The move towards fan ownership at Easter Road will take a significant step forward today when Hibernian Supporters Limited (HSL) are presented with their first share certificate just before kick-off for the Scottish Cup tie against Arbroath.
The Capital club’s share issue went live on Monday and in the first four days £25,000 has been banked via direct debits, representing an initial purchase of 625,000 shares.
This early figure is expected to rapidly rise as more and more fans sign up to the minimum suggested donation of £225 annually, or £18.75 per month, with the ultimate aim of owning 51 per cent of the club.
While the existing 1700 shareholders can buy more shares, HSL has been set up as simple alternative through which fans can invest without the need to comply with the rigorous process demanded by financial legislation.
Although fans who contribute this way won’t own shares themselves, or receive a share certificate, they will get a membership certificate acknowledging the part they have played in securing supporter ownership of the club. Once HSL obtain 20 per cent of shares, they will be entitled to have a director on the Easter Road board to speak for their members.
The plans have, of course, attracted criticism from some quarters, but Hands on Hibs, one of the most vociferous groups challenging it, have dropped their opposition.
That move has been welcomed by Kenny MacAskill MSP, chair of the HSL board which also includes former Hibs captain Jackie McNamara, Proclaimer Charlie Reid, supporters Jim Adie and Gordon Smith along with former club director Stephen Dunn and current Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster.
MacAskill said: “We are very pleased with the first four days of the launch, people have been signing up on daily basis so that figure will continue to increase as we drive forward.
“We’ve had inquiries from all over, Australia, Italy, Canada and the United States, for instance, and we’ll be finding a mechanism for those fans to get money to us as well because they want to participate.
“We’re pleased the club have resolved the situation with Hands on Hibs. Everyone has been asking for this ownership so we need everybody coming together.”
MacAskill pointed out that if an individual buys, say, £125,000 worth of shares, they would have less than 1 per cent of the total shareholding, whereas HSL’s aim of accumulating shares on a collective would result in a growing voice as the group’s stake in the club continued to increase.
He said: “Fans can buy shares direct. They don’t have to come to HSL and we wouldn’t criticise anyone who chooses to do that – but we think there’s strength in depth.
“This is the best way for the great majority to have a voice, to have strength in unity.
“It’s a huge opportunity, an outstanding opportunity to acquire the club and make significant change.
“The articles of association of HSL are very simple.
“We only do two things – we raise funds to buy shares and then hold the shares for the benefit of all Hibs supporters. We will continue to buy shares as long as there are shares to buy.”