Ann Budge tells Hearts fans she is going nowhere but board changes are imminent

Owner reveals plan to get Edinburgh club back challenging

Ann Budge says she still has plenty work to do at Hearts.

Ann Budge is planning changes to the Hearts board but insisted she is going nowhere after hiring Andrew McKinlay as chief executive.

The club owner admitted that a number of alterations will be made in the boardroom over the coming months as she prepares to transfer her shares to Foundation of Hearts.

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They will then own Hearts on behalf of supporters but Budge intends to remain active in her role as chairwoman.

McKinlay, the former Scottish FA and Scottish Golf chief, will handle day-to-day operations at Tynecastle Park and thus shoulder some of Budge’s workload.

After an arduous summer, including enforced relegation and a legal battle with the SFA and SPFL, Hearts will begin the 2020/21 season in the Championship this October.

Budge intends to work closely with McKinlay to help guide the Edinburgh club back towards the upper echelons of Scottish football.

In a statement posted on the Hearts website, she explained: “You could be forgiven for thinking that my whole time over recent months has been taken up defending our position against actions taken by the football authorities and our fellow clubs.

“I am pleased to confirm that, while not too far from the truth, planning for the future success of Hearts has remained central to my, and to the Board’s, thinking. With that in mind, I am delighted to formally announce the appointment of our new chief executive.

“Andrew McKinlay, who held the position of chief operating officer with the SFA for six years and more recently was chief executive of Scottish Golf, will be taking up his role this week. Andrew and I will be working closely together over the coming months and years to secure a bright future for the club.

“This appointment demonstrates that despite all that has been played out in the public eye over the last six months or so, we have not lost sight of our medium/long term goals.

“We were in the final stages of planning the official celebrations around the transfer of majority ownership to the fans when the full impact of Covid-19 hit us all and lockdown forced us to postpone these celebrations.

“We will celebrate this momentous occasion at the earliest opportunity but in the meantime, we will move forward with the business planning.

“Many of you will have heard me say previously, that when the majority ownership structure changes, it will no longer be appropriate for me to fill both the CEO and the chairman’s role, as I have done for the past six years. In the interests of strong governance, the roles should be separated.

“With support from the Board, I have been working to identify a new CEO for some time. Having interviewed a number of outstanding candidates for the position, the nominations committee members were unanimous in their decision to appoint Andrew.

“It is a very difficult time for anyone to take over such a key role in the business but I’m sure our staff and our supporters alike will join me in supporting Andrew over the next few months when hopefully some form of normality can return to our operation.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I am going nowhere! My work here is far from over. However, rather than continuing to juggle the demands of day-to-day operations with the longer-term strategic planning decisions, so essential to our future success, I will be focused on the latter.

“This is the first of a number of planned changes at board level as we move into the next exciting stage of our development.

“While events of recent months have undoubtedly slowed down some of our plans, we remain committed to achieving success at the top levels of Scottish football, a greater involvement in European football, expansion of our brand in international markets, investment in youth and ongoing growth and development of all of our commercial operations.

“Our objective remains to sit firmly at the heart of our community while succeeding on the bigger international stage that football offers.

“Thank you all....managers, staff, players, suppliers, sponsors and last but by no means least, our supporters and volunteers....for your unwavering support during these difficult times.”

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