Hibs’ hands tied against free entry to play-offs

Leeann Dempster, Hibs chief executive

Leeann Dempster, Hibs chief executive

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Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster took a thinly-veiled swipe at the SPFL after the Easter Road club revealed that they will reluctantly have to charge season-ticket holders £15 to attend their home play-off matches.

The Hibees insist they had hoped to let season-ticket holders attend the upcoming semi-final against Queen of the South or Rangers for free, as they did for last season’s final against Hamilton Accies. Hibs were allowed by the governing body to do so last year as the 50 per cent levy on play-off gate income and rules preventing them offering free entry had been implemented after the sale of season tickets had started. However, there is no such room for manoeuvre this time round. With costs of hosting the match having to be footed by the home club, in addition to the levy, Hibs say they will have to charge £15 to season-ticket holders to try to prevent making a loss.

“Our position has been that clubs should have the flexibility to deal with season-ticket holders as they think best,” said Dempster in a statement on Hibs’ website. “While we were given the opportunity last season to do this by the board of the SPFL, our view has not prevailed this time. The debate has been ongoing since October, when the board of the SPFL sought to introduce minimum pricing and to strengthen the rules to ensure that season tickets are not valid for play-off matches. I would have liked to be announcing that we were able to allow our season ticket holders in for free but we have been left in no doubt by the board of the SPFL that to do so would be to breach the rules on differential pricing.”

The cash generated from the play-off levy is to be distributed amongst the rest of the league and also to offer a form of parachute payment for up to two clubs relegated from the top flight.

Rangers had intended to offer free entry to their season-ticket holders, but have since backed down and will charge £5. Queen of the South will charge normal prices to their fans for tonight’s quarter-final first leg against the Ibrox side.

Dempster has called for a review of SPFL rules regarding play-off income, with the club already having called for the levy to be halved to 25 per cent.

“We fully accept that the levy is intended to help fund clubs through relegation,” she added. “Our club was at the table when the SPFL was formed and the original rules agreed. Our experience of the competition and the interaction and expectations of supporters has led us to the conclusion that collectively we need to re-evaluate the rules. This will help to avoid future conflict between clubs, their supporters and the league body. We would like to positively contribute to that discussion.

“There is no deduction permitted for match operational costs therefore the club has to pay the full costs of staging the match, and obviously the VAT element of the receipts. At a time when we are seeking to build a squad for next season, we are in no position to lose money on a match. The only way left is to offer the match to supporters as inexpensively as we can, knowing that the price has to be open to all.”

Briefs are already on sale for Hibs’ play-off match and season-ticket holders’ seats will be reserved until Wednesday, May 13, before going on general sale.

“We fully