George Foulkes admits Hearts owner Ann Budge has taken ‘a risk’ by accepting SPFL task rather than challenging vote

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FORMER Hearts chairman George Foulkes believes Ann Budge has gambled by electing to lead the SPFL’s reconstruction task force rather than challenge an ‘absurd’ voting process.

However, he is adamant that if anyone can repair the bitter divisions in Scottish football and force through change, it is the Jambos owner.

Hearts are staring down the barrel of relegation after the SPFL’s proposal to call the campaign for all divisions below the Premiership was passed on Wednesday.

Faith in Ann Budge: Lord Foulkes (Pic: Roger Harris)

If the top-flight cannot be completed, the capital club will join Partick Thistle and Stranraer in being relegated from their respective leagues.

However, in a twist to the tale, Budge has been handed an opportunity to salvage her club’s Premiership status via reconstruction after being charged with masterminding a revamp to the SPFL structure alongside Hamilton chief Les Gray.

Her willingness to take up that role appears to have quelled previous suggestions that she was amenable to fighting relegation through the courts – and the tacit acceptance of a controversial ballot has irked many Hearts fans.

However, Lord Foulkes is certain her decision will have been an informed one.

He said: “Ann [Budge] did originally talk about challenging the SPFL but legal action can be expensive, drawn out and is invariably messy.

“I have no doubt she has taken advice and considered her options very carefully before opting for this approach.

“It is a risky decision and she is putting her reputation on the line by heading up this sub-committee.

“But that is to her credit, she is the type of person who will take those decisions and put her head above the parapet.”

The threshold required for league reconstruction to pass is an onerous one.

Eleven of 12 Premiership clubs must vote in favour of any proposal Budge and Gray draw up between now and the end of May, while 75 per cent of Championship, League One and League Two clubs must also agree.

While there is reportedly ‘an appetite’ for change, there is ample time for opinions to be altered – as illustrated by Dundee in the past week.

However, Foulkes believes Budge has the attributes for what promises to be a testing six weeks of discussions, planning and lobbying.

He continued: “Ann is the right person for a role like this. I’ve got know her quite well over the last few years and I am tremendously impressed by her business acumen and her determination.

“Ann knows how to influence and talk to people effectively, without brow-beating them, and I hope she will be able to do that during these discussions. As long as people listen, because sometimes in Scottish football there is a lot of shouting and not much discourse.

“Reconstruction of the leagues should have been looked at some time ago. It is long overdue.”

While Budge appears to have moved on from the rancour of a shambolic voting process, Foulkes – a front-line politician for more than 30 years – remains flabbergasted that the result of the ballot is going to stand.

FARCE

He added: “The SPFL have not covered themselves in glory – quite the reverse. The way they have dealt with this ballot has been a farce and I have a huge amount of sympathy with Partick Thistle and Stranraer.

“I have seen more votes in my life than I care to remember; parliamentary selections, council elections, parliamentary elections, European elections, you name it. I’ve never known ANYTHING quite as absurd and ridiculous as what we have witnessed in the past week.

“How one club could change their vote from a no to a yes – and that be allowed – is astonishing.

“That’s before we even consider the release of the incomplete tally [last Friday]. If that was done in a parliamentary election, it would invalidate the whole procedure. And rightly so.”

 
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