Ann Budge speaks on Tynecastle’s women’s cup final, state of pitch and Hearts criticism

Hearts owner Ann Budge is delighted that Tynecastle Park will host this year’s Scottish Women’s Cup final.

Hearts owner Ann Budge has made it her goal to integrate Hearts Women into the football club
Hearts owner Ann Budge has made it her goal to integrate Hearts Women into the football club

The competition, sponsored by SSE, will stage its showpiece climax in Gorgie on Sunday, November 24, and Budge believes it is further evidence of Hearts’ commitment to women’s football.

“We are investing heavily in Hearts Women. I think it’s the time to really support women’s football. We were delighted to be asked to host the final,” she said at yesterday’s quarter-final draw. “We have a couple of [men’s] Scotland Under-21 matches coming here as well as the women’s final. We want to use the stadium better. I know I’m biased, but I do think it’s a fantastic facility. We should make it available when we can.”

Hearts will continue investing in their own women’s team, who lost to Hibs in the previous round of the cup and were not in yesterday’s draw.

“‘Why is she wasting money on women’s football?’ You are always going to get a bit of that but generally supporters are behind it,” stated Budge. “The World Cup did a lot for women’s football so for us not to be going down that route is just wrong. We want to be a community club and look after supporters. That can’t just be about males.”

The pitch at Tynecastle has been improved following damage caused by the staging of concert by Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra which opened the Edinburgh International Festival earlier this month. The club reacted quickly to repair the appearance, knowing they were in line to stage a series of home matches for Hearts men, plus the aforementioned Under-21 and women’s games.

“You get a bit of criticism generally,” explained Budge. “‘Why on earth do we have a concert going on at Tynecastle? She’s ruining our pitch.’ Well, we didn’t ruin the pitch. You are obviously going to get that reaction.

“For the last couple of years, we have been supporting the women without necessarily putting in hundreds of thousands of pounds. We are trying to make things easier. We brought Kevin [Murphy] on board in January and come November Hearts Women officially become part of the club.”

Budge was surprised Hearts Women was a separate entity from the football club when she gained control five years ago. “I thought Hearts women were part of the club,” she said. “They use the logo and name, so I was shocked to discover it’s an entirely independent set-up. From a very early point, I thought: ‘We’ve got to fix this.’ We had other things to deal with back then but it was always there.

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“It was always a big commitment taking it on but we want to do it properly. Fully integrating the women into the academy, there are costs associated with that. We had to get to a point where we could afford it and build a good enough relationship with the people currently running it so that they realise this is the right thing.”T