Hearts owner Ann Budge refuses to be silenced

Hearts owner Ann Budge officially opens the Memorial Garden at Tynecastle. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

Hearts owner Ann Budge officially opens the Memorial Garden at Tynecastle. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

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Ann Budge says she has been frustrated by the fallout from her remarks about the SPFL’s revamp of the League Cup but the Hearts owner says she will not be silenced.

A successful businesswoman, she attracted publicity this week when she condemned the lack of consultation with member clubs about the radical overhaul of the the knockout competition.

Despite being subjected to a public ticking off by the league, she insisted she will not be cowed and urged others to take a stronger stand.

“Some things need to be said. That’s my view,” Budge said yesterday. “I don’t think it’s appropriate that people should complain about things in private or between themselves, but not be prepared to say ‘I think this is wrong’.”

Her honesty was not appreciated in the corridors of power and prompted a backlash from board member and Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney, who, in a radio interview, denied clubs were left in the dark about the revamp. But rather than scurry for cover, she attacked his comments with a strident comeback.

Speaking as she unveiled a Hearts Memorial Garden in the corner of Tynecastle that used to house the Shed, she was in reflective mood.

She said the garden and the personal memorials to both famous former players and ordinary fans served as a reminder of the place football has in the nation’s psyche and soul and underlined why it is so important to fight for its future.

Adamant that she had not wanted to be drawn into a war of words, she felt she had no option but to refute public accusations and inaccuracies.

But again highlighting the issues the authorities appear to have with communication, she said the spat could have been avoided. “A phone call saying ‘Ann, I really didn’t like the fact that you said that’ or words to that effect could have put paid to it very quickly.

“I don’t quite understand, if I’m being honest, why the particular approach was taken, other than, perhaps, I have commented on more than one occasion about what I think is a weakness, ie communication. So maybe they thought it was time to fight back.”

Since taking control of Hearts, Budge has been outspoken on several issues and says that will continue. But she said the idea that she was hitting out in a fit of pique after losing out on a place on the SPFL board in the summer was “nonsense”.

Revealing she would be putting herself forward for election to the board again this summer, she accepted that her no holds barred approach may have put some established noses out of joint. “From the beginning, every few months, there has been something which has resulted in a little bit of controversy and I’m kind of the new kid on the block as well,” she said.

“But I still believe there’s an appetite for change, I really do. It doesn’t change overnight. Gradually it will happen, I’m pretty confident about that.

“There were a number of clubs who phoned and said ‘I agree with you, you’re quite right, I feel the same’. We just need to ensure that if that is the case then more people are willing to stand up and be counted.”

Today she will travel to Pittodrie to watch Hearts take on Aberdeen and will come face to face with Dons director and SPFL board member Duncan Fraser but she is unperturbed.

“All I can say is we will be meeting and I don’t think either of us could pretend that the last couple of days haven’t taken place. I’m not going up there looking for an argument but I will happily discuss my position with Duncan should he be happy to do so.

“I don’t really feel I have any reason to feel cowed. We’re all grown up and we’ve all got an opinion. I expressed my opinion. The board expressed how they feel about it. I’m fine, it’s good to talk to any one of them, individually or as a group.

“You know, if I was there representing other clubs, then I would be talking to other clubs. How could I speak on behalf of any other club if I don’t know their opinion? I don’t have to agree with it. I don’t even have to put it forward. But at least, if I’m there as a representative, I should know what it is.”

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