, we would urge the Club to consult with as wide a range of the support as is possible on this issue. As it is the biggest move in the Club's history, we feel it is incumbent on the Board to go out and explain the proposals to as many people as possible. An idea may be to hold some roadshows, like we did a couple of years ago. We also believe there should be a consultative ballot taken; although we accept that Plc rules mean the Board has the right to make decisions it feels are in the best interests of the shareholders. The questions on any ballot paper should be decided after discussions with all interested parties. The most important question should be something along the lines of, "would you still be a supporter of Hearts if the Club moved to Straiton?"
There are various other questions from the Floor, covering the lack of information from the Club, no desire to follow the plight of the likes of Airdrie or St. Johnstone, and a final question wondering if a move would be possible were Hibs to withdraw any interest in the venture?
A: (CR) It would be much easier for both Clubs to be involved in the process. We have been looking at single-club solutions for a number of years and didn't expect Hibs to be interested. They joined us now because of their financial situation, but if they can't get support for joining us then we still have to find a solution for ourselves. It might make things harder, but that will just mean we have to crunch numbers harder. We have to deliver a better solution for the club.
As the meeting draws to a close, Ali Hibberd motions for a vote to be taken about creating a consultative ballot among all branches of the Hearts fanbase to find out the opinion on the Straiton proposal - it is passed with a clear majority, only one person opposed to this. The raffle draw is made by Stewart Fraser (who remained pretty quiet all through the meeting), before Ali Hibberd officially closes the meeting at 9.30pm, thanking all those supporters present and Chris Robinson for attending.
(Due to a nasty computer virus this article did not appear in NIT issue 58). Here it is in it's entirety
Fans shafted by another Tynecastle departure.
No not Niemi, who'se loss to the club was a major blow but in the end almost inevitable. I am talking about Colin Sked, the clubs Customer Services manager who was recently made redundant along with Dougie Dalgleish who was in charge of communications. Apparently they were given the chop as part of a major cost cutting exercise so it does really make you wonder how bad the finances of Hearts are?
It really does amaze me that Colin has gone as he provided the vital link between the fans and the club that for so many years has been missing. I know personally that Colin has personally taken on and resolved many issues that I have had exceeding my expectations on all occasions. He also helped our supporters club by mailing all fans on their database with postcodes in the area that we cover. This undoubtedly led to more fans coming on our bus and therefore more gate money for Hearts.
I really cannot think of anyone who has a bad word to say about him. A few months back there was a posting on Kickback, the fans forum on the Official Hearts website. It was titled "Colin Sked, probably the most popular man at Tynecastle". It has scores of messages praising the guy and the message weren't just from Edinburgh the came from all corners of the globe.
Finally if things are as bad as they appear to be with the finances could there have been an alternative. Well here's an idea. Why not get rid of Doug Smith? I for one don't seem to know what he does as the club other than say "Yes Chris". Our esteemed CEO could then take over the rains of Chairman once again and take a 25K pay cut. Although I don't know for sure I would have thought that Colin and Dougie were on approx 25 to 30K so these measures could have kept both of them in a job. Guys that I am sure in the eyes of most fans done a lot more for the club than Doug Smith or the Pieman.
Good luck Colin and Dougie, I am sure that wherever you end up your new employers gain will once again be Hearts loss.
GOOD ARTICLE FROM THE SCOTSMAN
How the Big Two were led into a trap
AS THE sharp-suited representatives of the Old Firm made their way up the steps of Hampden Park yesterday, they looked in a confident mood. After all, Ian McLeod and John McClelland had every right to feel it would be just another day when they would get their way.
Arriving simultaneously in flash cars, Mr McLeod, the chief executive of Celtic, and Mr McClelland, the vice-chairman of Rangers, had made the same short journeys across Glasgow eight days before, to veto the concept of a Scottish football television channel.
That day, their business was completed briskly, in about ten minutes, and the men would not have expected yesterdays reconvened meeting to be any less smooth.
Mr McLeod and Mr McClelland addressed the attendant media pack on the national stadiums front steps, smiling and grasping briefcases with the kind of authority their predecessors have been oozing for more than a century.
It was 10am, and by midday the affair was still going swimmingly. All 12 clubs of the Scottish Premier League had accepted a recommendation by the chairman, Lex Gold, to suspend the vote on terrestrial television rights that had been the purpose of yesterdays rendez-vous, and there followed an expansive and useful discussion about the whole issue of media rights, and where each party stands.
The Old Firm and the other ten clubs could not have been more at loggerheads - the big two having scuppered the SPL TV channel idea the others had been salivating over - yet here was a boardroom full of rival factions empathising with one anothers perspective.
It was to be a day for productive dialogue, not fractious voting. Yet the Old Firm had underestimated their opponents. They had reckoned without the possibility of an ambush.
With precious little warning, Chris Robinson, the chief executive of Hearts, asked Mr Gold for an adjournment. He wanted, said Mr Robinson, to spend half an hour or so in private with the other nine provincial club governors.
Mr McLeod and Mr McClelland had been excluded from the other clubs collective activities all week, just as they had hidden themselves away in plotting the collaboration to scupper SPL TV, yet this sudden need for the others to confer in private must still have come as a surprise. "The meeting had gone very, very well up to that point," grimaced Mr McClelland afterwards.
