Hearts’ Ann Budge courts clubs in bid to win support for reconstruction

Club owner consults across the four divisions
Hearts chief executive Ann Budge. Picture: Bill Murray / SNSHearts chief executive Ann Budge. Picture: Bill Murray / SNS
Hearts chief executive Ann Budge. Picture: Bill Murray / SNS

Hearts owner Ann Budge is holding in-depth discussions with Scottish clubs as she prepares to finalise her league reconstruction proposal – which will not be ready until Monday at the earliest.

The Edinburgh businesswoman had hoped to circulate her plan by close of business yesterday but is still consulting teams in all four divisions of the Scottish Professional Football League.

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She feels she is making progress on a paper to offer an amended structure to help Scottish football through the coronavirus pandemic.

It will involve an expanded Premiership and keep Hearts in the top flight by increasing the number of teams from 12 to 14 or potentially 16.

Budge is speaking with clubs to understand their individual circumstances, financial challenges and concerns before finalising her document.

Monday is the earliest date that the proposal would be ready as Budge tries to ensure the plan is as robust and thorough as possible to give it the best chance of approval.

Hearts suffered an enforced relegation to the Championship on Monday when the SPFL board ratified the termination of season 2019-20.

League reconstruction is the Tynecastle hierarchy’s preferred option. In order to achieve it, Budge would need to submit a members’ resolution for a restructure to the SPFL, which would then require a vote from all 42 clubs. To pass, 11 of the 12 Premiership teams would be required to vote in favour as there would likely be changes to prize money distribution and, potentially, clubs added to the existing 42 SPFL members.

If there was no change in prize money distribution and no extra teams added, only nine top-flight clubs would need to say ‘yes’. Either scenario would also require approval from eight teams in the Championship and 15 in total across League One and League Two.

Hearts would be voting as a Championship side with their top-flight place taken by promoted Dundee United.

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Daniel Stendel, the Tynecastle manager, is not confident that Budge’s reconstruction plan will succeed. The German coach believes the voting process is stacked against Hearts.

“My experience tells me that the chance is not very big,” 
he said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine.

“Voting is complicated in Scotland. There can only be one or two votes against and it is usually the case in life that, in the end, everyone looks at themselves. But there is still some hope.”

Stendel is frustrated that the campaign was cut short with Hearts four points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership after a 1-0 loss at St Mirren in their final fixture before the shutdown. They had a further eight league games remaining before the SPFL took the decision to end the season early.

Stendel joined Hearts in December and instantly took to the surroundings at Tynecastle Park. “There are 20,000 fans – sometimes louder than 50,000 in Hannover,” he said.

His team beat Rangers twice and won a pulsating Edinburgh derby against Hibs at Easter Road, but he added: “Then you come to St Mirren and lose 1-0.”

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