Ann Budge: Hearts Euro ties at Easter Road unlikely

Ann Budge says she's not brave enough to suggest Hearts '¨playing 'home' European games at Easter Road, no matter how much sense it makes.

Hearts owner Ann Budge at Tynecastle for the club's annual general meeting. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

The Hearts chairwoman said it would be a step too far for fans and added that Murrayfield was the likely option while the redevelopment of Tynecastle is ongoing.

Budge, whose re-election to the Hearts board was greeted by a round of applause from shareholders at yesterday’s club AGM, addressed the practicalities of the stadium work. Despite what she described as an “incredibly aggressive timetable”, she remains confident that the new main stand and relaid pitch would be advanced enough for the start of the 2017-18 domestic season .

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However, Budge stressed that would require all the works to go to plan and need the SPFL to arrange fixtures so Hearts do not play at home until September.

The main issue would be the hosting of European ties, if the team were to qualify for Uefa competition.

While they are currently fourth in the SPFL Premiership – the position which has been budgeted for, according to the board – Budge still hopes the team can replicate last term’s top-three finish.

There is also the possibility of Scottish Cup success, which would also give Hearts 
another stab at Europa League qualifying.

Scheduled for late July/August, those ties would come too early for the stadium work to be completed and would need to be played away from Tynecastle.

Budge said: “We’ll be replacing the pitch over the summer as well as knocking down the main stand. This is going to be out of bounds for sure. It is about discussing the various options and costings. It is clear we can’t play games at Tynecastle but there are not many restrictions. We can play where we like. The restraints only come when we start to play league games.”

Murrayfield looks the most likely option but Budge conceded the home of rivals Hibs may have been the better football option. She said: “This is a tricky one. With a purely common sense business hat on, it might be a good option but, looking at it from the supporters’ point of view, I really have to take that well and truly into account. I’m not sure I’m quite brave enough to go there yet.

“Logic says it should be an option. Hopefully Hibs are going to come here and play and we should be helping each other out. I’ve not raised the question. Maybe we should do a survey. We’ll come up with a solution, of that there is no doubt. What it will be, I really don’t know.

“I know supporters don’t like Murrayfield. But given what we’re trying to do here, it [Easter Road] would be sensible and perhaps more palatable because they would know why it was having to happen.”

The redevelopment project is set to cost £12million and Budge revealed there is still a £2.7m funding gap. She told the AGM, though, that the club had increased its annual revenue from £8m to £10m, and that she remained determined not to take on debt, saying continued prudence, ongoing Foundation of Hearts pledges, as well as fundraising initiatives and a soon-to-be-launched debenture scheme, will help bridge the void.