Hibs supporters chief Mike Riley today insisted calls for a wind of change to blow through Easter Road aren’t a knee-jerk reaction to relegation, but have been months in the planning.
Around 600 furious fans gathered outside the Leith ground to vent their anger following Hamilton Accies’ play-off triumph which condemned Terry Butcher’s side to Championship football, calling for the heads of both the manager and chairman Rod Petrie.
Riley, the chairman of the Hibs Supporters Association, revealed he expects to go public in the near future with details of how fans hope to force the changes they want to see, and while he was reluctant to go into detail, there’s been speculation that could include a season-ticket boycott, demands from those who have already bought one to have their money returned, requests to business sponsors to cut their backing and a protest march.
But, describing the current crisis to be “as serious as the Wallace Mercer situation”, Riley claimed unrest among supporters has been growing for months, predicting the campaign will continue to strengthen while revealing that 14 different groups associated with the club were behind the move.
He said: “The fans want Mr Petrie out, the fans want a total change, they have no confidence in him whatsoever, that’s one of the major things.
“This is something that’s been going on for a few months, not just because we were relegated. It would have happened had we avoided relegation. It’s something we were planning and were going to go ahead with but the fact we are now down makes it 50 times worse. It’s a nightmare.
“This is as serious as the Wallace Mercer situation. We are down and how long are we going to stay down? Are we going to come back up? Where is the club going? Are we going to slip even further?
“That’s why we are determined. You will be surprised at the big names that are going to be involved. It’s going to be strong, vocal and very big. We are up for a fight, you might say.”
Riley claimed there were “two or three things” that had to be checked before the plans can be disclosed although he expects that to happen in the next few days. He said: “We have to make sure we have everything right, what we are planning and how we are going to go about it before we can make any announcement.
“Everything you can think of is on the agenda, it doesn’t need an intelligent person to work out what route we can go and what we can do. All I can say is we won’t relent on this. We know what the fans want and we will be pushing for it. It’s all for one thing and one thing only – the good of Hibs and the fans. The fans are the most important thing, it’s the fans who are the biggest contributors to the upkeep of Hibs so it is imperative we take action.”
Meanwhile, the leading fan message board, Hibs.net, has written to the board of directors demanding Petrie’s removal and proposing a vote of no confidence in the under-fire chairman who is set to hand over the day-to-day running of the club to new chief executive Leeann Dempster.
Hibs.net, however, while supporting the decision to bring in Dempster following her success in a similar role at Motherwell, wrote: “We have no confidence in Mr Petrie and his continued presence will prevent Ms Dempster properly engaging with the fan base and rebuilding the broken relationship.
“He has lost the trust of the vast majority of the support and these fans simply will not return while he remains involved. If nothing else he should realise this himself and remove himself from the role [non-executive chairman] forthwith.”