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... for the handover from tyranny to terraces.

 

Gordon Waddell discusses the relationship football has with its fans and how Ann Budge's statement to Hearts support is a masterpiece.

 

 

 

Football is an imperfect world. One man’s satisfaction is always another’s rage.

 

But imagine a club with a functional relationship with its fans. A club who respect their support for the money they spend and the loyalty they show.

 

Who communicate regularly and honestly, who pay fairly and on time, whose charitable wing is strong, 
whose academy and its philosophy is treasured, and whose leadership is a byword for trust and integrity.

 

Pie in the sky? An impossibility to tick every box in a cruel environment plagued by too many who are in it to 
see what they can get out of it?

 

Or just a template for Hearts’ story of redemption?

 

Honestly, take a look at Ann Budge’s statement to the Hearts support this week if you haven’t already seen it.

 

An absolute masterpiece.

 

And a marker of faith that, if you really want to, you CAN run a football club with values and with decency.

 

Back in February I said that the deal to take Hearts out of administration and onwards was the result of months of good leadership, good governance, good PR, good organisation but, 
most of all, good intentions. And 
what the Jambos have emerged with 
from their post-Romanov apocalypse 
appears to be progressing as the 
perfect template for the handover from tyranny to the terraces.

 

Thanks, in the main, to one woman.

 

When Budge put her money up as the backstop to the Foundation of Hearts’ ultimate dream of fan ownership, and then said she’d steer the ship towards safety on a pro-bono basis, it was always going to be the best thing that ever 
happened to the club.

 

But even in the most far-flung reaches of their support’s imagination, they couldn’t have dreamed she would do as well by them as this. Never mind 
what’s happening on the 
park. It’s not an irrelevance but nor 
in the grand scheme of them redeeming themselves from 
an era of financial abuse is 
it the main thing they must get right.

 

What she’s achieving off it is. And when you look at the latest update, it’s clear Hearts are running to a set of principles that all but a few in our game can only dream about matching.

 

She covered everything from hot water in the toilets to kids’ clubs, to improved websites, to finally getting shareholders issued with the evidence of their investment which the 
previous incumbent happily took from 
them and then flushed down the pan.

 

She promised audited accounts on time, an agm before the year’s out and even an explanation of why it costs so much to post them out and how they tried to save 10 grand in the process.

 

A step up from that though, she committed the club to paying the Living Wage. Which, when it comes to the likes of catering staff and security, will make a significant difference.

 

It will cost the club but it will be worth it because they can look themselves in the mirror in the morning.

 

Finally, a kick-in-the-teeth threat of a lifetime ban for the zoomers setting off flares in the midst of their support, lest anyone thought she was some kind of soft touch as a 66-year-old grandmother.

 

Budge didn’t put a foot wrong. She hasn’t yet.

 

You can say what you like about how Hearts got there, about the immorality of skipping your debts through 
administration, but you can’t question what they’ve done since.

 

And it all got me thinking... Who else could be doing with that calibre of 
leadership and foresight?

 

Which other organisations need 
more clarity, better communication, more respect for the fans, shrewder 
judgment?

 

Anyone? Anyone?

 

It’s a bit like the interview I did back in the summer with Roy MacGregor.

 

Arguably the best businessman in 
Scottish football, a man whose empire turns over half a billion a year, yet who has never been asked to participate in the administration of our sport. Not even for an opinion.

 

Amongst all the macho posturing going on between the hierarchies of the SPFL and SFA, why wouldn’t you ask someone of Budge’s obvious qualities to share her expertise?

 

Are the league’s executive 
leadership scared to be shown up? Are the SFA’s old guard fearful of change and new ideas?

 

We all know the answer to that. It should be a no-brainer that the cream of the game’s business talent should be contributing to its future wellbeing.

 

Then again, the chances are they might face some stiff competition from a Hearts support who may never want Budge to leave, despite her well-defined exit strategy.

 

Who could blame them for trying?

 

**

 

You can’t blame FAI chief John Delaney for trying to get Irish fans a bigger slice of Celtic Park for the Euro qualifier.

 

But his outburst at the SFA’s refusal is a bit rich and probably a deflection from him diverting a chunk of their ticket allocation away from the rank-and-file fans.

 

Parkhead was chosen due to its segregation arrangements that could minimise the presence

of the Irish. They get 3000 briefs and the rest is a mass of

Scotland fans. Exactly how Gordon Strachan will want it.

 

**

 

The Aleksandar Tonev racism
 row will rumble on.

 

Lawyers will have a field day with a Judicial Panel 
protocol that at its core only has a “balance of probability” as its burden of proof.

 

Shay Logan is a credible guy who you would never expect to fabricate something.

 

Sad thing is he’s the 
victim again, on the 
receiving end of an abhorrent 
attitude, and he’ll be 
forgotten in the fight to ensue between Celtic and the SFA.

 

**

 

Interesting stats from the States. MLS crowds for 2014 averaged 19,151 across their 19 clubs, up nearly a third in a decade. Next season’s reshuffle will see it go even higher. Sawker is definitely getting there.

 

**

In the next hilarious episode of ‘Rangers’... Derek Llambias whacks Sandy Easdale with a swinging ladder as he washes the Ibrox windows to cut costs and Dave King walks in at an inopportune moment – again! Comedy Central.

 

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/jambos-find-perfect-template-handover-4552636

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