Hearts’ Ann Budge irked by lack of SPFL notice

Hearts owner Ann Budge wasn't impressed by the lack of consultation over the League Cup revamp. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
Hearts owner Ann Budge wasn't impressed by the lack of consultation over the League Cup revamp. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
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Hearts owner Ann Budge has voiced her disapproval at the lack of notice given to clubs by the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) over its League Cup revamp.

The SPFL announced radical alterations to the competition from next season, with the first round of the tournament going into a group format. The league’s governing body also revealed that all Premiership clubs will get a two-week winter shut-down in January.

While Budge admitted she was in favour for change in Scottish football, she stressed that she would have liked more time to scrutinise the plans before they were released into the wider public after they landed on her desk just hours before Monday night’s media launch.

“I would liked to have known a little bit more about them before they were publicly announced,” said Budge, whose frustrations were echoed by Motherwell owner Les Hutchison.

“I’ve had no longer to study them than you have. They were all things that were mooted before, but in terms of a total package being put together it wasn’t something most of us were aware of.

“So I haven’t had a chance to examine whether I think it’s the right way forward.

“I know it will influence clubs financially, potentially in contract terms with players, and the fact that we haven’t had a chance to think these things through is a bit of a negative. In saying that, I’m all for change, we do need change.

“We’ve talked about a winter break, we’ve talked about summer football, this is the beginning of something.

“So I’m not saying it’s wrong, just that I would have liked to have known more about it before it was announced.”

The SPFL sent details of the League Cup revamp and additional changes to all 42 member clubs, in addition to the Highland and Lowland League organisations on Monday afternoon, just hours before they were announced in the media.

She said: “All of the clubs deserve an input into something that is quite so major. These are major changes. It’s appropriate that all of the clubs be invited to participate and I will make that point.

“It is about more dialogue, so there is a better understanding of the wider issues. It’s terribly easy to get drawn into your own club or organisational issues.

“So more sharing of information, more opportunity to discuss and debate and have sensible dialogue before decisions are made would be very helpful.”

The SPFL issued a response to Budge’s claims and those from Motherwell, who also complained about a lack of correspondence over the plans, yesterday evening, going into detail about communication with the clubs.

An SPFL spokesman said: “Following media reports regarding the announcement of the new League Cup format and broadcast partner, it is worth clarifying that all 42 SPFL clubs involved received full details of the final announcement in advance. Specifically, three officials at Heart of Midlothian FC as well as two from Motherwell FC received emails at 2pm, and again at 4pm, on Monday 7 December 2015, seven and a half hours ahead of the announcement being made public.

“Furthermore it’s worth noting that both Heart of Midlothian and Motherwell approved the BT broadcasting deal by written resolution at a meeting of the Premiership clubs on 10 September 2015, which made specific reference to the Group Stage for the League Cup (with the exception of the bonus point, which was debated and approved by the Competitions Working Group and the SPFL Board). This subject was widely trailed at general meetings where both Heart of Midlothian and Motherwell were present, over the past year.

“Consultation with member clubs on a possible new format for the Scottish League Cup began as early as 21 October 2014 when, during a general meeting of all 42 clubs at Hampden, we announced that this topic would be explored by a competitions working group made up from representatives of member clubs, including Motherwell. Heart of Midlothian and Motherwell were both represented at this meeting.

“At subsequent general meetings held on both 19 January 2015 and 23 April 2015, each attended by Heart of Midlothian and Motherwell, all 42 clubs were again fully consulted on the considerations and recommendations of the working group, including a possible new July group stage format and potential broadcaster interest in this.

“Then, at our annual general meeting on 20 July 2015, attended by both Heart of Midlothian and Motherwell, all clubs were again reminded and consulted on the discussions taking place on a possible new format for the Scottish League Cup and broadcast interest.

“Finally, at our general meeting on 5 October 2015, at which both Heart of Midlothian and Motherwell were again present, all clubs were given a detailed update on intentions for the Scottish League Cup for next season onwards.

“We have received an overwhelmingly positive response to yesterday’s announcement from the vast majority of clubs, as well as many supporters, partners and the media, and look forward to continuing to work together for the collective good of Scottish football.”