Hearts owner Ann Budge explains reconstruction plans - and calls on SPFL clubs to state playing intentions for coming year

Concerns over some clubs capacity to participate in 20/21 term laid bare

Hearts and the rest of Scottish football have been idle since mid-March.

Scottish football clubs need to decide whether they have the wherewithal to see out next season or make it clear that they are looking to sit it out, according to Ann Budge, the woman who has been fighting to find a structure that will serve the needs of everyone.

Only then can they all work together to finalise a league set-up and move on to drawing up a fixture list and determining where the opening matches can be safely-staged.

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The Hearts owner submitted a proposal to clubs earlier this week, outlining a possible 14-14-14 team format. It has been met with some opposition, particularly by lower league sides, but she said it was only meant as an outline, insisting it will be impossible for anyone to draw up more concrete plans until every club's needs and their stance on when and if they feel able to resume competitive action.

While work is under way to map out the best way to kickstart the game, with Premiership clubs looking to get the season started behind closed doors to meet government restrictions, Budge was involved in a Championship discussion which resulted in several clubs raising concerns about the cost of operating without gate receipts and mooting the possibility of an 18-game term in the hope that by the time they start back fans will be allowed back into grounds.

Others, in lower divisions, have said they are struggling to see how they will survive if they are not mothballed for the duration of the campaign.

“The League One and League Two clubs have phoned and I have had a couple of emails from clubs saying ‘you’re not thinking about us’,” said Budge. “I have gone back to everybody and we have had long chats and the thing i have tried to get through to them is that all I’m really trying to do is encourage the different groups to talk about what is possible.

“My starting point was a 14-team Premiership because that addresses the unfairness of the April vote for ourselves, Partick and Stranraer, and is also acceptable to the TV company [Sky Sports].

“Under that, I split the remaining clubs 14-14 but it doesn’t need to be 14-14. What I am trying to do is get clubs who are like-minded, with the same problems and challenges, to sit down and say this will work for us or that won’t work for us or this will only work if such and such happens. They need to drive it themselves.

“I just had to get something down to get that debate going. It might turn out to be 14-14-14 or 14-10-10, or even 14-12-0 depending on how much of the season teams can sign up to and under what circumstances. But, now we need to know that so we can move on and try to finalise this because this is not easy for any of us and we all need to make plans.”

Which is why, although club representatives will hold divisional meetings next week to discuss her reconstruction consultation paper, Budge would like the meetings to serve a more useful purpose and conclude with a clear indication of how many clubs want to be actively involved next season and on what basis.

Budge is adamant that in such unprecedented times clubs are right to find a solution for their own individual needs and ensure their own survival which is why there has to be flexibility to protect everyone’s interests.

“I would like clubs to use next week’s divisional meetings to say what their plans or capabilities are,” she continued. “That question has been asked but there are no definitive answers and we are running out of time. If there is any hope at all of the Premiership being played by anything like the dates being suggested we need to get the fixtures done. I was told that we have to get that done within the next couple of weeks but how do you do that when we don’t know who is able to play, or who can play behind closed doors and who can’t?

“We need more clarity on which grouping clubs fall into and once we know the size of these groups, we have a better chance of finding a structure that fits.”