Three weeks to save Hearts as Ann Budge eyes quick reconstruction decision

Tynecastle owner reckons she’ll have a ‘fighting chance’ of pushing through change if they move swiftly

Hearts owner Ann Budge is heading up a 15-strong reconstruction group. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

Hearts owner Ann Budge wants a vote on league reconstruction within three weeks.

Budge, whose team are bottom of the Premiership, is joint chair of the SPFL reconstruction group with Les Gray of Hamilton Accies.

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And she said yesterday that a quick turnaround by the 15-strong group, which will have its first meeting tomorrow afternoon, would give restructuring a “fighting chance”.

Talks on redrawing the SPFL set-up were promised if a proposal to end the lower league seasons was passed.

The vote eventually hinged on Dundee chief executive John Nelms, who had planned to vote No, only for the club controversially to change their ballot to Yes.

If the same situation applied to the Premiership, Hearts would be relegated but Budge has insisted it would be unfair to send teams down without completing the season. Partick and Stranraer will be relegated from the Championship and League One respectively as things stand.

However, Budge admits it will be touch and go whether the reconstruction group can come up with an acceptable proposal which would save her club. “Do I have some doubts? I do,” she told BBC Scotland. “But if we can quickly enough and transparently enough give everybody a say and avoid some of the mistakes made previously, then we have a fighting chance to get a reasoned and sensible vote.

“I would like to see that happening very, very quickly. A couple of weeks. Other people are saying end of May. I think end of May is too long, but I might be proved wrong.

“As quickly as possible get to the point where we can say this is what we think can work for the coming season and it will resolve the issue of unfairness. Two or three weeks maximum.”

As well as lower league relegation, the SPFL vote also saw Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers named champions of the Championship, League One and League Two respectively.

Potential reconstruction could

see United, Raith and Cove promoted along with two extra teams entering League Two, with no relegation for Hearts, Thistle or Stranraer. Lowland and Highland league champions Kelty Hearts and Brora Rangers are in position to step up.

Dundee’s U-turn resulted in a welter of talk of coercion and accusations of incentives being offered as well as potential legal challenges to the way the vote was conducted. Rangers have called for an independent investigation and the suspensions of SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and legal adviser Rod McKenzie.

Budge said she supported Rangers’ call – as did Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack yesterday – but stopped short of calling for Doncaster to be suspended.

“We need to try to draw a line under it and if we don’t have an independent inquiry I don’t think a line will ever be drawn under it,” added Budge. “I think it’s essential.

“People would then at least [know] this has been looked at, problems have been highlighted and maybe, just maybe, we won’t make the same mistake.”