Hibs chairman Rod Petrie has assured Hibs fans the Easter Road club is pulling out all the stops to ensure loan signings Leigh Griffiths, Ryan McGivern and Jorge Claros remain in Edinburgh beyond January.
Supporters have become increasingly concerned as to their future as the clock on their deals with the Capital outfit runs down, but while admitting that ultimately their “parent” clubs were in control of the situation, boss Pat Fenlon told the club’s annual general meeting all three were keen to stay with Hibs.
And in revealing Hibs have been “in dialogue” with the respective clubs, Wolves, Manchester City and Honduran outfit Motagua, Petrie also disclosed the players’ contracts with Hibs run well into January – meaning they will be available to Fenlon for the New Year derby at Tynecastle.
Asked of his hopes of seeing Griffiths, McGivern and Claros at Easter Road in the longer term, Fenlon told the meeting, attended by around 200 shareholders: “We are keen to keep them and, from speaking to the players, they are keen to stay.
“But they are not our players, their parent clubs control the situation. We are doing our best, it’s an on-going process but it is slow. These things do take time and we have to be patient.”
Fans are particularly worried about top scorer Griffiths, with Wolves’ position having seemingly changed over the course of recent weeks, with Molineux boss Stale Solbakken having initially been quoted as saying the striker, who is out-of-contract at the end of the season, wasn’t part of his plans before suggesting the Midlands club wanted a fee – reportedly £150,000 – and then revealing he’d sent members of his backroom staff to see the in-form hitman in action.
McGivern’s contract at the Etihad Stadium also runs out at the end of the season while the situation of Claros, who signed a year-long deal with Hibs, is somewhat more complicated given he still has 18 months of his deal with Motagua to run.
Nevertheless, Petrie underlined the club’s determination to do all they can to have the trio, seen as key members of Fenlon’s team, stay longer. The chairman said: “Pat and I talk about players on a regular basis. He has stated his desire to keep the three players and we have been in dialogue with each of the three loaning clubs and each of them as a decision to make.
“We are keen to get things done but the one thing we tried to make sure was their contracts go two or three weeks into the transfer window to give us time to deal with things. It’s not as if they go on January 1.”
What happens with Griffiths, McGivern and Claros will impact on Fenlon’s wheeling and dealing during the transfer window, with the manager having previously stated he’d be happy if the extent of his transfer activity was confined to having them stay at Hibs.
However, Fenlon does have contingency plans, although he’s aware he’ll again be
working to a tight budget with Petrie again warning that further cuts will have to be made if crowds at Easter Road don’t increase.
Although wages across all departments have been reduced by £700,000, Hibs still made an operating loss of £900,000 in the last financial period as they slipped into the red for only the second time in eight years. Finance director Jamie Marwick told last night’s meeting this situation was “unsustainable.”
However, although the club’s debt has increased to £6.4 million, Marwick revealed much of it related to three long-term mortgages obtained for the redevelopment of Easter Road and insisted: “We remain financially robust and meet all our obligations as they fall due.”
Nevertheless, Petrie, while
appreciating the tough
economic climate facing everyone, noted that some 13,000 Hibs fans had witnessed the Scottish Cup triumph over Capital rivals Hearts ten days earlier, expressing the hope that many of them will be back for this weekend’s SPL match against Motherwell.
He said: “Growing the attendances by Hibernian supporters is our core strategy. We are asking supporters to do what you do best – support the team at home matches.
“If we cannot do that, and if we cannot grow our income, then the only route to get back to break even will be to make substantial reductions in costs.”
With Petrie’s assertion that Hibs will continue to live within their means, one questioner asked what Hibs’ view was of other clubs not paying wages on time and if the Easter Road outfit felt it was right that they “were getting away with it.”
Petrie pointed to the new rules, penalties and sanction imposed by the SPL in respect of clubs who don’t meet their financial obligations but, when pressed on the imposition of a transfer embargo at a time when transfers couldn’t be made, he admitted: “I share your questioning.”
Petrie did reveal, however, that Scottish football is determined to ensure clubs live within their means, revealing he is chairing a group under the auspices of the SFA to introduce UEFA president Michel Platini’s plans for “financial fair play” to be introduced into the domestic game in a bid to end the environment of “boom and bust, of speculate to accumulate” and ensure clubs “keep within the resources available to them.”