ANN BUDGE has backed a game-changing self Covid test designed to get fans back inside Tynecastle.

But she still fears it could be another YEAR before the Gorgie ground is near to full once again.

Budge is cautious over the possible return of fans to GorgieCredit: Michael Schofield – The Sun Glasgow

The Hearts owner and a number of her staff tried out the new BioSure self-test at the club on Wednesday..The difference between this test and others is it’s saliva-based as opposed to a nasal or throat swab. And its makers claim it is capable of providing a highly accurate result in just 15 minutes. That, in theory, could allow supporters, via an app on their phone, to return to grounds in their thousands when restrictions are eventually lifted. And BioSure and partners WSA Healthcare, who already have links with Hamilton Accies, insist they could have the process ready for the start of next season if they can get government approval. But as impressed as she is with the new test Budge isn’t ready to budget for that happening just yet.

She said: “I’ve been enthused by what I’ve seen. It’s so easy.

“The thing that was worrying me was how do you implement the test, in terms of the practicalities of getting thousands of people into an event.

“But seeing how far forward they are with the technology and the app, that opens up all sorts of possibilities.

“You have not just the test but also the technology to demonstrate that it’s yours, it’s on your phone.

“You’ve got a passport: ‘I did the test this morning so I can go and have a pint – assuming they ever open the pubs – I can go to the football or a restaurant.’

“And that would be a HUGE step forward if all of that can be accredited, approved and implemented.

“Could that change the time frame we are looking at? It could, with the caveat of it being approved.

“But I’m planning on a fairly pessimistic basis.

“I don’t think we’ll see the beginning of supporters coming back even in August, to be frank. Or even potentially two or three months later than that.

“I don’t see full stadiums, potentially, ANY time next season unless there is a real change.

“And partial crowds aren’t the answer. We wouldLOSE money.

“I don’t particularly want small numbers coming in for a game unless it is part of a trial.

“So it’s not a question of getting a certain number back as quickly as possible, it’s about having a pathway to plan sensibly.

“If we all had no supporters for the whole of next season then we would all be in dire trouble.“

This time last year Budge warned all 42 clubs might struggle to cope with the pandemic. And 12 months on she admits she is pleasantly surprised they have so far all managed to do so. But the Hearts owner fears life is only going to get tougher for clubs as the months go on. She reckons another campaign with next to no fans coming in could prove fatal to a number of them. And that’s why she is so keen to try out technology that could help address the shortfall.

She said: “There was an underlying view around a year ago that not all clubs would survive this.

“I’m quite astonished that basically all the clubs are coping because I know how hard it must be for everyone. It can’t go on forever.

“I believe the threat is still there, for sure.

“And if this carried on for another season, I’m not sure how many clubs would be able to survive.

“The government support has been amazing, that’s why we are surviving – but we all know we will need to pay that back.

“So I think it will take three years – minimum – to get back to where we were before. It’s not just going to be a case of one day: ‘oh, everything is fine now’.”

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