When the group of ten returned, they provided the Old Firm with the kind of ultimatum that hundreds of football administrators over the years must have dearly wished they had had the courage to impart.
Here was Mr Robinson of Hearts telling Rangers and Celtic - yes, Rangers and Celtic - that their presence within the game was no longer a necessity. After years of accelerating dependence on the paying masses that accompany Scotlands two biggest clubs, and years of their position allowing them to dictate the direction of the national game and assume everyone else would follow, here were the peasants piping up with a courageous revolution.
"Under any other business," announced Mr Robinson, at a press conference later, "the ten clubs sitting around this platform intimated to the chairman that we are to give two full seasons notice of our resignation, under Act A.81 of the rules of the SPL."
Mr McLeod and Mr McClelland have been working with their respective employers less than a year each, but this outburst must still have caused their jaws to lower. They joined Rangers and Celtic in order to help turn them into global forces, not to see their authority questioned in their own, downtrodden backyard.
Mr McLeod, to his great credit, did not explode at all. In a quietly professional manner, he asked that because the other clubs were just declaring an intent, rather than walking out of the door and slamming it shut, would they be prepared to discuss their grievances before doing anything hasty?
This rational request was accepted, and the ten agreed to come back and talk. They are serious about the prospect of going it alone, but remain open to persuasion, and would dearly love this discourse to take the form of a plea.
Mr McLeod and Mr McClelland, after no doubt leaving the SPL boardroom in a mild state of confusion, had rediscovered those camera-friendly smiles by the time they returned to the foyer.
"It is a serious issue, but we have a long time to discuss it and get it resolved," said Mr McClelland, talking like a new Ibrox manager who has just seen his side hustled out of the Scottish Cup by a First Division side.
This was the first personal setback of his Rangers career, and Mr McClelland was forced to resort to instinctive diplomacy. The triumphant ten, sitting in a long row on the platform of a fifth-floor suite, had already indulged in entertaining a media audience more used to hearing them mourn terminal afflictions.
It was a day of distorted odds, role reversals and brave new worlds. The threats may come to nothing, and the old powers resurface even stronger, but there was the whiff of a sea-change that will at least linger until the next 5-0 cuffing by one of the Glasgow giants.
But some within the Scottish game will remember this day as the one that proved to the cowering classes what can be achieved with a little pluck. Although the Old Firm were diplomatic in response, they were very definitely miffed.
"When you go from a constructive discussion about media rights to a sudden adjournment, and then ten clubs indicating their intention to resign from the SPL, you have to believe that it was already predetermined prior to them coming into the meeting," lamented Mr McLeod.
Yet the Celtic chief was in no position to use this as a criticism. The small clubs, scorned a week earlier by the kind of closed-door alliances more common to episodes of Channel 4s Survivor, had simply beaten the Old Firm at their own game.
Trooping down the steps with pursed lips and creased brows, the sharp-dressing aristocrats of Glasgows football superpowers did not exactly leave Hampden with egg on their faces, but they might have retreated struggling to fathom exactly what had hit them.
ITS A TOUGH ONE TO FORECAST
Scenario 1: Celtic and Rangers refuse to join other ten clubs in forming a new league in two years time and join English Premiership instead.
Likelihood: Very low. Last year, the English Premiership clubs voted 20-0 against the idea of admitting the Old Firm. UEFA could also object.
Verdict: Sleep easy in Manchester, London, Liverpool etc.
Scenario 2: Celtic and Rangers refuse to join other ten clubs in forming a new league and join Nationwide League instead.
Likelihood: A possibility if Old Firm cannot reach an agreement with Scottish clubs, but this would not be their favoured option because it would deny them entry to European competitions for at least two seasons. And UEFA would block it.
Verdict: About as attractive a proposition as ITV Digital.
Scenario 3: Celtic and Rangers refuse to join other ten clubs in forming a new league and have no-one to play against.
Likelihood: Old Firm clubs said yesterday they would not allow themselves to end up in no-mans-land.
Verdict: More chance of Celtic and Rangers merging.
Scenario 4: Celtic and Rangers lodge resignations with SPL and join the other ten clubs in a new league with reduced voting and income distribution rights.
Likelihood: Very difficult to see Old Firm agreeing to a two-thirds majority voting structure . But if they have nowhere else to go, the Old Firm could be held to ransom.
Verdict: Good each-way bet.
Scenario 5: Old Firm use next two years to negotiate European league place.
Likelihood: Stronger possibility than before because door has now been opened for them to leave. UEFA could grant permission if clubs successfully argue they have been cut adrift.
Verdict: Dont order your euros yet.
Scenario 6: All 12 clubs reach a compromise, allowing the SPL to continue.
Likelihood: High. The ten clubs wont lodge resignation letters for another month and if they do, there will be another two years to reach a deal. A compromise looks in everyones interests.
Verdict: Home win.
GOOD RIDDANCE (by Craig Young)
No doubts about where the talking points are in Scottish Football. The SPL Clubs have finally told the Old Firm to GTF (something most fans have been saying for some years now).
Since Hearts won the Cup in 1998, here's how the trophies have been shared.
That's the last 12 consecutive trophies. Unless someone stop the rot, in the years to come, remember the answer to the quiz question "what was the last team to win a major trophy outside the Old Firm?".
(Incidentally, its the same answer as the answer to the question "what was the last Scottish team to reach a major European trophy Quarter final"? That's right, the mighty Jam Tarts