Date: 9th February 2010 at 12:50am
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While writing the 2 previous articles, it struck me that the goings-on at Tynecastle have revealed some interesting behaviours by the regime, which can be summed as –

Trust —– 2005 — initially shown in allowing Anderton and Foulkes to appoint John Robertson and George Burley. “Let`s see how these Scots conduct their business”

Control —2005/06— Romanov wanted more personal involvement in the football affairs to indulge his hobby, but the Anderton/Foulkes/Burley team weren’t co-operating – so the regime acted quickly to show who was in charge. “These people are killing the club”. Scots removed, and regime agents installed.

Punishment —2006/07— I think the mutinous Riccarton 3 incident really shook Romanov, and the regime decided to impose even tighter control on all football affairs to ensure there was no repeat. Out with rebels, in with Vladimir-approved players and coaches. “I will smile and wish them well as they travel along their road to hell”.

Restoration —–2008/09/10— I think this gives us reason for some optimism. Almost a tacit admission by Romanov that his hobby of steering Hearts to football glory is now an impossible dream – so he adopts a back-seat, and allows proper “independent” football men to take over the team, even allowing them to bring in the occasional player. However it is clear that Vladimir still demands complete loyalty and obedience from his managers – hence Csaba`s departure after publicly questioning the owner’s transfer policy. “The main goal for Hearts is not winning the league; the main goal is to have young players playing and getting better”.

It`s worth noting that this last type of behaviour coincided with some other events in our illustrious leader`s life.

First, his ego was massaged when he took part in (and won) the Lithuanian Strictly Come Dancing TV show. He must have thought the sky was the limit, because he then decided to run for President of Lithuania !! It took a court ruling to stop him, on the basis of his birth country being Russia.

Shortly after, his team FBK Kaunas recorded a famous win to eliminate Rangers in a Champions League qualifier. You`d think this would re-vitalise his interest in football – but within weeks, he had taken FBK out of the top league following a personal dispute with the Lithuanian FA over something – and bought a basketball team instead.

Such drastic action shows how ruthless Romanov can be when he feels he is losing face in a dispute – a kind of “scorched earth” retreat policy. With Scottish football authorities viewing him with suspicion following his various “mafia” comments, let`s hope he never “does a Kaunas” with Hearts !!

As a backdrop to all this, the global economic downturn was causing companies to revise their business plans. In the case of UBIG, the grand stadium plans seem to have got stuck in the planning backwaters somewhere – raising suspicions that their heart simply isn`t in it anymore. Have they perhaps become disillusioned with our planning and building regulations, similar to Romanov becoming exasperated with Scottish football chiefs ?

What about the original purpose of UBIG being here – has the original plan altered in these 5 years ?

In terms of revenue, I don`t think so – the main purpose is to keep money flowing into the UBIG group through servicing a Hearts debt, on the basis of a steady £10m-plus income from fans, sponsorship/advertising, media fees and sales of young players.

However the status of Tynecastle Stadium in UBIG`s eyes probably has changed. Rather than embark on a £50m project to replace the Main Stand with a bigger version plus hotel, the current climate probably makes that a non-starter. The income that could be generated probably isn`t worth the capital outlay.

Will the regime go ahead with a less ambitious and simpler replacement ? It`s possible, but only after they are 100% sure that they want to continue to own Hearts for the next 10 years at least (in my opinion).

What alternatives are there to another 10-years-plus of UBIG ? Well, they could seek a buyer for Hearts – but they would probably want to recoup most (if not all) of the debt in such a sale. Would someone really pay £30m to buy Hearts ? I can only think of 2 types of companies who would do something like that – a consortium of wealthy football people who wanted to “rescue” the club ?. or another investment group looking to make money out of a debt-ridden football club !!

It`s highly doubtful if any “friendly white knights” exist for Hearts – none came forward in 2005, and Rangers current search for the same entity has yielded the same result too.

As for another investment group, the best we could hope for is one which genuinely wanted a higher level of football achievement, and was willing to act on some of the football manager`s transfer recommendations. However, football “success” depends on many factors – most of which are alien to business principles. Such a group would need to have their own funds to support such a high debt, since I doubt if a commercial bank would see Hearts as being worth financing.

Tucked away in the back of our minds is an awareness of the nightmare scenario – the “flats, flats, glorious flats” taunt made from time to time by Hibs fans – a complete asset-strip of the club by UBIG, including the sale of Tynecastle. Although this would provoke outrage among fans and local politicians, is there REALLY anything that anyone could do to prevent UBIG carrying out such an action if it wanted ?

So perhaps the “least worst” scenario for the next 5+ years is for UBIG to continue to fund Hearts, but for the club to be allowed to achieve a position of modest profitability while being able to attract decent managers who are then afforded an acceptable degree of freedom to run the team. We can but hope !! With Vladimir having now agreed to appoint Jim Jefferies as manager (and apparently allowing him to bring along TWO assistants), perhaps we have entered a less dictatorial period in the regime`s reign – where a Scottish manager is seen as the best way forward, so long as he displays positive focus on Hearts and doesn`t talk publicly about moving to a “bigger” club. Jefferies fits the bill due to his Hearts connections and having demonstrated long service at Kilmarnock. In return for similar loyalty at Hearts, the regime may even allow JJ to sign a couple of strikers !!

What are your thoughts on how Hearts will look in 2015 ?