A lot needs to change in Scots game, says Hearts’ Ann Budge

Hearts owner Ann Budge is to join the SPFL board.

Picture: Neil Hanna

Hearts owner Ann Budge is to join the SPFL board. Picture: Neil Hanna

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Hearts owner Ann Budge wants to tackle unacceptable conduct and improve communications by joining the Scottish Professional Football League board.

The Edinburgh businesswoman, 68, has submitted a formal application to stand for election at the league’s agm on 20 July.

She narrowly lost out in the voting to Dundee United’s Stephen Thompson last year but is uncontested this time round. Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and Partick Thistle managing director Ian Maxwell are the only other nominees for the three Premiership club positions on the SPFL board.

Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster and Raith Rovers director Eric Drysdale join Thompson as nominees for the two Championship places. Brechin City’s Ken Ferguson is the sole applicant for the one spot which represents League One and League Two.

Budge wants to see more family-friendly atmospheres at grounds across the country by stamping out sectarianism, racism and other misconduct. She also insists Scottish football needs better communication.

“I’ve mentioned communications hundreds of times. That’s a big bugbear of mine,” explained Budge. “I do understand how difficult it is and I understand a lot more about it now than I did a year or two years ago. I think we’ve got to look at everything.

“Things like unacceptable conduct too, because there’s so much focus of it. The government have focused on it. It’s absolutely crucial we get our own house in order so nobody has to tell us what we have to do. I put a statement out last week reminding everyone about it, which I feel I have a duty to do. Some supporters come back to you and say to stop telling them how to behave. Well, sorry, but that is my job to remind you that there are rules and we actually have to apply them.”

After Hearts beat the Estonian club FC Infonet in the Europa League first qualifying round on Wednesday, Budge stressed more support is needed for Scottish sides in Europe.

“We’ve got to take a step back and say: ‘How can Scottish football be more competitive across all these areas?’ We’re changing some of the competitions within Scotland.

“I was going to say it was obvious to anybody last week we were two weeks into training as opposed to the opposition team, who were halfway through their season. These are all the things we’ve got to look at. Some of them are purely Scottish issues, some of them are much wider.”

Budge didn’t notify the SPFL of her intention to stand for election until just a few hours before Wednesday’s midnight deadline.

“I hadn’t decided on Tuesday. I had one more day to decide,” she said. “I was at meetings at Hampden on Monday speaking to various people. I guess my dilemma was there’s an awful lot of work to be done at Hearts. I didn’t want to do anything that would detract from my ability to do that.

“Also, there are a lot of changes that need to happen in Scottish football. I think things are moving along, I’m chairing a communications working group, for example.

“We are coming up with recommendations on how we can improve on that. So I don’t think you necessarily need to be on the board these days. I was trying to balance it before I decided.”

The Hearts owner admits she has detected improvement in the overall state of Scottish football since taking charge of the Edinburgh club two years ago.

“I do actually think it’s in a better place because there have been quite a few changes. I do get a genuine feeling that people are working better together to try and address Scottish football, as opposed to their own club.”

Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson has opted not to stand for election to the SPFL board.

Robertson had signalled his intent to stand at the end of last season, but subsequently changed his mind. Dundee United chairman Thompson has also performed a U-turn by putting himself up for election two months after quitting the board.

Thompson stepped down – seemingly in protest – on the same day as he expressed “shock and anger” when his already-relegated club were fined and deducted three points for fielding unregistered players in May, but has now reapplied for the role.

He is one of three Championship officials seeking two places, competing with Hibernian’s Dempster and present incumbent Drysdale of Raith Rovers. Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney has had to step down after his team were

relegated.

Robertson previously sat on the Scottish Premier League board during his time as a Motherwell director, but his current club revealed he had decided not to stand again “after much thought and consideration”.

A Rangers statement continued: “Mr Robertson is fully committed to ensuring Rangers’ return to the top flight runs as smoothly as possible.

“It should be pointed out that after a series of meetings with other Premiership representatives over the last month, Rangers is confident its views are being listened to and treated with the utmost respect.

“It is accepted that Rangers’ voice is being heard within Hampden, both at SFA and SPFL levels.

“Although Mr Robertson won’t be standing for election, he has made it clear he will be available to assist the governing bodies when and if required.”

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