Ann Budge released her club’s statement last night on the SPFL verdict. It was an opportunity for her to lay down her gun and act reasonably. But she has been emboldened by sycophantic media coverage and the hopes that were piled onto her shoulders by the fans of several clubs. Reading their forums last night, she’s not as popular as she was a week ago.
Gratitude has a short half-life on those forums.
They are the repositories of Scottish football lunacy.
Those who inhabit them never cared about Budge or her club or her “fight for justice”; that stuff just gave them their cover.
Wait and see how much sympathy there is for them, and tolerance of their chairman, now the fight’s over. It’s already evaporated in most places.
What’s happened to Budge here is not unusual. The left-wing commentator Owen Jones even has a name for the political version of it; he coined it during the failed leadership campaign of Jess Phillips. He calls it “Centrist Hack Syndrome” and he describes it thus;
“This is basically when centrist journalists fluff up chosen politicians privately and publicly: “If you take this leap, you will be overwhelmed by adoration and flourish”. They are granted puff piece interviews in print and generously soft TV interviews, fawning magazine front covers, described in hushed tones as the next big thing … as that unique sort of politician with real star quality and ‘cut through’ And then, eventually, they collide with political reality.”
Because basically, Jones says, they are on the bad end of a con.
“The reason they succumb to this syndrome is they get hugely positive, supportive coverage across most of the media, including often from the right, which makes them think politics is easy and they are innately very good at it. They don’t realise this mollycoddling is primarily because they were useful to bash Labour’s leadership. They are, in other words, being used.”
And this is what happened here too.
Budge was talked up as one of the heroes who was going to save the game, by people who were only interested in damaging the governing bodies in some way, and who’s ultimate goal was to see Celtic denied the league. They didn’t care about her or her club; she and Hearts were a means to an end, and can now be discarded as no longer useful. This is the harsh reality she should be dealing with this morning.
Because Budge played the role of the court jester to perfection. The thing is, she fell into the syndrome so fully that she still believes the positive coverage and the faux sympathy of the last couple of months was the real thing and not confected nonsense.
She is the victim of her own delusion.
Budge has attacked the SPFL board in the most venomous language following her club’s defeat.
Yet she, herself, has several times served on that board and her club did alright out of that. It was the SPFL board, on which she sat, which allowed them to play four early season fixtures at Murrayfield in 2017 when they were still trying to get the new stand at Tynecastle open.
For months, clubs re-arranged fixtures to suit their schedule, with Budge using her position as a board member to assure that the league played ball. That crisis continued all the way to November of that year when Hearts was granted a temporary safety certificate for their stadium so that a game against Thistle could take place.
The thing is, that certificate was only granted at 8:00 am on the morning of the game … a match which should have been postponed days before but which the SPFL allowed to stay on the card.
Stewart Robertson was also on the SPFL board that year, by the way.
Budge has only attacked their competence now because the decisions have gone the other way.
It’s the same with Robertson, who’s criticisms of the very men he sat around the table with many times before, and who’s conduct and performances he never once questioned, brought the game into such disrepute that I remain shocked he and his club faced no punishment for it.
Her incontinent rant last night was yet another example of this woman’s utter failure to comprehend that what happened here was the direct consequence of choices that she, herself, has made and the manner in which she conducts her business.
“For those of us involved throughout this process, sadly once again, we cannot say we are totally surprised at the outcome, despite firmly believing in the power of the arguments and evidence we put forward,” she said.
The power of the arguments?
The three members of the panel weren’t concerned in the least with impressive sounding rhetoric.
They were interested only in the regulations and in whether or not those regulations were followed, and that they were was plain to anyone who looked at them, right from the start of this whole bizarre affair.
“What has been allowed to happen in Scottish football, where fellow member clubs and our governing bodies have stood back and allowed totally disproportionate financial damage to be imposed on 3 of its members, can only be described as shameful… as indeed, should the SPFL’s recent self-congratulatory statement.”
Budge’s legal claim, let’s not forget, was for a whopping £10 million … three times what the league champions get for winning the title.
That burden would have fallen on every club in the land and for what? So she and her club could avoid its deserved fate?
“”For too long, chairmen and owners have stood on the side-lines bemoaning the decision-making processes, the perceived lack of leadership, the lack of commercialism; the general shortcomings, as they see it, of Scottish football.”
She should know; she’s one of them, and she has never mentioned any of this before.
She then lurches into Churchillian mode before finishing on this ridiculous note.
“I make these statements, confident in the support I know we will have from our incredible fans and sponsors. The messages of support that I, personally, have received throughout this enormously difficult period have been absolutely amazing … I am sorry we did not win this battle but as we all know, it is winning the war that counts.”
No, actually, it’s winning football matches that counts, and I’m not sure it’s wise to use the language of war at a time when the game needs to pull together again.
What “war” is this that she’s pledging to continue? If she’s a reformer that’s news to me. She has no plan. She has no support. She has next to no credibility with other chairmen at other clubs, and the way she’s attacked them here won’t help with that at all.
Yet it’s clear she believes all of this, that she is some crusader, some leader who will take us all to a new shining moment for the game.
This woman who couldn’t get a stand completed on time and who has mismanaged her club into the second tier, who couldn’t get any form of reconstruction through over the summer in four attempts and with the media solidly behind her.
She should try stand up comedy instead of this football lark.
She’d be a hit.
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