Ann Budge insists she will continue to stand up for what she believes is right regarding matters in Scottish football – and has urged other clubs to do likewise.
Hearts’ owner has been at loggerheads with the SPFL this week over what she felt was a lack of adequate communication with clubs before plans for a radical League Cup revamp were released on Monday night.
Budge complained on Tuesday about the process, whereby clubs found about the proposals around the same time as the media, prompting a strong response from the SPFL. She then hit back in a lengthy statement on Thursday in which she defended herself in the face of claims she felt were misleading.
Hearts’ owner insists this week’s furore could have been easily nipped in the bud with greater communication from the SPFL, and she has vowed to continue voicing her opinions in an effort to spark positive change in Scottish football. “It’s frustrating the amount of time that can be taken up by these sorts of things,” she said.
“We’re all busy people, we’ve got other things to be doing. So dealing with the fallout of what, in my view, was a relatively straight-forward and honest comment was frustrating. Some things need to be said. That’s my view. I don’t think it’s appropriate that people should complain about things in private or between themselves, but not be prepared to say ‘I think this is wrong’. Some things need to be said.”
Budge didn’t like the tone of the SPFL’s statement after she and Motherwell’s Les Hutchison led the dissent over the way the League Cup announcement had been handled.
“A phone call saying ‘Ann, I really didn’t like the fact that you said that’ or words to that effect could have put paid to it very quickly,” she said. “I don’t quite understand, if I’m being honest, why the particular approach was taken. Other than, perhaps, I have commented on more than one occasion about what I think is a weakness, ie. communication. So maybe they thought ‘time to fight back’ or whatever. I think a lot of people saw it as an attempt to put me in my place. People said: ‘Oh boy, you’ve had your wrist slapped’. I said: ‘no I haven’t’. I’ve expressed my opinion and they’ve expressed their opinion. I did feel, however, that because of what was implied in the statement that was put out that I had to respond. I certainly didn’t want a ‘he said, she said’ going back and forwards for days. But I make a big thing about being open and being honest and basically being truthful.”
Budge believes that more Scottish football figures should follow her lead in speaking in a forthright manner about issues that need addressed.
“I think that is one of the things that has to change,” she said. “There will be reasons why individuals are like that. Maybe they have been around for such a long time and think ‘I don’t want to fight that battle again’ but I think the more we have a public debate on these things then the more likely we are to get somewhere. There were a number of clubs who phoned up and said ‘I agree with you. You are quite right. I feel the same’ so we just need to ensure that, if that is the case, then more people are willing to actually stand up and be counted.”
Budge dismissed the notion that she has been railing against the authorities because she didn’t get voted on to the SPFL board in July.
“I think that’s complete nonsense but, yeah, there might be people who say that. My nose was not put out of joint when I wasn’t elected to the board. I was told by many people that the chances were very, every slim and it was more a marker that said ‘honestly, I do want to help if I can’ so my nose wasn’t put out of joint and, if people think it was, I don’t think they will find any evidence that I behaved differently or more controversially because I wasn’t elected to the board.”
Asked if she would look to get on to the SPFL board next summer, she said: “Probably. I haven’t taken soundings or thought about it. Last year I was absolutely new to the game, I didn’t know very many people and they didn’t know me. People will either think my style can be helpful or a hindrance and vote accordingly.”