Leeann Dempster: Hibs fans on board will be listened to

Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
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Leeann Dempster has promised that any supporters elected to the Hibs board will have all-encompassing input in club affairs.

The chief executive announced that Hibs are ready to start the process of allowing two fans to become fully-fledged directors after meetings with supporters last week revealed an “overwhelming” appetite for fan representation.

The club are set to launch a questionnaire tomorrow aimed at evaluating the finer points of how supporters would be elected to the board, as they seek to rebuild trust following a fractious period for the Hibs in wake of relegation to the Championship.

Dempster is adamant that fan representation will not be a token gesture and that whoever joins the board will have a fulsome input in all club-related issues, including hiring and firing managers.

“The main focus to come out of the meetings was that supporters overwhelmingly wanted some kind of representation on the board,” she explained. “Some people said ‘what does that mean? Supporters will not be listened to anyway.’ And I said ‘well, why don’t we test that?’ We are more than willing to make it happen. In fact, it’s a direction we want to take.

“It looks like supporters want to make it happen. As a starting point, we’d like to get two supporters on the board.

“It’s not just about having representation – the fans would become board members. They would become absolute directors, sitting round the table at every board meeting and being involved in making all the decisions at the club, however big or small.

“It builds trust between the club and the supporters. We want to bring a bit more transparency. The supporters also want more communication – they want their voices to be heard. The way they’ve done that in recent times is through demonstrations and protests, but if they had board representation there would be a clear connection.”

Dempster, who was involved in implementing fan representation at her previous club Motherwell, explained that whichever supporters are added to the board will be chosen by supporters’ groups themselves, although the club will help facilitate the process.

“I know it’s happened at some clubs in Scotland and in England and I’ve got a bit of experience of it from my time at Motherwell,” she said. “We then had a debate about who would be eligible – and the answer to that is any supporter can put themselves forward. At Motherwell, the club had no involvement in determining which supporters came on to the board – it was decided by the different fans’ groups themselves.

“The questionnaire intends to get fans to answer questions on how they think we should go about electing supporters on to the board. We don’t want to be accused of stacking the deck, we want the fans to decide who can be nominated.”

Meanwhile, Dempster reaffirmed that club owner Sir Tom Farmer is in no rush to sell his stake in the club and explained that only when a potential owner puts a bullet-proof plan on the table that prioritises the long-term prosperity of the club will any takeover bids be entertained.

She said: “The ownership barrier always has to be sustainability moving forward, whether the club can be funded on an ongoing basis. Can we be better as a club than we are, and by that I don’t just mean on the pitch. And most importantly, do you have a plan?

“Until anyone can demonstrate a plan that says this club is not going to get into trouble and can flourish for years to come, then an ownership discussion won’t be available.”