Under-fire Hibs chairman Rod Petrie will today meet angry fans who will deliver an ultimatum that unless he steps aside a campaign will be launched to oust him from Easter Road.
Plans are already in place for a press conference tomorrow to unveil details of how supporters intend to turn up the heat on Petrie should he hold fast to his declaration – made after Hibs were relegated on Sunday – that he intends to continue as chairman, albeit while stepping back to allow incoming chief executive Leeann Dempster to assume day-to-day control.
However, that’s not enough for fans, 600 of whom gathered outside the Leith ground following Hamilton’s play-off victory to call for the head of both Petrie and manager Terry Butcher.
Since then, Mike Riley, the chairman of the Hibs Supporters’ Association, has claimed the move to see a wind of change blow through Easter Road has strengthened with confidence in Petrie said to have evaporated and the overwhelming belief being that change can’t happen until he is gone.
While Petrie has agreed to meet Riley, who will be joined by former player Paul Kane and Keny McLean jnr, the son of former vice-chairman Kenny McLean, it is understood they are not confident he’ll be receptive to their wishes and that will result in a sustained campaign to have him relinquish the post he has held for the past ten years.
Riley was today reluctant to divulge what is in mind ahead of tomorrow’s launch but a season-ticket boycott, a call for fans who have already bought one to be reimbursed and a plea for businessmen not to invest either in sponsorship or corporate hospitality have all been mooted although there is the obvious danger of “self harm” in terms of depriving the club of income at a time when it’s looking to put together a side competitive enough to mount a bid to escape the Championship at the first time of asking.
As the Evening News has revealed, the current move is no knee-jerk reaction to the events of the weekend, with Riley revealing unrest has been growing for months, sparked by Hibs’ shock Scottish Cup defeat by Raith Rovers, one of the sides they’ll be facing next season.
He said: “Fans approached me for a meeting a couple of weeks after that because they were not happy with the way Hibs were being run. Being beaten by Raith Rovers was unacceptable and that started everything off.
“We have been active since then but even in our wildest dreams we never thought it would all end in relegation, nothing could have been further from our minds. We didn’t want to air our thoughts at that time, things were getting
critical and we didn’t want to upset the applecart.
“We actually sent a letter to each of the players before the play-off games against Hamilton because we were so worried, asking them to give us that wee bit extra, that wee push to get us over the line. Hibs were happy for us to do that but, unfortunately, our worst fears were realised and now 14 of those players are away.
“Since then my phone has been going non-stop, calls and texts, fans all saying they are happy to go down whatever route it takes to get change. I’m still numb today. What’s happened is unbelievable and now every fan has been asking how are we going to get out of the Championship, is there going to be investment in the team or are we going to carry on the way we have been for the past four or five seasons? If that’s the case we could be down there for some time.”
Although it has already been stated that Dempster, recruited on the back of the success she enjoyed in a similar role at Motherwell, will have complete control, Riley insisted many fans feel Petrie will still be “pulling the strings”, a belief that won’t disappear until he is no longer chairman.
Riley said: “Mr Petrie has been asking for patience and time to get things right, but that’s been going on for too long and he has not been getting it right. We believe that as long as he is there he will still be running everything.”
While Petrie is in the firing line, Riley also insisted Butcher and his assistant Maurice Malpas had to shoulder their share of the blame. “They had enough games to pick up the points to avoid relegation and that’s a massive worry,” he said.
“Unlike last time we went down I don’t imagine us bringing in the likes of Mixu Paatelainen, Russell Latapy and Franck Sauzee next season.”