Hearts owner Ann Budge describes personal toll of chaotic summer and vows not to be a ‘control freak’

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Hearts owner Ann Budge candidly admits she is a ‘control freak’.

She has already told new chief executive Andrew McKinlay that his greatest problem will be, her – and her penchant for interfering.

However, it also her innate working approach that left Budge bearing the brunt of a fraught and draining summer that saw the successful businesswoman fighting the club’s corner against the perceived injustice of relegation from the Premiership.

A stony-faced Ann Budge gives an interview | Hearts news
Budge has opened up on the personal toll of this summer’s chaos

The 72-year-old parted with £2.5 million of her own money to help rescue the club from the ashes of administration in 2014, but her time and commitment to the cause has been invaluable, particularly in recent months.

She was the driver behind a futile bid for league reconstruction before then trying, and failing, to have the decision overturned through a Scottish FA arbitration hearing.

“I can say truthfully for the first time in my life I was having sleepless nights,” conceded Budge, the club’s chairwoman.

“That’s because it wasn’t quite 24/7, but it was pretty close to it. 

“We can all do that for a certain period of time if we can see an end point. I’ve done that all my life; if you know you’re heading for something that’s going to happen at the end of March or whenever, you can practically do 24/7.

“But when it just goes on, and on, and on relentlessly and every day brings the next challenge, it’s quite tough. A couple of months ago I found it quite tough to deal with.”

Budge, a grandmother, has made more than enough money from a successful career in IT to live a comfortable and relaxing lifestyle. So, why does she bother with all the hassle?

“Although we can’t see it right now because of everything that’s going on, it always comes back to people,” she remarked.

“When you work in an organisation and I’m sure this is true of most football clubs, not just Hearts, the commitment of almost every member of staff is really quite hard to understand. 

“It’s not just me that gets my teeth into things and you see that every day.

“I do like getting my teeth into things. That’s why Andrew’s got a problem potentially.”

It is not in Budge’s nature to share the workload, but she will endeavour not to step on former Scottish FA chief operation officer McKinkay’s toes.

“I told Andrew when we were talking about him taking the job that the biggest problem he would have would be me,” smiled Budge. “Because I am a control freak, I will interfere and I’ve been here a long time.

“So I’ve made him a promise that I will try hard not to interfere. I’m here whenever he wants to discuss anything but I’m going to try very firmly to say, ‘don’t talk to me, talk to Andrew’ where it’s appropriate. 

“My day-to-day activities will be more focused on the football side because we’ve still got things I need to do there and that will get me out of Andrew’s hair. The fact that we’re all working from home gives an advantage as well.”

Despite civil war engulfing the Scottish game during the chaos of deciding on how to end last season, McKinlay, for his part, is keen to mend the bridges with the Scottish FA and SPFL that were destroyed by the infighting.

He does not, however, expect, the Hearts fans to let bygones be bygones.

McKinlay said: “Given my background, of course I’ll be hoping to make sure we have good relationships.

“I joined the SFA in 2012 and I don’t think I need to remind anyone how difficult a year that was for Scottish football.

“We’re keen as a club – and I’m certainly very keen – to move on.

“We’re not getting anywhere if we keep holding that grudge with the governing bodies.

“But at the same time I’ll always do what’s in the best interests of Hearts.

“I totally get from a fans perspective their view of it. 

“If I was one of them I suspect I would share their annoyance.

“I mean, let’s face it, governing bodies are not here to be liked. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like on that side of things.

“But, I would rather we had a good relationship with them than continue fighting with them.”

 
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