Ann Budge says Hearts have lost £1m through Coronavirus and could now delay fan ownership

FoH and supporters may need to wait for share transfer

By Barry Anderson
Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 12:19 pm
Ann Budge is concerned about lost revenue at Hearts after the Coronavirus outbreak.
Ann Budge is concerned about lost revenue at Hearts after the Coronavirus outbreak.

Ann Budge has admitted that transferring ownership of Hearts to supporters could be delayed following the Coronavirus outbreak.

The pandemic has already cost the Tynecastle side around £1million in lost revenue according to the owner, who is concerned about possible further losses with matches indefinitely suspended.

Budge’s 75.1 per cent shareholding in Hearts was due to be transferred next month to the fan-led group Foundation of Hearts, who are backed by around 7,500 members. That move might now be postponed.

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"I don't know that it's my choice to delay it, to be frank. I think we will have to talk about it,” Budge told Sky Sports. “I said previously that, when it happens, it should be a damp squib and the club should continue to run on a day-to-day basis as it always has.

"What it would then mean is the supporters would be in the chair. The supporters would be the owners and, if the club gets into financial difficulty, then where does it go?

"My own view is continuity would be good. It's not really a matter of whether shares change hands or not but it's easy for me to say that. It's really up to the supporters what they want to happen.

“We were planning basically a big party but clearly that can't happen. There is already some discussion about should we delay the actual transfer of shares until this is all behind us, and might that be the most sensible thing to do. I think it might be.”

Budge explained the issues already surfacing and said relegation would hit Hearts’ finances further. "It would be very, very bad news. It's not just relegation, which is bad enough in itself. It's relegation on top of the implications of the Coronavirus,” she said.

“On Friday morning when that decision [to suspend football] was made, we had four home fixtures. In terms of income for the club, that is well over £500,000.

“We had a [Scottish Cup [semi-final]. In terms of income to the club, again well over £500,000. So, in the blink of an eye, £1m that we anticipated having as income in April has gone.

"That has a huge impact on any club. All clubs will have similar problems, maybe not to the same exent, but that's money we thought we would have that we won't have. Add to that the fact that we've spent a lot on infrastructure. Why? So that we can actually run events and have an income stream outside of football.

"We can't run events any more. From Friday, we were having all sorts of things cancelled. Our non-footall income has also taken a hit.

“We've had the immediate impact of cancelling the games, we've got the knock-on effect to the rest of our business. We've got the uncertainty of when we can put our season tickets on [sale]. Normally, all of that would happen in April.

"On top of that, the potential to be relegated with the financial issues that takes. There is no point in me pretending. This is a serious situation.”