Hearts owner Ann Budge: Scotland has too many senior clubs

Ann Budge
Ann Budge plans to stand down from her role at Hearts in 2019

Hearts owner Ann Budge believes there are twice the ideal number of senior clubs in Scotland.

Budge, who recently joined the Scottish Professional Football League's board, said: "I think 42 senior clubs is too many for Scotland.

"You're looking at about half that number.

"We're not throwing people to the dogs and saying you don't matter. We should be saying this is what will work better for you, what fits your profile."

The Tynecastle chief executive, who made £30m selling her IT business and whose investment in Hearts lifted the ailing club out of administration, has also revealed she was advised not to join the SPFL board.

She told BBC Scotland: "A number of people said, 'Ann, you are already working however many hours a week, how on earth are you going to fit this in as well?'.

"That was both family members and, on a low-key basis, people within the club."

Budge, however, overcame fears of finding the role frustrating and of being as heavily criticised as previous board members.

She now sits beside SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, chairman Ralph Topping, non-executive Karyn McCluskey, Celtic's Peter Lawwell, Partick Thistle's Ian Maxwell, Hibs' Leeann Dempster, Eric Drysdale of Raith Rovers and Ken Ferguson of Brechin City.

"I knew I wasn't going to be the only new kid on the block," she said.

"With a few new people going in then surely things will change in some shape or form. Who needs sleep anyway?"

In three years' time, Budge will stand down as owner and the Foundation of Hearts will become the majority shareholder of the club.

Tynecastle Stadium
Hearts will probably move out of Tynecastle Stadium at the end of this season and the beginning of next while redevelopment work is carried out

"Fan ownership is fine, fan management is not fine," she asserted.

"You can't have fans sacking managers. You need an empowered executive with fan involvement, as is the case now.

"The important thing is not that fans own 75% of the club, it's that fans own 25.1%, so they can stop things happening.

"That's all that fans want, I think. They want to know that they can prevent an owner selling the stadium for housing, they want to know that the history will be protected and that we won't suddenly change our colours from maroon to, dare I say, green.

"The key is strong management. If they asked me to stay on as chief executive after 2019 then, health-permitting, I would."

Budge is overseeing the £12m redevelopment of Tynecastle, which she says is on track, with a new stand to replace the historic Archibald Leitch structure the central development.

The building work is likely to necessitate Hearts playing away from home at the end of this season and at the start of the 2017-18 campaign.

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