Hibs chairman Rod Petrie today revealed he had seriously considered quitting after last season’s relegation from the Scottish Premiership.
Petrie was the immediate target as an angry crowd gathered outside Easter Road after Hamilton Accies’ dramatic penalty shoot-out win in the play-off last May condemned Hibs to the Championship, with a further protest aimed at forcing him out taking place in early June.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening News today, Petrie explained that, while walking away would have been the easy option, he decided to stay as he felt the sweeping changes which are now taking place at the Capital club may have failed without him at the helm.
Recent weeks have seen Hibs declare themselves free of bank debt, unveil a structured plan to repay the remaining £5 million debt interest-free over the next ten years, offer fans the chance to buy 51 per cent of their club and have two supporters, revealed today as Frank Dougan and Amit Moudgil, elected as non-executive directors.
However, Petrie insisted those moves were already underway this time last year with Leeann Dempster, then chief executive at Motherwell, lined up to take over as he stepped back from day-to-day operations.
Admitting relegation was both “humiliating and embarrassing,” Petrie said: “There was a protest on the day and in the immediate week afterwards.
“We live in a blame culture and obviously things were said and it was very clearly directed at me. Did I consider my position? Of course I did, it would have been daft not to and it might have been easier to walk away. But you face up to things, it’s how you react, what you do in adversity.
“We’d worked very hard during the 2013/14 season because we knew things had to change. The search for a new chief exec to come in, take over and take us on to the next generation had already started, we knew we wanted to address the ownership model of the club.
“There were some interesting and challenging conversations we had in private about what that might look like.”
Petrie, who was also conducting negotiations with the Bank of Scotland which eventually took round 11 months to conclude regarding the club’s debt, insisted “circumstances” saw plans which were ready to be unveiled put on hold while changes in the law regarding financial legislation complicated the share offer.
He said: “All these things were going on in the background, you have laid plans, people are working very hard to achieve an outcome and if I had walked away I think it is questionable as to how much, if any, of it would’ve happened.
“Leeann was just coming on board, experienced and talented, but it was important she was given the right introductions and what have you.
“There were people who came and rattled the windows, shook the door handle and tried to get in and we had to deal with all that and at the same time being very focused that we had failed on the football pitch. Supporters are passionate and that makes you say some harsh things. In different circumstances people make up more quickly, more easily.
“The sadness for me was seeing the Hibernian name broadcast around the world in that distressing and aggressive way.”