Ann Budge’s early move to make wage cuts put Hearts ahead of the game
Heavily criticised at the time of Hearts’ wage cuts, chairman Ann Budge says there is a degree of vindication in the fact other clubs are now having to wrestle with more swingeing money-saving measures as the impact of Covid 19 hits home.
When Scottish football was forced to shut down in March, many of her peers agreed wage deferrals with their playing squads but the Tynecastle boss moved swiftly to impose more brutal salary reductions, which she maintained were necessary to see the Gorgie side through the coronavirus pandemic.
There was a public backlash but while PFA Scotland pushed for wage deferrals, Budge insisted the short-term fix would have long-term repercussions and wrote them off as a viable option.
She said that after careful consideration, the temporary wage cut was “the only way for the club to proceed with financial certainty.”
While some, including manager Daniel Stendel and captain Steven Naismith, signed up to take a major hit, the government furlough scheme softened the blow for others, who had balked at the prospect of 50 per cent cuts but eventually signed up for reductions of between 10 and 30 per cent.
But now, with news that city rivals Hibernian have entered into a period of consultation with players and staff, with a view to making redundancies and slashing the monthly wage bill, and Aberdeen asking their players to take a pay cut, and the mounting fear that others may have to follow suit, Budge says she is pleased that she recognised the severity of the situation early on and made strident moves to safeguard the Gorgie outfit.
“What I essentially set out to do from the very beginning was build a runway through this so that we wouldn’t get to this point and suddenly come up against a problem.
“I have actually had a couple of other clubs speak to me and say ‘yeah, you made the hard decisions to start with, Ann, and maybe we should have done the same’.
“But, we all have to do what we think is right. I was very open from the outset. I felt that was very important. I wanted to keep everyone at the club informed.
“We got ourselves to a point where we know we will be fine for the next few months and that then gives me time to work out the best plan for moving forward.”
In the worst case scenario, there could be legal fees to factor in, as well as the imposed losses associated with being placed in a Championship preparing to play only three quarters of their fixtures.
It means there will be no resting on laurels with job losses still a possibility if there is no quick and obvious route back to the resumption of grassroots football and depending on when fans are allowed back into stadia and the hospitality side of the club can return to normal.
But, Budge is comfortable that those early decisions have given her far more time before she is forced into wielding the axe.
“I don’t want to jump in and start making redundancies or whatever without really looking at everything. There have been a few changes and there will be a few more. I know what some of the hot topics are in terms of the football and non-football sides of things – things like: ‘Will there be a longer delay in getting back to football?’ ‘What is going to happen to reserve football and academies?’ All those sorts of things.
“We have got to look at the same issues others are but I want to take my time looking at them. Because the last thing I want to do is throw the baby out with the bathwater.
“I do not want people to lose jobs, if we can avoid it.
“I think the decisions we made at the outset, which I was criticised for at the time, now give us the chance to take our time, see what the latest guidance and plans are and look at it all very carefully.”
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