BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hearts owner Ann Budge intends to improve Scottish football from within the corridors of power as she prepares to take a place on the SPFL board.
Budge, 68, has been an outspoken figure since rescuing the Jambos from administration in 2014 in a £2.5 million deal, receiving praise for her no-nonsense style during instances of unacceptable conduct by supporters.
She has also criticised poor communication within the game, all while succeeding in helping Hearts regain their standing in the top-flight of Scottish football and secure a European berth.
Budge is now determined to change the sport from inside Hampden after it was confirmed that she is one of three Premiership directors standing for three available places on the SPFL board. That ensures an uncontested ascension for the Hearts chief, Partick Thistle’s Ian Maxwell and Peter Lawwell of Celtic.
The formal the vote will take place at the SPFL’s annual general meeting at Hampden on July 20. Budge was unsuccessful in her bid to win a place on the board last July when representatives from Celtic, Aberdeen and Dundee United were elected.
“I hadn’t decided [to stand] on Tuesday. I had one more day to make up my mind. I was at meetings at Hampden on Monday speaking to various people,” explained Budge. “I guess my dilemma was there’s an awful lot of work to be done at Hearts.
“I didn’t want to do anything that would detract from my ability to do that but there are a lot of changes that need to happen in Scottish football.
“I think things are moving along, I’m chairing a communications working group for example.
“We are coming up with recommendations on how we can improve on that. I’ve mentioned communications hundreds of times. That’s a big bugbear of mine.”
The behaviour of supporters – at her own club or elsewhere – will also continue to be a major priority for Budge.
She admitted some Hearts fans took umbrage at being told not to bring pyrotechnics into the stadium and to refrain from unacceptable chants in a short statement on the club’s official website ahead of the Europa League clash against Infonet last week.
However, with the behaviour of supporters under the microscope, she will not be changing her ways.
She continued: “We need to look closely at things like unacceptable conduct, because there’s so much focus on it. The government have focused on it, so it’s absolutely crucial we get our own house in order so nobody has to tell us what we have to do.
“I put a statement out last week reminding everyone about it which I feel I have a duty to do. Some supporters come back to you and say ‘stop telling us how to behave.’ Well sorry, but that is my job to remind you that there are rules and we actually have to apply them.”
For all her desire to improve football in this country, Budge did sound a positive note, adding: “I do actually think Scottish football is in a better place [than two years ago] because there have been quite a few changes.
“I do get a genuine feeling that people are working better together to try and address Scottish football as opposed to their own club.”
Meanwhile, Dundee United’s Stephen Thompson, Leeann Dempster of Hibs and Raith Rovers’ Eric Drysdale will contest the two available places as the Championship’s representatives on the board.
The sole place representing League One and League Two will go to Brechin City’s Ken Ferguson