Hearts blinked first in the face of what is arguably the greatest crisis ever to grip football – and their owner and chairwoman Ann Budge has spent the past fortnight being abused and attacked from all sides as a result.

But could Budge’s rapid realisation of what damage the Scottish football shutdown could do to the Tynecastle club ultimately ensure they survive the coronavirus pandemic and lead to her being lauded for her swift actions – she requested that players and staff accept a 50 per cent pay cut during the suspension - in future?

Anyone with a basic grasp of what these apocalyptic times mean for the game across the globe realises the naysayers just aren’t Armagedding it.

Hearts could certainly have handled aspects of what is no doubt a complicated and painful process better. The email sent by their head of recruitment to agents regarding summer transfer activity was crass in the current climate. As was taking issue with another message being described as a “warning”.

The communication contained the line “we do not waive our right to suspend player agreements in the future should we require to do so to safeguard the future of the club”. They couldn’t exactly sue could they?

Budge can be taken to task for the exorbitant cost of the main stand, for the stockpiling of expensive and mediocre players, for the subsequent poor performance of the team.

She must shoulder her share of the responsibility for Hearts being four points adrift at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership and facing relegation to the Championship when football was suspended earlier this month.

However, when it comes to her savage cost-cutting measures she is bang on the money. With no sign in end to the lockdown and no revenue coming in she had to act and had to act fast. Failure to do so would be a dereliction of duty that could have disastrous consequences in the months ahead.

Hearts may have been the first top flight club to take action, but they will most certainly not be the last.

Indeed, across the capital Hibernian appear to be preparing to follow suit. Their owner Ronald Gordon last week admitted: “The loss of cash in the bank puts our club under the most severe strain and threat. We will be taking further steps over the next week or so to mitigate the effects.”

It is ironic that, as Budge has been dealing with a veritable tsunami of criticism, supporters of other clubs, not least Rangers, have been eager to learn what their custodians are planning to do going forward to avert catastrophe.

The silence from Ibrox since the shutdown was announced back on March 13 has been deafening. There was a statement from their managing director Stewart Robertson on their official website two weeks ago today that called for the 2019/20 campaign to be played to a close in the interests of “the integrity of sport in Scotland”. But there was no mention of how they intended to cope with the loss of income.

Dave King, not Rangers, revealed on Friday night when he, not Rangers, announced that he had stood down as chairman that a share issue had been “put on hold”, that “careful planning assumptions” were being revisited and that the board were examining the “financial consequences”.

But the party line, put up on their official website hours later, was that “the funding plan announced at the recent AGM is well advanced, with significant investment already received and further commitments in place”.

It didn’t exactly convince that everyone in the Blue Room is singing from the same hymn sheet at this crucial juncture.

No Rangers fan, no sensible one anyway, will take issue with directors and investors doing what is required to mitigate the devastating impact of Covid-19 given all they have been through in the past decade.

They have a responsibility to ensure stability in an uncertain period by whatever means necessary. The same goes for the board of every other Premiership club in the country.

Budge could soon find herself a trailblazer.

IT is fair to say UEFA haven’t covered themselves in glory during the coronavirus pandemic. Those privy to talks with European football’s governing body in the past fortnight have been left in no doubt where their interest lies. Their own tournaments, Euro 2020, the Champions League and the Europa League, are their primary concerns.

That much was obvious yesterday when their vice-president Michele Uva stated that it would be down to individual leagues across the continent to decide how their 2019/20 campaigns should be completed.

UEFA, whose provisional scheduling of the Euro 2020 play-off matches in June is a joke, and FIFA should really be rising above self-interest and leading the sport through this unprecedented emergency.

But at least the SPFL clubs now know that their fate lies in their own hands. They can get on with deciding what happens next. That could take some time.

Should the season be declared null and void? Should everything be decided on current positions? Should it be played to completion after the shutdown? Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.