Hearts would not survive a six-month shutdown without cutting wages says Ann Budge
Hearts owner Ann Budge has launched a detailed defence of the club’s salary cuts, stating that the Tynecastle club would not survive a projected six-month football shutdown without taking such painful measures.
Budge has come under fire since announcing that all members of staff had been asked to take a 50 per cent wage reduction in a bid to combat the financial shortfall during the coronavirus crisis, and said she felt the need to address what she described as “ill-informed and self-opinionated commentary”.
Stressing that the club’s “financial position is no worse (nor better) than almost every other senior football club in Scotland, despite the recent continuous supply of mis-information and malicious speculation”, she explained that times were still dire and hard choices had to be made.
“In line with most other clubs, we aim to hold sufficient cash reserves to cover two to three months of normal trading operations,” said the owner, who refuted suggestions of financial mismanagement and reckless overspending.
“The reason we are implementing cost control measures is because we could be facing up to six months of totally abnormal operations.
“Given that we all know we have to plan for that eventuality, I see absolutely no reason for sitting back and waiting either on a miracle or for the government to bail out every company in the country... Neither of these options is likely to happen and, therefore, I make no apology for putting immediate plans in place to mitigate the problems heading our way.
“Payroll, as with all clubs of our size, is by far our biggest monthly cost. Notwithstanding the Job Retention scheme [announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week], there is little doubt that we will have to implement a salary reduction programme across the Club. We simply will not survive a six-month close down, unless we implement this.”
Budge, who rescued the club from administration in 2014, blamed unprecedented circumstances for the current predicament but, having lived within their means during her time at the helm, she remains confident that the club can “recover quickly when the crisis is over” and insisted that despite some mischievous interpretations, she has been transparent throughout. Uefa’s aim remains to finish the domestic season by 30 June but with the nation effectively in lockdown and players and staff adhering to self-isolation, that looks increasingly unlikely. The consensus among many involved in running football clubs in Scotland is, she said, that football is not likely to resume until late July/early August.
Manager Daniel Stendel has returned to Germany to wait out the shutdown and has waived his wages, while his assistant Jorg Sievers, along with captain Steven Naismith have agreed to the temporary 50 per cent slash in income and Clevid Dikamona took up the option of cancelling his contract so he could join his family in France. He remains open to a return.
Budge added: “I have been roundly criticised for even suggesting such a thing. However, our staff have been amazing. There is wide-spread recognition that to get through this period, everyone has to stand together and do what they can.
“This is the approach most likely to allow us to avoid redundancies and to save jobs and contracts.”