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Monday, October 31, 2005

Board control breaking the fans' Hearts

Hearts began to take on the monopoly enjoyed by Celtic and Rangers in the Scottish Premier League, with an unbeaten record from 12 leagues games so far. George Burley came to Tynecastle from Derby County in the summer and the side took on form from the start of the season. Their one defeat under Burley came in the CIS Insurance Cup to Livingston, whom they had beaten in the league previously. Then suddenly, after 10 games in charge, unbeaten, top of the league, Burley leaves Hearts over "irreconcilable differences" with Lithuanian major shareholder Vladimir Romanov.

Today the chief executive Phil Anderton was sacked, allegedly after a board decision, and the chairman George Foulkes resigned in protest to the sacking. Romanov's son, Roman Romanov, is to take over the position of chairman, and that of chief executive "on a temporary basis... pending a further appointment".

Foulkes stated "I'm devastated at the way in which some of my colleagues on the board took a decision against my advice to sack Phil Anderton as chief executive. I was unhappy last week about the sacking of George Burley but we got bounced into it and we had to go along with it. And this weekend we get another situation where all weekend we've had the Lithuanians trying to twist my arm into going along with the sacking of Phil Anderton. I just don't want to be part of that. I just find the ruthlessness unacceptable."

Hearts suffered their first league defeat against Hibernian on Saturday, the third game in charge for caretaker John McGlynn. Romanov stated he didn't think the chairman and chief executive had performed well enough in the interest of the club. "They've had over one year and not been able to do the things I've wanted to do for Hearts. They've had the funds and all my energy but I've not had the response I've wanted."

"I have no intention of walking away from Hearts at this time."

I'm not aware anyone has suggested to Romanov if he would. He is said to have offered to buy out the other shareholders. Romanov mentioned "they", though the initial board decision only concerned Anderton's position, not Foulkes'. Foulkes would still be chairman right now, unless he also resigned because he felt his position was under threat constructively from Romanov's influence, as well as in protest to Anderton's sacking. In other words, Foulkes would still be chairman, contradicting Romanov's opinion of him, for if the chairman was performing in contrast to the interests of the club, why keep him on? Any board decision would concern both positions.

When Burley departed, Foulkes said: "It is important that we look to the future. The club is greater than any individual. We want to compete with Celtic and Rangers for a Champions League place and we will take the time necessary to find a top class manager. Naturally, I'm not happy at having to make this statement but there is no point looking to the past.

"We are determined to go from strength to strength."

It seems bizarre, for want of a better word. Burley has turned the fortunes of the club instantly, they topped the league, held Celtic to a draw, beaten Rangers. One league defeat isn't an instant catastrophe but the writing is emerging on the wall with the backroom fiasco. The manager, chief executive, the chairman, gone not in 60 seconds but 9 days. No doubt a change in management staff if or when a new manager comes in, and the no.1 spot has been claimed by Celtic over the weekend. It's sounding messy. And if results begin to go negative, the fans will launch blame at the board, who will then want to turn to Mr Romanov to complain and then realise they can't.

After Burley's exit was announced, one fan is quoted to have said "Let's just hope Romanov knows what he is doing."

After the announcement of the chief executive and chairman having left too, another is quoted: "Do you honestly think Hearts have to be successful for Romanov to be successful? He has another agenda."

I have to say it sounds very suspicious to me.


Blogger T said...

Certainly bizarre Redsman, thanks for putting the story into a nutshell.

I wonder why Romanov chose a Scottsh Premier League club to invest his money? Don't get me wrong, it is a good league, but surely the potential to attract the best players, best managers, and therefore the best results on a domestic and European stage, is far more limited in Scotland than it is in England.

Was he aware of this when he bought control over Hearts? How knowledgable a football fan is he?

11/01/2005 9:29 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comment would sugest you no little about football, the SPL get two CL places and two UEFA cup places his stated aim is to play in europe so for a small investment £5 or £6m he will get that, if he had a club in the EPL his investment in say a middle of the road club would need to be at least £50 or £60m just to own it and then more for players etc.

11/01/2005 10:16 am

Blogger archdeacon said...

Mr Romanov tried and failed to get involved with a few Scottish clubs before the Jambos.

