HIBS have defended their policy for selling Scottish Cup final tickets after some fans branded it “blackmail”.
Several supporters criticised the system – which offered season ticket holders one ticket for the showdown against Hearts and a second if they renewed for next season – claiming it was “manipulative” and unfair to loyal fans.
Anyone without a season ticket this year who buys a season ticket now for next year will also have the option of buying a cup final ticket.
A fans’ representative said Hibs were running roughshod over those who had paid to follow the cup run and it was another example of “fleecing” supporters, adding that the system favoured wealthier fans who could afford to pay upfront for next year’s season ticket.
Fife Hyland, managing director at Easter Road, said the huge demand for tickets meant some fans were always going to be disappointed, but stressed that the system was “as fair as possible”.
Long-time supporter William Greenfield, 54, said he had attended all Hibs cup games this season but would likely miss the final because he had given up his season ticket a few years ago.
“I feel we are being blackmailed into buying season tickets when we don’t even know if we will be playing in the SPL next season,” he said.
“It’s just another thing that reminds me how I mean nothing to this club, even though I have given them 40 years of my life.”
Richard Graham, 60, a season book holder for 18 years who plans to wait until July to renew, said: “The Scottish Cup final is for this season, not for next season, but if I don’t renew I won’t be able to take my grandson, Ben, to Hampden. If I want to take my grandson it will cost me around £400.
“Current season book holders should have been given two tickets each because watching Hibs this season has been pure hell. After the cup final I won’t be back.”
Mike Riley, chairman of the Hibs Supporters Clubs, said the club had “let themselves down” by not rewarding the crowd at the semi-final against Aberdeen and said they were “not appreciating” their current season ticket holders.
“They are fleecing them [the fans] again,” he said. “I would like to have seen them doing something like the loyalty points scheme at Hearts.”
Mr Hyland said: “No-one is blackmailing anyone, we are rewarding loyal supporters.
“We are looking at people who have invested in 25 games over the season, this year and next year.
“I’m not going to apologise for trying to increase sales of season tickets because that is the lifeblood of every club.”
On the suggestion of employing a loyalty points scheme similar to Hearts, he said: “Unfortunately for us, Hearts have had a lot of big games over the last few years which has allowed them to build up a loyalty points system. We’ve had the cup final in 2007 and nothing since. This will now give us a starting point for a loyalty scheme.”