Moving to shutdown persistent rumours that her club are teetering on the brink thanks to the coronavirus crisis, Ann Budge has insisted that “Hearts will survive”.
The Edinburgh businesswoman, who rescued the Gorgie outfit from administration in 2014, was widely-criticised when, responding to the football shutdown, the club were the first in Scotland’s top flight to announce swingeing wage cuts.
That early response also provoked panic in the ranks with fans, who had dug deep to save their club and were worried that they would have to bail them out again.
Stuck in a precarious position at the foot of the Premiership and staring the possibility of relegation in the face, the size of the playing squad also intensified the concern, with some interpreting their refusal to offer wage deferrals in place of cuts as a sign that they are struggling financially.
But, Budge, who is poised to handover ownership to fans’ group Foundation of Hearts, has moved to shutdown the negativity, stating: “One of the first things I had to deal with when I first took over was £1million of football debt in unpaid wages from the previous regime and I am not going to build that problem in for anyone else, if I can avoid it. That is why we responded so quickly.
“It was obvious what was going to happen, that there will be no football until August, so we looked at the financial issues, looked at the costs and how we could stretch things out until football is restarted. We have got a plan that will see us through to August or September. If we get there and they are saying there will be no football ‘til January, I don’t think we will be the only club who see that as a different kind of problem. But, no, I am not worried. Hearts will survive.
“We will go through the tough times like everyone else is at this moment but once we all come through this, I want us to be in a position where we can really motor and not have anything hanging over us for weeks or months.”
However, she admitted that the need to furlough staff and manage without usual revenues has made the past few weeks the most testing of her tenure, with more uncertainty and frustration caused by the league clubs’ disparate views on how to tackle the remainder of the season and address the issue of league reconstruction.
While she has also not ruled out legal action, should they be condemned to the Championship without the opportunity to save themselves through the fulfilment of all league fixtures, she admitted that there may come a time when she feels it is no longer worth taking it any further.
“But I have said from the beginning that we will absolutely take legal advice. If the legal advice is that we aren’t going to win then I will let it go. But, we haven’t reached that point and we are still looking at where we go from here.”