Hearts owner Ann Budge insists new main stand will not affect Robbie Neilson’s playing budget



Hearts owner Ann Budge has promised head coach Robbie Neilson that his playing budget will not be affected by plans to build a new £12 million main stand.

Budge admitted for the first time during Monday’s public consultation that the stadium redevelopment would cost between £11 and £12 million.

Over half of that funding is already in place and Budge is confident the rest can be secured to allow work to begin at the end of next season.

tynecastleThe proposals will see the existing outdated 4,000 seater enclosure replaced by a 7,000-seater state-of-the-art structure, taking the ground’s capacity to just under 21,000.

But mindful of the fact that success on the pitch has a direct impact on the number of fans that walk through the turnstiles, Budge is adamant that the football budget will be ring-fenced.

She said: “I would definitely assure the supporters that it won’t affect his budget. That would be shooting ourselves in the foot.

“There’s no point robbing Peter to pay Paul. We have got to carry on doing what has been successful.

“That’s investing in the team and developing young players to maybe sell on. We need to keep doing both.

“Do we need to keep performing? Definitely, and I think it’s why we need to keep investing in the football side of things. It would be crazy not to.

“We are in the position we are in because we have been selling out Tynecastle. We’ve been selling out hospitality and record numbers of season tickets.

“The gamble, if we are going to call it a gamble, is do we think the supporters will continue to back the club? I’ve seen nothing to suggest they wouldn’t do that.

“Clearly, we have to keep the performance up on the pitch. That’s a big factor if we are going to do this. We have no intention of cutting back on investing in the team and in youth development. We just need to keep moving forward.”

tynecastleBudge’s reassurance will be music to the ears of Neilson with the Hearts head coach, who has guided the team to third in their first season back in the top-flight, making no secret of his desire to build a side that can challenge for the league title.

And with Hearts planning to have the facilities to entice around 4,000 more fans to Tynecastle on match-day, Budge acknowledges that the new main stand will enhance their bid to be competitive among the sides chasing for Premiership silverware.

She added: “Could a new stand help the team progress? Yes, it could. It’s exactly it.

“We need the team on the park to do well so the other areas of the business do well.

“Then, what do we do with that money? We reinvest it in the team and in youth. That’s the way ahead.

“Clearly things are going to change next season [with Rangers back] so the key for me now is consistency because I think the biggest risk to a lot of clubs is that they have one good season and then for whatever reason they fall away.

“I don’t want us to be a yo-yo club. If we were to finish third again next season, I’d be delighted. Consistency is my watch word.”


Budge, meanwhile, admits she will be throwing her support behind city rivals Hibs during the promotion play-offs after admitting that having regular Edinburgh derbies benefits both clubs.

She added: “It would be good, I don’t mind saying it.

“I would very much like to see Hibs come back up. I think it would be good for Scottish football generally.

“I think it’s good for the city and for Hearts to have Hibs in the Premiership. I would welcome them being back up.

“What’s happened with Rangers has impacted on a lot of clubs, not least Celtic.

“I’d be all for Hibs coming back up and improving competition levels. The interest levels in the city would increase as well. You can’t beat the derbies.”

Budge also confirmed that the club have launched an investigation into the fiasco that saw some Celtic fans locked out before Saturday’s match, but admitted some away supporters had gained entry used forged tickets.

She added: “We’ve almost finished the investigation and we’ll go back to them. I’ve undertaken to go back to them to explain what happened, why it happened.

“It was forged tickets. I’ve seen the tickets and they’re very difficult to identify and we’ll have to work out what we’re going to do about it.

“I think in the last Celtic game we had a touch of it as well.

“I very much sympathise with those that had a genuine ticket, I can understand exactly how they feel and why they should feel aggrieved. Equally, we can’t let more people into the stadium for safety reasons.”