“I think she’s the perfect person. She just brings new, fresh ideas. The fact that she is a woman means she has a different perspective on things and I think she would make an excellent SPFL board member.”
Ann Budge’s pragmatic and sensible management has dragged Hearts from the brink of extinction to a thriving football club in just two years. Imagine what she could do as a director of the Scottish Professional Football League.
Brian Cormack, chairman of Foundation of Hearts, sees her as an ideal candidate for the role. The resignation of Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson opens a seat on the SPFL board, to be allocated at the league’s AGM on July 20. After narrowly missing out on a place last summer, Hearts owner Budge is amongst the favourites to step in this year.
Cormack watched her dealings first hand in his dual role as a Hearts director and FoH chairman. Like the Tynecastle support, he has enjoyed her astute business sense, careful financial decisions and impressive people skills. Most of all, he is thankful for her efforts in restoring his club to its rightful place as a major powerhouse in Scottish football.
Budge has Hearts fans eating out of her hand after rapid progress in just two seasons. A Championship title, third place in the Premiership and European football have surpassed all expectations. This has been achieved with a community feel enveloping Gorgie once more. The Edinburgh club were still in administration this time two years ago but Budge’s drive has helped reinvigorate everyone concerned.
Transforming Scottish football is an entirely different and altogether more vexing assignment. Yet the 68-year-old has shown all the necessary credentials to suggest she is worthy of a shot. There is no denying the SPFL board would benefit from her ideas, expertise and personal touch.
“Last year was probably a bit early in her tenure to break into that area,” said Cormack. “She’s had two years managing Hearts, she’s in there day in and day out managing the club hands on. I think this is the perfect time.
“Ann has immersed herself in Hearts and understands the workings of the SPFL. I know the club talk a lot with the SPFL and the SFA.
“She’s running Hearts as a business and Craig Levein is managing the football side. She’s brought in people beside her to make sure she understood the workings of the game. She’s a very astute businesswoman by surrounding herself with people who will help her run the business correctly. She makes all the main decisions and strategic planning.”
Make no mistake, Budge is a hard-nosed businesswoman when necessary. You don’t become a multi-millionaire otherwise. Yet she also possesses a unique touch of kindness which is evident in her running of Hearts.
“She’s fantastic to work with,” continued Cormack. “She comes along to some of the FoH board meetings and she really just brings common sense. That sounds really simple but that’s what she has. All her decisions show common sense and sound business sense. I think she just feels she’s doing the right thing.
“Bringing the Living Wage to Hearts and the Save The Children agreement was just her feeling she was doing the right thing. The way she’s helped Big Hearts in the community has been great and she’s really brought Hearts back to what they were before – a community club.
“She’ll throw herself into everything. We’ve asked her to contribute a lot to FoH as well and time and again she does it. She’s very hands-on and fantastically supportive.”
Consequently, Hearts fans feel a closer affinity with their club now. Perhaps more so than they have for decades. Budge is hugely responsible for re-establishing that bond between boardroom, dressing-room and stand.
“That’s the most important thing. I think all Hearts fans feel part of the club now,” said Cormack. “We were at a recent FoH ceremony and Ann was there with Craig Levein. We were commenting on how the fans feel like the actually are part of the club. They feel they can see tangible things happening at Tynecastle.
“There’s the memorial garden, the museum, the new stand. The money they’re putting into the club, be it through season tickets or the FoH, it’s going to something tangible that the fans feel part of. I think that’s crucial. Absolutely crucial.”