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.