Hearts owner Ann Budge speaks on meeting with Hibs’ Ron Gordon
Although rivals on the field, Edinburgh’s football clubs could now become more closely aligned off the pitch in the wake of Gordon’s takeover at Easter Road.
The American businessman paid more than £5million to gain control of Hibs last month through his Bydand Sports company, which bought out previous owner Sir Tom Farmer. One of the first things Gordon did was seek out a meeting with the Hearts chairwoman to discuss the workings of running a Scottish football club.
A range of topics were discussed as the pair agreed to share ideas and help one another in a business sense. Budge already shares a strong relationship with Leeann Dempster, the Hibs chief executive, and believes Gordon’s arrival is a positive move for football in Edinburgh.
She is keen to foster an unofficial alliance with counterparts across the city to work together on commercial ideas and other business-related matters. She made it clear, however, that on-field rivalry between the two clubs would remain as fierce as ever.
“It does look like it’s going to be good for Hibs and, I hope, for Edinburgh and Scottish football,” said Budge, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “I’ve met the new owner and we had a very long chat. He was picking my brains about how Hearts have developed and Scottish football in general. We talked about whether there are areas where we can collaborate to help both clubs.
“I’ve always had that view, as has Leeann, but Hibs have been going in one direction for the last few years while we have been really focused on growing the commercial side of the business. We have always been very keen to help, and in fact we have helped in a number of areas.
“A couple of times we have had a phonecall saying: ‘We have this particular problem, have you got anybody there who can help us?’ We would always say yes. She [Dempster] would do the same if the boot was on the other foot.
“I think it [the takeover] is quite exciting and I think there will be opportunities for us to work together. Clearly we are rivals on the pitch, there is no question and that will always be the case. Beyond that, every football club has the same problems – with maybe one or two exceptions.”
Making money in football, particularly in Scotland where income is limited, taxes owners and chairpersons across the country. Budge has Hearts in profit with help from mystery benefactors and has worked tirelessly to rebuild the club from the ashes of administration five years ago.
She is more than willing to pass on the knowledge and expertise she has gained in that time. Gordon was born in Peru and made his millions in the United States, so he has limited experience of Scottish football and will undoubtedly lean on others.
“We all have the same challenges. One of the things I have learned is how incredibly difficult it is for football clubs to make a profit,” explained Budge. “You don’t have to go very far down into the Premiership to realise how tough that task is. That’s not because every football club is badly run. It’s the challenges we all face.
“Anything I can do, I’m happy to share ideas to help anybody. I have lots of evidence of how difficult it is and I know from experience how difficult it is.
“I think we will work more closely together with Hibs. We have always shared ideas on the community front.”
Once he has gleaned the necessary insight, Gordon is expected to implement some of his own ideas at Easter Road in time. It remains to be seen exactly what those are but his business acumen will certainly come in useful. Budge admitted she is looking forward to seeing what kind of impact the American can have on the opposite side of Edinburgh.
“I think there will be some changes now with the new owner,” she said. “He is going to want to come in and stamp his mark on things. He is a very commercially-focused individual. I think it should be good.”