Ann Budge does not plan on leaving her position as Hearts chairwoman in the next two years after the historic transfer of ownership to the Tynecastle support.
The Scottish Premiership side are now the UK’s biggest fan-owned club after Budge made the handover over of shares to the Foundation of Hearts official during a signing ceremony on Monday. Budge saved Hearts from administration in 2014 and has guided the club through the Covid-19 pandemic.
She will stay in Gorgie for the foreseeable future, reflecting on what has been and what is to come at Hearts: “I have committed to stay for a minimum of two years. If I’m still able to contribute and if the fans want me then it could be longer. I’ll certainly still be here for the next two years. I’m enjoying it enormously.
“To say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it would clearly not be true but I’ve enjoyed the majority of it. I love the staff and the supporters, even when I get criticised! It’s been fantastic. We’re now going into the next phase and I just want us to keep moving forward and getting stronger.
“It feels terrific (to not be the owner) because it means we’ve achieved everything we set out to achieve despite the doubts that were expressed. I’m very confident about the club going forward.
“We’ve had a few difficulties to deal with over the last seven years and we’ve come through it. The supporters have backed us every step of the way and we’re in great shape. It’s a perfect time for this transition to happen.”
Budge believes people will look back on her reign in the knowledge that the club is in a much better place, planning a short break in the wake of the Foundation of Hearts’ takeover: “The club is in a good place, financially stable with a great management team and a great board. It’s all good.
“I don’t know what my legacy as owner will be but I hope it will be very positive, unlike some of the previous chairmen and owners in the past. I think when people look around and see what we’ve achieved, they’ll see that we’re better than where we were when I took over. That was my objective and I take a great deal of pride from that.
“I still remember the old stand and the state of the pitch and so many other things that we’ve improved, so to be able to stand here today knowing that we’ve achieved all this with the support of the fans, and we’re financially stable for the foreseeable future, I’m delighted.
“I will take a break as it has been a lot of effort to get to this point – for a lot of people. I will have a holiday then it will be back to the drawing board. The pandemic put everything back at least a year, but I never feared this wasn’t going to happen.”
Budge stresses that the handover does not mean fans get full autonomy on all key decisions at Tynecastle: “On a day-to-day basis, as we’ve said all the way through this, the club continues to be run by the executive team and the board continues to set the strategy.
“There are four issues the fans will always have a say on: we can’t sell the shares, we can’t move from Tynecastle, we can’t change the club colours, we can’t change the name without permission of the supporters. The whole idea is to protect the club from things going badly wrong in the future.”
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