Ann Budge today told Hearts fans she will remain in charge at Tynecastle Park for as long as they want her. The owner said she will continue running the club even after the fan group Foundation of Hearts take control in 2020 – provided she is still capable and wanted.
Hearts were close to liquidation when Budge used £2.5million of her own money to fund a Creditors’ Voluntary Arrangement to bring them out of administration in 2014. She was immediately installed as chairwoman and has overseen promotion from the Championship, European qualification and a new £15million main stand.
She is due to pass her majority shareholding in the club to the Foundation in two years’ time once they have repaid her £2.5m in full. However, Budge revealed that she would be willing to continue as chairwoman of Hearts if asked.
“My only caveat is age, if I am honest,” stated the 70-year-old. “If I still have my health, if I still have the energy needed to do this sort of job, I won’t want to go anywhere. If the Foundation and the pledgers want me to stay, I will happily stay because it is about continuity and stability and continued growth. Things don’t end in two years’ time. The Foundation is still going to continue.”
The Foundation has around 8,000 fans pledging monthly cash to fund Hearts. “Hopefully the pledgers will still be pledging for whatever our priority is two or three years from now,” continued Budge. “So it is going to carry on and I will carry on for as long as I feel I can do it, and as long as they want me to do it.”
Budge is frustrated after a difficult season in which Hearts finished sixth in the Ladbrokes Premiership. She also encountered a delay to the opening of Tynecastle Park’s £15million main stand, which was finally unveiled in November.
“This season has been the toughest for me, both on the football side and with everything else going on here. I still expect next season to be a challenge,” she said.
“We still have a lot to do here and there are still tight deadlines, even if they are not as manic as they were last November. We still have to work to a tight programme.
“On the pitch it is going to be a very competitive league next season, but the stand causes me more stress than the football does.”
Tynecastle’s redevelopment project may not be totally complete for another 12 months. “My own personal goal is at the point of which we transfer ownership I want this stand to be finished so it is not a problem moving forward. And I do want us to be in good shape on the pitch,” stressed Budge.
“So I need us to be in a good place in two years’ time, if that’s how long it takes, because I want to hand over something that is reasonably stable and has every chance of success.”