Hearts unveil plans for new first-team wage structure

Budge says she won’t let squad get too big again

Hearts owner Ann Budge and new chief executive Andrew McKinlay.
Hearts owner Ann Budge and new chief executive Andrew McKinlay.

Hearts are changing their wage structure by incentivising more player contracts rather than paying large basic salaries.

Ann Budge, the club owner, admitted she learned lessons last season and will not allow the first-team squad to become enlarged with so many high-earners.

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Hearts were controversially relegated after sitting bottom of the Premiership when the season was ended early as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite a senior squad of 35 players and a total wage bill exceeding £8million, the club underperformed on the pitch with managers Craig Levein and Daniel Stendel.

With Robbie Neilson back in charge, Budge has revised her payment model. Contracts issued from now on will include more incentives and lower basic wages.

“I did look at the model we have for paying players,” she explained. “I had taken the view that we should pay a fair wage for a job rather than this guy gets a bonus for one thing and another guy gets a bonus for something else.

“I had changed that when I came in [in 2014] and that put a lot of pressure on us when we had a lot of players out injured. They were still getting paid, which would have happened anyway but they wouldn't have been paid quite so much.

“I've looked at the model for rewarding players and rewarding success. We continue to look at recruitment and scouting.

“I will look carefully when I do take players on about how I pay them, and I don't want to let the squad get too big no matter the temptation.

"Having said that, when you have all the injuries we had, and the only answer seems to be bringing somebody in, then your squad gets bigger. It makes training, management and all these things so much harder.”

Budge also wants better management of youth players once they step into the first team. “The players get through and there seems to be a bit of a disjoint. They get their first contract but in the academy they are almost mothered,” she said.

“They're constantly getting one-to-one tuition, they get their contract and I just feel suddenly they are on their own.

“We have this young 16-year-old and what do we have to do for him to fast-track his career? I think we have to focus more on that.

“Our objective is still to get the process of academy to first contract to first-team player working because there is a bit of it which didn't work.”

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