Thanks to Hearts supporter and blogger Matt Leslie for permission to re-blog this. Original content at http://mattleslie74.weebly.com/blog/where-did-it-go-wrong-ann
“When I came into football, I said I would like to make a contribution in the wider sense, so you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is” – Ann Budge, December 8th, 2015
“When it also became apparent to us that our fixture (the final game of the 2014/15 season) was the only game to be moved, we were equally alarmed as, rightly or wrongly, this casts a shadow over the sporting integrity of the Championship” – Ann Budge, April 15th, 2015
“The way in which Scottish football is being run really does need to be examined and explored. The whole way in which Scottish football is run is something we do need to look at and keep challenging if things are wrong. The attitude of ‘well that’s the way it’s done in football’ needs to be challenged” – Ann Budge, April 17th 2015.
She was the polar opposite of her predecessor at Heart of Midlothian football club. The calm, rational statements that consisted of intelligent and forward-thinking argument were a marked change from Vladimir Romanov’s wild-eyed conjecture and conspiracy theories.
At Hearts, she has done much to improve the reputation of the club both amongst the supporters and around Scotland as a whole.
The way the Edinburgh institution has been run with the club being saved from liquidation, her ability to restore the club’s good name after Romanov had besmirched it, the (ongoing) purging of the bigoted minority within the Hearts support and at long last, a new main stand – 24 years after it had been first proposed.
The title of this article in no way refers to her work as owner of Heart of Midlothian.
However, her performance as a board member of the SPFL leaves a lot to be desired – today’s sweeping under the carpet of Rangers’ cheating with the EBT scandal leaves the reputation of her (and many others) in pieces.
The trio of quotes from Budge at the top of this page have come back to haunt her today.
Rangers were found by the Supreme Court to have cheated their way to league titles, cups and European qualification via the improper use of EBTs that allowed them “to buy players they would not otherwise have been able to afford”.
Stripping the titles and cups was a no-brainer.
Cycling had no qualms doing just that to Lance Armstrong when they declared his Tour de France wins as “null and void” after he was exposed as using performance-enhancing drugs to cheat.
Australian Rugby League moved swiftly to strip Melbourne Storm of their titles when it had been discovered that they had breached the salary cap adhered to by all clubs. Storm breached it so they could pay top players wages who otherwise would not be there.
Swindon Town won promotion to the top-flight in England in 1990. However, following an investigation by the English FA, the club were found guilty of a number of financial irregularity offences. The FA stripped them of their promotion and ruled they must remain in the second tier.
Rangers break the rules? Well despite the highest court in the land ruling that they did, the SPFL want to sweep this matter under the carpet, demanding we all move on and be quiet.
There is as much chance of that as fans from all clubs who lost out on valuable prize money, European qualification, titles, cups and cup final appearances are still rightly angry that one team cheated them out of all of that and has been allowed to get away with it.
Compare and contrast what was done to Lowland League club Spartans back in November 2011.
The Edinburgh minnows had beaten SJFA North Superleague side Culter 2-0 in the Scottish Cup to set up a home tie against Partick Thistle.
However, Spartans were found to have fielded Keith McLeod whose contract had not been dated properly (the contract needed to be dated twice instead of once which was what Spartans did).
A minor transgression on the face of it but rules are rules. Bend them for one and you’d have to do it for others.
Spartans were thrown out of the Scottish Cup and it would be Culter playing the big cup-tie against Partick Thistle.
Rangers meanwhile commit a far greater offence – certainly one more serious than not putting the date on twice in a new signing’s contract.
Punishment? One rule for one and one for another.
In 2009, second tier Livingston were found guilty of breaching the Scottish League’s rules on insolvency.
End result was the West Lothian club being demoted two divisions and playing the next season in the fourth tier.
Rangers cheat their way to titles, cups and European qualification via improper use of EBTs.
Punishment? One rule for one and one for another.
The discrepancies surrounding the verdicts of certain clubs who break the rules compared to one huge club who does likewise is astonishing. Puts a new meaning to the term used on the terraces that is ‘honest mistake’.
We can deduce with this bizarre treatment of one club compared to the rest as the SPFL board no longer being fit for purpose with their lily-livered cop-out today.
Especially when one member had given fans across Scotland hope that she would be the great reformer that the Scottish game needed to give its governing bodies their credibility back.
Compare her quotes from two days ago to the ones at the top of this article when she was full of revolutionary zeal.
“We’ve got to keep looking forward and doing what’s best for Scottish football. We do want to look at all the facts thoroughly and it’s a brand new board – for us to come out with something now would have been quite a big ask. I doubt we can ever satisfy all of the fans all of the time, but the key thing is that it’s being thoroughly looked at and there will be an honest assessment of what we feel” – Ann Budge, July 24th, 2017
By remaining, she is complicit in this collective act of cowardice in letting a club that has cheated off the hook.
Ann Budge may continue to do many good things for Heart of Midlothian in the future.
But when Scottish football as a whole needed her to bring closure to the biggest scandal it has faced, instead of being the reforming crusader she once hinted that she would be, she turned out to be as effective as a chocolate soldier.