Ann Budge: I will take legal action if Hearts are relegated - it'd be a restriction of trade

Tynecastle owner makes her stance abundantly clear about going to court

Hearts owner Ann Budge.
Hearts owner Ann Budge.

Hearts chief Ann Budge has warned that she will have no option but to follow through on her threat of legal action if the Tynecastle club is left languishing in the Championship when the new season finally kicks off.

That would throw Scottish football into even greater turmoil and could derail the resumption of competitive action, but the retired businesswoman insists she would make a stand if something is not done to mitigate a decision she maintains is “unfair” and “wrong”.

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Criticised for the reconstruction paper she submitted to clubs earlier this week, she says the creation of a 14-team redresses the decision by the SPFL clubs in April to relegate Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer.

The proposition is to be discussed by the current four divisions next week, with Budge desperate for a decision that would allow everyone to move on.

“It could drift and drift and drift and I for one don’t want that anymore than anyone else,” said Budge. “As if there weren’t enough uncertainties about.

“I know some people will say ‘just give up then’ but that takes us full circle to me saying ‘I’m not giving up because this is wrong’.”

The initial grievance of being relegated with eight matches of the league campaign remaining has been compounded by the consequences of that decision, most pertinently the possibility that they may have to sit out half of next season as several of the second tier sides have said they are unable and unwilling to complete a season which will start behind closed doors.

“If it unfortunately becomes clear that we will be starting the season in the Championship I don’t have any choice but to go ahead with a legal battle,” reiterated Budge.

“Do I want to do that? Absolutely not. We could have done it straight away but I didn’t do it because it wasn’t the right thing to do without exploring other options.

“Other clubs have admitted that we should be given financial compensation but who benefits out of that? If it is the clubs compensating us then they are basically admitting that something wasn’t fair.

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“We have already got two QCs who have looked over that original decision and that is just one angle. If we are in the Championship and the Championship isn’t playing then it is effectively a restriction of trade.”

But she refuted that her pursuit of justice was driven by a fear that the club would be unable to survive the drop.

“No, I’m still fighting because it is wrong. I have said before that we had planned to make sure we could see ourselves through to late August/Sept, when we hoped we would be able to return, but we have revised that and now have a business plan that takes us through to next year.

“So, it isn’t so much about that, it’s because it is wrong and, at the end of the day, if I have exhausted all other avenues then I think I owe it to the supporters to say we will not take this lying down.”