Ann Budge blasts critics and says Hearts players want to support club
Hearts employees, like many around the country, have had to swallow a bitter pill due to the coronavirus pandemic and Budge said there was no way to sweeten the prescription.
But she maintained that it was necessary and, in a statement issued yesterday, she has hit out at critics who have taken pot-shots, some of whom have simply been acerbic and others who have perhaps proved more willfully and maliciously ignorant and insisted it was important, as the head of the business, to “treat all employees, regardless of status or roles, fairly and equitably”. “Since announcing the proposed implementation of a substantial wage cut across all staff, coaches and players, the media pundits have been scathing in their criticism of apparent financial mis-management; clear indications of panicking; and the very suggestion that players should take a cut in wages is clearly a concept they don’t even begin to grasp (possibly, because so many of them are themselves, former players). Fortunately, our players do not appear to have this same sense of entitlement,” she said.
Shortly after Scottish football was put into cold storage, and along with the administrative staff, the Gorgie players were informed that they could either accept the temporary cut, which would be less for some employees, to ensure everyone remained above the minimum wage, or they could cancel their contracts and walk away.
Many have already chosen to reduce their pay, including manager Daniel Stendel, his assistant Jorg Sievers and captain Steven Naismith. Defender Clevid Dikamona chose to void his contract so he could return to France to be with his family during the shutdown, but says he may return.
But there was an external backlash when it was revealed that the club were still actively contacting agents about possible signing targets and assuring them that money would be available.
The suggestion from some was that the club were considering bringing in big earners to work alongside players who had opted to half their wages, adding fuel to an already difficult situation. But, while the optics were not great and the situation was open to misinterpretation by her critics, Budge said it is simply forward planning, with new players being targeted for when football resumes, not to take up another wage during a lockdown.
“Much has been made of an email, sent by our head of player recruitment, to agents with regard to potential recruitment requirements once football resumes. We must continue to plan for football returning and make sure we are in the strongest possible position when that happens.
“I would, however, like to make it clear there is no pot of money sitting in the bank that could be going towards player or employee wages and there is certainly no intention of paying transfers fees under the current circumstances,” added Budge.
Defending her transparent approach with all the staff, she added: “I addressed a full gathering of players, coaches and backroom staff and explained the severity of the situation following the shutdown of football... I explained the immediate/short-term implications in financial terms, and stressed that despite what was being said publicly, the consensus, among most people involved in running football clubs in Scotland, was that football was not likely to start again until late July/early August.
“Faced with this unprecedented set of circumstances, it is incumbent upon all employers to be totally upfront and open with their staff. They, too, have to be able to plan,” said Budge, who added it had been important to react swiftly, “not to create panic, but to give everyone time to plan and consider their own circumstances. Cost-cutting is going to come and I see no point in sugar-coating this news.
“I asked all employees to stand together to ensure we can survive the next few months. Their response has been amazing. Most of the staff agreed immediately. Given the added complexities around players’ contracts and the wide range of personal circumstances, a number of players are still reviewing their situations. However, I believe we will reach a good outcome as I know they want to do what they can to support the Club.”