Proclaimer Charlie Reid has urged Hibs supporters to speed up the Easter Road club’s move towards fan ownership by backing the buy-out vehicle in greater numbers.
Hibernian Supporters Ltd, set up to enable fans to take a stake in the club with the ultimate aim of a controlling interest has pumped £250,000 into the Easter Road outfit in its first year in operation, its 1400 members now holding seven-and-a-half per cent of shares.
Their cash, insisted Reid, a director of HSL, has had an obvious impact with the promise that every penny raised would go direct to head coach Alan Stubbs’ budget, helping build a squad which is currently competing for promotion to the Premiership, has clinched a place in the League Cup final and is hoping to extend their Scottish Cup run with victory over Capital rivals Hearts in next Tuesday’s fifth-round replay.
As things stand, HSL expects to have contributed £500,000 to the club by the end of this year with the aim of acquiring a “meaningful” stake by 2020, with a minimum target of a 35 per cent shareholding.
But Reid believes that timescale can be radically reduced if more fans buy in to the project, claiming fan ownership is the way ahead for Scottish football, even for the likes of Rangers and Celtic.
Adamant a club which was bitterly divided less than two years ago as the shock of relegation reverberated around Easter Road is now back on the path to good health, Reid said: “HSL in the past year has made a substantial difference to the club, the retention of some players, the buying of others. I think the £250,000 has made a difference. We’re not claiming all the credit, but I think it has helped.
“When we launched I think we faced the obstacle of a divided club, there was a lot of hurt and understandably so. The decline had been dramatic in the past five to seven years, but the improvement under Alan Stubbs and his coaching team has, I think, made if feel that the club has been pulled together again.”
Now Reid is hoping that having seen the impact made over the past 12 months, more and more supporters will back the scheme. Citing the success of the Foundation of Hearts, he said: “I think what they have done has been exemplary. The Hearts’ guys want their club to get right back to the top of Scottish football and are contributing about £120,000 per month to the cause.
“We have 1400 members but we want a lot more, If we could have 2000, 2500 or 300 then it’s going to come a lot quicker.”
Pointing out that Scottish football finances are in a generally poor state, Reid firmly believes fan ownership is the way forward. Explaining his own participation in HSL, he said: “I back it because I believe in the principle of collective ownership of a football club and I think it is inevitable for most clubs that they go that way.
“I suspected the only money that is out there to come into Scottish football is from big businessmen that you would not want involved with the club.
“It’s taken us a long time to get where we are, but I am glad we are here now. I think the ownership will ultimately pass to the fans. Sir Tom Farmer or any of the rest of us are not going to be around forever. I don’t see a lot of money coming into Scottish football, it’s not there any more.
“For Hibs, Hearts, even Rangers and Celtic I think in the long term the supporters will have to do it for themselves. There’s no question it’s calling out for fan ownership. There’s a need because if it is not us, who is it? It’s a Romanov or worse.”