Big Hearts chairman Jim Panton has today written this open letter to supporters as the charity prepares for significant changes early in 2015, following on from last night’s biggest ever fundraiser held at Tynecastle.
I wanted to take the opportunity to thank supporters after last night’s Big Hearts Big Reunion. We were joined by 360 guests for a night of reminiscence about what we believe makes our club very special. It was a fantastic occasion, and it was terrific to meet so many of you.
It is heartening to be able to tell you that we raised in excess of £13,000 for Big Hearts, our club’s charity.
On behalf of the board of trustees I thank you for your generosity in the night, as we move towards a significant moment in Big Hearts’ history.
Now eight years’ old, Big Hearts has led the way in community strategy at football clubs in Scotland. Indeed half a dozen or so clubs have models which reflect Big Hearts’ approach.
Now is the time for change, and a change we can all be a part of.
The challenges that club has borne in recent years, culminating in Ann Budge’s majority purchase of Hearts, and her unique agreement with the Foundation of Hearts bear reflection of the social conscience Hearts now has. That is a responsibility for all of us.
Last night I was pleased to be able to announce that Ann Budge has accepted an invitation to join the board at Big Hearts Community Trust. In doing so she becomes the first “owner” in our history to commit to playing a significant part in what we do. We are honoured she has agreed to step forward.
As part of further changes we welcome Billy Watson, the chief executive of Scotland’s biggest mental health charity SAMH to join us. A Hearts season ticket holder, Billy brings some of the most extensive charity experience to our board, which will become extremely relevant come the New Year.
Big Hearts is about to change. We are about to do something very different. We see this as our responsibility.
We will redefine what Heart of Midlothian’s community programme is all about.
Big Hearts will become a charity for families. We will re-define the meaning of 'family' within the football community.
Too often being part of a club’s “family” is a (cheap) marketing strategy designed to force supporter sales. For us being part of the “Hearts Family” will be about helping our own, those who are important to us and who have stood by us. We will support families as part of our commitment to the many who support the club.
That means we are going to evolve Big Hearts into a “family focused” charity which supports all generations within the families that make up the communities we serve by leading, coordinating and facilitating meaningful activities and support where need is identified.
As part of this change Big Hearts will hand all football development matters back to the club. Hearts is now fantastically well organised and best placed to integrate all football matters from grassroots development, such as coaching courses and coach development into its new football strategy.
This means another significant change. I announced last night that Alan White, our chief executive since Big Hearts was set up in 2006 will return to the club to take up a senior football development role. As such in early 2015 a new general manager will be appointed to take day to day charge of Big Hearts’ activities. They will come from a charity background, and have the experience to work with a busy football club.
I want to pay the warmest tribute to Alan White. Thousands of supporters know him and his incredible passion, drive and charisma. He has “been” Hearts’ community programme for the last eight years – and bar a short spell away – many years before that. He embodies everything which is good about this club, and so this change is one which we are happy to support.
Alan will always be a friend of Big Hearts, and he has committed to continue to support the charity and the new General Manager, when appointed.
We might be taking the ball away from Big Hearts – but never the badge.
We will always use the power of the club’s crest to support families who really, really need our help. Our first programme will be announced in detail in January, but I was able to tell supporters last night that our focus will be on Kinship Carers, an area we have identified with City of Edinburgh Council is a priority for support in the capital.
Additionally, I want to thank outgoing directors who step down after significant contributions. I’d like to personally thank vice chairman David Henderson, David Southern, Brian Fallon and Ali Russell who formally step down at our charity’s AGM on 5th December.
Our revised board will be myself (chairman), Lawrence Broadie (marketing, communications & operations), Billy Watson (charity strategy), David Bruce (representing City of Edinburgh Council director of education Gillian Tee), and Ann Budge (Heart of Midlothian). We are in the final stages of appointing a final trustee who will take a financial and corporate role.
I shall update you again in the New Year, when Ann Budge has formally joined our board with detail about our future plans, but I am sure I can count on thousands of supporters to take the responsibility we bear and help Hearts once again be the most community focused club in the country. This is a time for us to all have Big Hearts – very Big Hearts!
Chairman, Big Hearts Community Trust