Hearts have agreed to an annual six-figure investment in women’s football at the Gorgie club, with Ann Budge declaring it “the right thing to do”.
The club’s owner told shareholders at the annual general meeting that the time was right to plough more money into their women’s set up, while also building on the work already carried out at the club’s academy.
“We will be expanding our academy to fully integrate Hearts Ladies,” she stated. “We have been working with Hearts Ladies for the last couple of years and, as a project, it has gone very well.
“We are now at a point where we want to fully integrate Hearts Ladies into the club. That will cost money, but we have put that to the board and they have signed off on it.
“It is a six-figure investment year-on-year to make this happen but it is the right thing to do. We are approaching the final stages of appointing a manager for the team. He – and it is a he – will report to Roger [Arnott, academy manager].
Hibs, Celtic and Rangers’ female teams have all grown in stature over the past few years, with Hibs offering a consistent challenge to Scotland’s pre-eminent side Glasgow City in the SWPL.
Budge added that the youth side of the academy would continue to be key to the club’s DNA going forward.
With the anonymous benefactor willing to back the development of youngsters, Budge insisted it would be folly to simply concentrate on the first team.
“Our focus is not solely on the first-team. We have been talking about the importance of youth development ever since I have been involved.
“Last year, our home-grown teenagers chalked up 92 competitive appearances and our teenagers played the most competitive minutes of any professional club in Europe – 5,595 minutes.”