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Tribute to Robert Wilson

from Club CEO Ann Budge

Midway through Saturday’s game against Inverness CT, I received the very sad news that Robert Wilson, a lifelong Hearts supporter, had passed away after a long and tremendously brave battle against Motor Neuron Disease. For the rest of the game I thought about how he would have loved the performance by the team on Saturday, and about how much the 16,000 supporters at the game owed to Robert.

In 2011, during a conversation with a mutual friend and business colleague, I mentioned that I wanted someone to work with me in helping the Foundation of Hearts to develop a strategy which would see the supporters taking over the club from the then owners. This friend immediately said: “Why don’t you ask Robert?” He explained that Robert had been diagnosed with MND and had taken early retirement to allow him to spend more time with his family. Anyone who knows this cruel illness knows that while it affects motor skills – gradually impacting the use of arms, legs and ultimately speech – it does not affect the brain…and Robert had one of the sharpest brains and brightest intellects of anyone I know…and he was a huge Hearts fan. Not only that, he knew football, having been instrumental in setting up the SPL and indeed being its first Chairman.

I immediately contacted Robert, explained what we were trying to do with FoH and asked him to join us. From that point on he became one of the main driving forces behind FoH. He became my closest confidante, helping us to develop the strategy and indeed helping us put together the financial plan that would lead to the success of the BIDCO/FoH offer.

When BIDCO took control of the club, I had absolutely no hesitation in inviting Robert to join the Hearts board as a non-executive director and was delighted when he accepted.

His style was direct. He said things as he saw them…he was always challenging. In short, in the same way as he had challenged the FoH directors in the preceding years, he challenged us, the new Hearts board…and we all benefitted from that.

His contribution to the success of FoH and indeed to the rebuilding of Hearts, the club he loved, should never be underestimated. For as long as he was physically able he came to matches, played his part in hosting guests in the Directors’ Suite and then watched the games from the control room. When he felt he could no longer do that he continued to come to games with his grandson and other family members.

On behalf of myself, and everyone here at the club and at FoH, we thank him. He was respected and admired by all…and will be very sadly missed. Our thoughts are very much with his wonderfully supportive family at this time.

As an ever-present reminder of all that Robert contributed to Scottish football, and to Hearts in particular, the club will place a Heart in the Memorial Garden in his memory.

On behalf of the Foundation of Hearts board, chairman Brian Cormack added:

I first met Robert one afternoon in my office when Ann had asked him to come along to meet the FoH board.  I was fortunate to have 15 minutes with him prior to the other directors joining us, and I knew from the first minute that he would be a huge help to us. Our task was then to convince him that we had a credible plan to take Hearts forward under fan ownership.

Subsequently, Robert was instrumental in putting together the strategic and financial plan for the FoH bid team when Hearts were in administration, and over this challenging period, he played a very important part in drawing up the vision and the subsequent development of the Foundation. Always incisive, always direct, Robert’s experience and knowledge were absolutely crucial in our thinking and in our shaping of the Foundation plans, and as with his later work with the club, we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. A key figure in the saving of our club has left us and we mark his passing with thanks and respect.

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