Hearts owner Ann Budge hailed a ‘momentous’ day after the club were awarded planning permission to build a new £12 million main stand, and revealed she had serious misgivings over whether the project would ever get off the ground.
The 68-year-old businesswoman also praised the benevolence of individual Hearts supporters after disclosing that unnamed individuals are putting forward £3 million of their own money to fund the redevelopment.
Budge addressed council officials at the City Chambers in Edinburgh yesterday morning during a tense meeting that lasted just over an hour, and was thrilled when the planning committee gave their unanimous backing for the plans.
The council’s decision was warmly welcomed by the club’s fans following over a decade of uncertainty surrounding the stadium.
In 2004, then Hearts owner Chris Robinson controversially agreed to sell the ground to house builders Cala for £22 million and groundshare at neighbouring Murrayfield.
Robinson’s successor Vladimir Romanov halted that switch but the Lithuanian businessman’s ambitious £51 million plans for a new main stand never got off the drawing board.
“It is momentous,” declared Budge, who joined forces with the Foundation of Hearts to help take the club out of administration in 2014.
“It is a sense of relief because it has been a lot of hard work.
“There have been a few frustrations along the way and at times I thought: ‘This is never going to happen.’
“Some of our supporters perhaps jumped the gun a bit and were assuming it was already a done deal as soon as the hearing was announced. I can assure you we knew it was not a done deal.
“We still had to convince the planning committee to approve it, so there was a degree of nervousness.
“There were some similarities to coming out of administration because when we were trying to get the CVA through, there were also last-minute hurdles. It was two steps forward and one step back.
“The fact we have approval now is fantastic. Of course, it’s just the beginning of the real hard work. We’re raring to go.
“It’s really important because for how long have people being saying: ‘What’s going to happen about Tynecastle, are we moving, are we staying?’
“It’s really important for the district, the Gorgie and Dalry area.
“Without Tynecastle, what else is there in that part of Edinburgh? We’re also really close to the city.
“We’re a city-centre club and we have to behave like one. That means looking after the community as well as our own supporters, plus taking a pride in Edinburgh. That’s what we want to do.”
Budge also revealed how successful unnamed Hearts fans are gifting the club £3 million to help fund the new stand.
Supporters group the Foundation of Hearts have also committed £3 million to the cost and, taking into account money the club has in the bank, Budge is confident of securing the rest of the capital to ensure that the project does not leave Hearts in debt.
She added: “We have a commitment from the FoH to contribute £3 million. We have a number of benefactors who will, in total, cover another £3 million.
“That’s 50 per cent of the funding from supporters and benefactors. The benefactors are basically philanthropic givings, which is very generous.
“It’s hard to believe at times, the generosity of some of the Hearts supporters. It is quite amazing.
“These people want to see a successful Hearts. Of course, they are Hearts supporters, so they want to see Hearts being successful on the pitch.
“But more than that, they want Hearts achieving it’s potential as a business and a club – and really playing at the levels they believe we should be playing at.
“That really means we need to have a very solid financial base and business base to support everything that goes on at the club.
“We have managed the club carefully over the last two years so we also have a reasonably healthy bank balance.
“There is a small (funding) gap and we have a number of plans afoot, which we will now accelerate to fill that gap. It’s an amount we are more that confident we can raise through the club.”