Ann Budge’s foresight is helping Hearts plan years into the future, according to director of football Craig Levein.
The Tynecastle owner has drawn praise from Levein for her selfless attitude, fairness and ability to prioritise the future over the present.
Budge’s restructuring work during her first year in charge has included severing ties with payday loan company Wonga, honouring McCrae’s Battalion with no shirt sponsor, implementing the Living Wage for all Hearts employees and, most recently, agreeing a deal to have Save The Children on next season’s kit.
She is determined to rebuild the club with integrity after years of mismanagement under former owner Vladimir Romanov. Levein explained that she has been a breath of fresh air and always wants to plan ahead for the betterment of Hearts.
“She’s been amazing,” said Levein. Those initial meetings I had with her, I got to know her really well. I felt something good was going to happen,” said Levein. “She’s fair, she’s calm and, most unusually for football, all she’s concerned with is what is happening in five years’ time, not what’s happening in a year. I’ve spent my life in football and people that run football clubs, all they worry about is what happens tomorrow.
“In Scotland, some of the decisions that have been made in the last ten, 15 years have all been about money and and ‘how can it help us tomorrow?’ It’s never been about ‘what should Scottish football look like in ten years’ time?’ It’s so refreshing for someone to come and say to me: ‘Go away and tell me what you want the academy to look like in five years time’.
“She’s so fair with certain things. The living wage thing. Right out of the blue at a board meeting, I think it was Eric (Hogg) that brought it up. We started talking about it and she said: ‘I think we should do more for the people that are working for us’. It costs the club money but it’s the right thing to do. There are so many stories where she’s said: ‘No we’re not doing it that way but we’re doing it this way because it’s fairer’.”
Levein feels Scottish football would be run better with Budge on the board of the SPFL or SFA. “I would love to see her in that sort of thing. I think she represents supporters as well. Sometimes supporters are treated as: ‘I know they come through the turnstiles, we’ll take their money’. Whereas her approach is different.
“The place she is in her life has allowed her to look at things with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s almost black and white. ‘Is it fair or is it not fair?’ If it’s not fair we can’t do it. I’ve been to a lot of these meetings when I was Scotland manager – meetings about youth development and changing the structure for Under-20s. You get these people in a room and they can’t agree on anything. They can’t. Everything is about ‘what I want, what’s best for me?’”