Hearts have decent potential- decent size support- and their stadium is in a prime location to be sold for houses. If he takes full control I expect Tynecastle to be bulldozed with a year and a new stadium built elsewhere.

I think his plan was get a successful team on the park and the fans would maybe wafer the fact that he planned to sell the stadium all along.

He has raised Hearts profile, but no manager worth his salt will take the job, due to what we have seen in the way Romanov has worked.

Rumours abound up here that he fell out with Anderton after the Hibs game, for Anderton trying to sell him Kevin Keegan as the new manager.

For me that is a sacking offence on it’s own!!!!!!!!

Nice blog will be back

11/01/2005 12:29 pm

Blogger T said...

Anon, if you are right that his aim is to achieve European qualification on the relative cheap (something he has already achieved with FBK Kaunas), why sack Burley when in the process of an excellent run of results necessary to meet this aim?

A club thriving in the SPL has a more limited potential than one thriving in the EPL- and Burley was maximising this limited potential. What more does Romanov want??

Hence the questions I posed above- which are definitely valid in this context.

11/01/2005 12:34 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanx Archdeacon- good to get an authentic Scottish viewpoint on EFT.

Your comments raise more doubts about Mr Romanov's motives and agenda. There is something distastefully clinical about Burley's sacking attached with a confidentialy agreement that leaves fans in the dark; or a life-long Hearts fan like Foulkes being frozen out of the club he loves by someone who maybe only heard about Hearts a few years ago.

11/01/2005 12:53 pm

Blogger Skippy said...

There is something dodgy going on at Hearts. Watch the space.

11/01/2005 2:39 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I have to agree with T, in that I find it bizarre Hearts launch such a good start to the SPL, keeping the main two protagonists at length, under Burley's control, only for the main shareholder, not the chairman or chief executive, to clash with the manager and suddenly Burley leaves, citing a reason meaning he and Romanov didn't get on, either totally or over a particular issue? It has been stated Romanov began to interfere in the transfer dealings. Perhaps Archdeacon or someone can enlighten us as to whether this was the case with previous coach John Robertson. Has Romanov interfered in transfer dealings before? What experience does he have to do so? Because he is the majority shareholder?

Foulkes said no one is bigger than the club. Romanov has contradicted that, both in the board decision and further by offering to buy out the remaining 44.5% shares. Check on the Hearts' official web-site to see the board of directors, mainly in a non-executive role. The majority of them are Lithuanian. Why is this relevant? The obvious answer is the influence one can assume stemming from the majority shareholder. I wonder how they were appointed?

But I feel it for the fans, mainly. Seeing your side emerge strong, unbeaten, 10 games gone and then your manager, who is party to the influence on the good start, leave under bad circumstances with someone who is only linked to the club, not a staff member. His money helps finance the club, but he has claimed nothing in regard to Burley leaving, leaving that instead to long-time supporter Foulkes to clean up, and then Romanov steps up when no one remains to clear up more mess after Foulkes and Anderton leave, saying the chairman and chief executive were not performing enough in the interests of the club.

Foulkes, not in the interests of the club?? I'm pretty tired of influential people making statements that smack of a cover-up, deceit and boardroom treachery, rather than the truth. Romanov helped to clear debts and dissuade the shareholders from opting to sell Tynecastle, but his interest into the club shouldn't read 'invest', for he, Burley, Foulkes and Anderton were part of the cause for taking Hearts to SPL heights. Now it has broken, I hope McGlynn can help keep helm after a damaging 10 days. He said: "At teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona, there is maybe a bit more interference and maybe we're not used to that in Britain. Can any manager work in those circumstances? Only time will tell."

Romanov said after Burley's departure: "I would like to place on record my thanks to George Burley for his input over the past four months. However, we will not be derailed from our ambition to deliver to the fans and the city of Edinburgh a club which is regularly competing at the highest levels of football in Scotland and Europe."

I presume this included sackings of key staff members and the resignation of another.


11/01/2005 5:13 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something is very fishy at Tynecastle and it has very little to do with football. A serious investigation is needed. Let us have a proper background check on Romanovitch.

"Gulag Muiriston"

11/13/2005 4:06 am


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