Hearts: Promotion 'not a necessity', says Ann Budge

By Brian McLauchlinBBC Scotland
Interview: Hearts owner Ann Budge

Hearts owner Ann Budge will not look upon it as total failure if the club fails to gain promotion to the Scottish Premiership this season.

She says that, as long as other elements of the business are on track, winning promotion is not a necessity.

"If we've invested in the academy, we've got new players coming through, we've sorted out all the scouting problems," she told BBC Scotland.

"If we addressed all of these things then fine, we carry on with the plan."

Hearts, who were relegated last season, are presently top of the Scottish Championship, nine points clear of Rangers.

Hearts owner Ann Budge
"I'm actually loving it, but that's partly because everything has gone so well. I've got no desire to walk out the door at any particular point in time."

But, speaking in depth for the first time since taking control of the Edinburgh club this summer, Budge said that, if their season on the pitch turned sour, they would "just have to do it next year".

"If we get to the end of the season and we miss out on promotion, I won't consider that a complete failure, as long as we have moved ahead in all of these other areas," said the Edinburgh businesswoman.

Hearts could leave Tynecastle - Ann Budge

"That's not necessarily everybody's idea - but would I treat it as a total failure? No I wouldn't."

Budge was a season ticket holder at Hearts before taking over in the summer and is the first female owner of a Scottish professional club.

She says that football clubs in general do not cater well for female fans and this is a cause of concern.

"We haven't moved fast enough in terms of football to recognise that more and more women are interested, do want to get involved and come to games," she said.

"When I used to come to the games with my daughter, one of the biggest challenges was going to the ladies.

"I said to myself 'why am I putting up with this?'. These things might seem small, but they are not small. You should be able to have decent facilities."

Former Rangers goalkeeper Neil Alexander celebrates Hearts' 2-0 win
Hearts moved nine points clear in the Scottish Championship by beating Rangers

Budge paid the £2.5m that allowed Hearts to exit administration this summer, but the plan is to hand the club over to the fans group, Foundation of Hearts, within a three to five year period.

However, she says that, if she feels the need to stay longer, she will do so.

"When I first said three to five years, that seemed like a long enough time to actually try to make a difference and have an impact," she explained.

"I'm actually loving it, but that's partly because everything has gone so well. I've got no desire to walk out the door at any particular point in time.

"I'd like to think that, as long as I can make a contribution, I would be allowed to make a contribution."