Ogilvie offers heartfelt defence of Romanov and insists: no 'war' with SFA
ANYONE with the perception Campbell Ogilvie is merely a football administrator caught between the devil and the deep blue sea cannot have spent much time in the company of the man himself.
Hearts' managing director, who has earned plaudits across Europe during a 39-season career within the game, has been the focus of much attention due to his "other" job; that as a vice president of the Scottish Football Association. Given that Vladimir Romanov has never been slow to criticise those who govern the club he bought in 2005, a theory exists that Ogilvie must cringe every time the Lithuanian tycoon opens his mouth.
Not so, says the Glaswegian; who yesterday mounted as bullish a defence of Romanov as anyone who hails east of Harthill could reasonably offer. There is, he says, no question of a conflict of interests and should be no fears over Romanov's ultimate aims.
"We have had negative publicity, some of it justified," explained Ogilvie, who was first appointed to the role of deputy chief executive at Tynecastle in November 2005 after leaving Rangers. "But a lot of it is built on and embellished, there is no doubt about that. I hear about the club getting into trouble for Vladimir's comments regarding the SFA; if you look back, that has not been the case since early 2006.
"We still suffer for that, people speak as if these things are happening every day. On the other hand, he has been quiet for a while. Because he has not been in the press, people say he is not interested any more when in reality he has certainly not taken a back seat as far as interest in the club is concerned.
"I have no problems with him, no problems dealing with him. He does care about the club, I know that. I still live in Glasgow and this myth has built up of what it must be like in here."
That assumption often relates to an antipathy towards authority, something which emanated from Romanov's outspoken stance during his early months as Hearts' owner. "Wearing my SFA hat, it is not the case that Hearts are at constant war with the SFA," Ogilvie explained. "If there is a case involving Hearts at the SFA I am obviously not involved, but I remember being on the disciplinary committee when I was at Rangers and having to leave the same meeting four times.
"There is a perception that refereeing decisions go against Hearts but there are other clubs with the same issues. There is no agenda at work, absolutely not. I feel more than comfortable being at the SFA and being with Hearts. This 'loggerheads with the SFA' theory is not my take on things. We are not the only club to make comments about referees, it is all part of the rough and tumble."
Romanov's influence these days may be from far afield rather than exerted via regular visits to Edinburgh but Ogilvie draws a direct comparison between the problems the Lithuanian's early struggles with a football club and those encountered by another high-profile owner. Ogilvie was at Ibrox, after all, when David Murray bought a controlling stake two decades ago.
"There is a similarity; David was a self-made businessman who wanted to do things all his own way when he came in," he said. "He discovered at that time that you had to take the other nine teams in the league with you, you had to play the game to an extent.
"If that was difficult for David, a businessman coming into football, you can understand how it would be even more difficult for Vladimir doing that from another country."
Ogilvie's Tynecastle office is that once occupied by Chris Robinson. While the former chief executive was reviled by a significant proportion of the Hearts support, Ogilvie's willingness to remain under the Romanov regime is viewed positively by those who have become accustomed to a rollercoaster ride.
"I go to see Mr Romanov about five times a year," Ogilvie explained. "Our relationship is good, as good as it can be considering there is a language barrier there. We have Lithuanian and Russian people working in here and it works well.
"It would have made no difference if I had come here at the same time as Vladimir. He came in as an owner and with his own opinion, which is natural. (Roman] Abramovich was the same. Vladimir, or anyone in his position, would come in with their own views on how the club should be run.
"There is an eastern European business culture and a Scottish business culture. Nobody is saying one is right and one is wrong, we have had a learning process together. We all want the same thing, success for the football club."
Engaging, while calm and straight-talking, Ogilvie dispelled the myth that his reluctance to court the media is on account of him having little to say. Indeed, few people have put forward as confident an explanation of where Hearts will be in five years' time as their managing director.
"In my time here, I have never doubted Vladimir's aims," he said. "He wants to take the club as far as he can. We must always aim to be at the top while having realism.
"You always have to aim for the top and see where you end up on account of that. I keep hearing about Vladimir saying he was going to win the Champions League with Hearts; I'm yet to find a direct quote from him on that. I don't think, being honest, he thought he could come in here and win the Champions League."
Part of Ogilvie's remit is to overhaul the structure of the club whereby the wages to turnover ratio drops to 50 per cent. Thereafter, plans to directly reinvest transfer fees received for players who have graduated from Hearts' youth academy into buying others up to the age of 16 from other clubs are afoot. Ogilvie has played a leading role in the Heart of Midlothian Community and Education Trust, a body which looks to encourage fans of the future and gained recognition at Downing Street earlier this year.
Two "positive and major commercial partnerships" are due to be announced within the next few weeks; on the field, Ogilvie wants to see Hearts play in front of average crowds of 20,000 at the new Tynecastle, regularly featuring in Europe while having the possibility of "pipping" the Old Firm. A key to all of these aspirations, he insists, is stability.
"We are trying to create a solid foundation here," he said. "We realise that only actions, not words, will work now.
"In the short term we have had and will have a situation where we receive funding from our parent company (UBIG] and we are fortunate to have that. The aim, though, is to make the club totally self-sufficient. It is good to have a parent company but we accept here that we have to stand on our own two feet. We cannot rely on outside funding, we must create a model.
"The main stand development is essential to the club moving forward. It is just a question of timing now, the scheme is in the hands of planning at the moment. It is a case of 'when' that will happen, not 'if'."
Such words should placate onlookers, who have been concerned that the current global economic downturn may have a direct impact on Hearts' stadium plans. "It is a current climate, things will change," Ogilvie insisted. "It is now a new stand development which is starting today," Ogilvie insisted. "It has been a long process, we are just at another stage at the moment."
Hearts, buoyant under Csaba Laszlo after four wins in succession, face a proverbial acid test on Saturday as Rangers visit Edinburgh's western outskirts. Ironically, Ogilvie's first away match as a Hearts official was at Ibrox in 2005. "That was slightly strange," he conceded. "I still have a lot of friends at Rangers.
"But there is absolutely no question about who I want to win on Saturday, or any other Saturday. There is a tradition at this club and a special feeling, even driving along Gorgie Road each morning. I used to come here when I worked for the Scottish Football League and always felt a warmth.
"And the supporters have stuck by Hearts."
That Ogilvie did likewise in times of – whether he opts to admit it or not – turmoil, represents no mean feat.
TOMORROW: PART 2
Hearts go head-to-head with the Old Firm for the best young Scots