Hibs chairman Rod Petrie has implored fans to back the Easter Road club, warning that manager Pat Fenlon’s plans will be “hampered” unless thousands more buy a season ticket.
Petrie conceded that, like every other club, Hibs face difficult times following the five months of turmoil which engulfed Scottish football as Rangers crashed into oblivion.
But, he insisted, with clubs having followed their supporters’ wishes in opposing the Ibrox outfit remaining in the SPL, everyone now needs to work hard to counter the inevitable financial shortfalls they now face as a consequence.
Predicting “signficant changes,” Petrie said: “The clubs have spoken – not just the 12 in the SPL but also the 30 in the Scottish Football League, informed by the view of supporters and decisions have now been made in terms of who plays where for the season that is just about to start.
“It is now time to move on and concentrate on the football season that is ahead of us. There will be significant changes. The clubs have made the right decision for the right reasons but these decision don’t come without a cost.”
However, while grave concerns remain, with no-one able to say with any certainty as to exactly how each club will be affected, Petrie revealed how the immediate aftermath is likely to affect Hibs, with Fenlon’s budget under threat unless 3000 “lapsed” season ticket holders have a change of heart.
Acknowledging his club’s fans have had two years of disappointment, culminating in that crushing Scottish Cup final defeat by Capital rivals Hearts which, he admitted, had “hit hard and deep”, Petrie agreed it was hard for them to view the future in a positive light. However, he insisted now was the time for all supporters, not just those of Hibs, to rally behind their respective clubs.
He said: “We are in the same position as everybody else. We need as many supporters as we can to come towards us, to get behind the goals, get behind the team and get behind Pat in trying to rebuild to squad for next season. In many ways we are in a worse position than other clubs because we have got a significant rebuilding job to do.
“There have been significant changes in the playing squad in terms of players leaving. We have started the process of bringing players in but that is now going to be hampered unless we can get more season ticket income and more certainty in terms of the money available to the manager.”
Although the Cup final helped Hibs sell a “significant” number of season tickets, sales currently standing at around 7000, Petrie revealed estimates the past two years have resulted in some 3000 “lapsed” season ticket holders, with 2000 from last season having failed to renew.
Times are tough, he agreed, but having embarked on the road they have taken regarding Rangers, Petrie insisted clubs and supporters must continue to stand together, the likelihood of less income from central revenues such as television and sponsorship meaning clubs will have to rely heavily on the cash generated on matchday. Recalling the penultimate SPL game of the season when Hibs’ relegation showdown with Dunfermline brought 15,281 supporters to Easter Road, Petrie said: “We know that television doesn’t work unless there is an enthusiastic and passionate crowd inside the staadium.
“We want to see Easter Road filled. Think back to that Monday night, it was a great crowd, a great atmosphere and the team played well. That is what we are trying to re-engage and take the club forward as best we can. There will be a reduction in income but we can’t avoid that, it is time to get back to basics, to get people engaging with the club and for the club to be trying to go forward in the right way. We want Pat to be able to bring the players he wants to Easter Road but that is very difficult at the moment. We had a budget and an element of that budget is now under threat because of decisions we have all made, for all the right reasons and backed by the views of our supporters.
“So now we need to make good that shortfall and, if we can, get another 3000 season ticket holders able to commit and support the club then we have got a chance going forward.”