HENRY SMITH today urged supporters of SPL clubs to show the courage of their convictions by turning out in numbers to support their teams this coming season.
Hearts and Hibs have both announced their intention to vote against allowing a newco Rangers to play in Scotland’s top flight next season.
The Edinburgh clubs have been joined by four others to have declared how they’ll vote when the SPL meets on July 4, and it seems certain the short-term future of Rangers – who need an 8-4 vote in their favour – will lie outside the top tier of Scottish football.
The Capital teams’ decision to go public with their vote for “sporting integrity” over financial security came after supporters of the two clubs – many of whom had threatened to walk away from the Scottish game if Charles Green’s Rangers newco were allowed into the SPL – had called on them to reveal their voting intentions.
The omission of Rangers from the league will mean a steep drop in revenue for all of the remaining member clubs, with Hibs admitting this week that they expect to face “collateral financial damage” as a result of their ‘no’ vote.
While Aberdeen, Dundee United, Inverness and St Johnstone concurred with Hearts and Hibs’ viewpoint, the remaining five clubs are yet to make their intentions clear.
Motherwell have claimed they could lose almost £1 million from refusing Rangers re-entry to the SPL and that they face a real danger of going back into administration themselves if they cannot find a way to replace the lost income.
Hearts great Smith feels fans of the six ‘no vote’ teams are delighted to see their pressure pay off – but acknowledges they now have a huge part to play in ensuring their clubs feel as little negative impact as possible.
Former goalkeeper Smith said: “There will be a big difference in the away ends next season because when Rangers come to places like Tynecastle there is some atmosphere. But there will also be a big difference in the amount of money coming in from the home matches, unless something else can be done to even it out.
“The supporters put clubs under pressure not to allow Rangers back in and the clubs showed that they were listening by announcing that they will vote against them.
“When you play Rangers it puts a whack on the home side’s income on that particular match.
“Now it looks like clubs are going to lose that money and it is up to the Hearts fans and all of the other supporters around the country to put more bums on seats. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen – it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.
“On a cold winter’s day, sitting there in all conditions for an hour and a half is not pleasant and if they decide to sit at home with a cup of tea in the warmth of their own house then there will be a shortfall.
“Clubs are counting on their fans right now.
“There’s no getting away from the fact that whoever takes their place in the SPL, they are not going to have fraction of the fans who would have travelled with Rangers.
“Supporters must come out in their numbers, fill as many seats as they can and keep revenues up.”
Smith realises clubs around the country are already having to cut their cloth to suit the financial climate they find ourselves in right now.
Several faces have already bid goodbye to Tynecastle over the summer, with fans’ favourites Rudi Skacel and Ian Black already having been allowed to leave the club. David Obua and Gary Glen have also moved on, while Craig Beattie’s contract ran out at the end of last season and he is still on the lookout for a new side.
Smith continued: “Hearts need some more quality in their squad, although Vladimir Romanov has come out and said that he will be looking more to youth.
“With guys like Blackie and Skacel leaving and a few others probably going to follow them, Hearts really need to get a blend of quality and youth in the team. With no Rangers, there is a better chance of pushing for a place further up the table or for a Champions League place.
“Hearts had a good run last year when winning the Scottish Cup – that was brilliant. John McGlynn has got to go in now and see what he can do better. It’s no good just turning up and thinking you will get the points handed to you. You’ve still got to go out and do the business.
“It’s up to the fans and the players to do what they can. Tynecastle is a great atmosphere when there is a full house and place is rocking. It’s great for the players to play in that kind of atmosphere.
“We want to get back to that again, the team needs the fans to come to Tynie and support the club – and keep coming back every week.”