Hibs chairman Ron Gordon says club is 'on pause' as he addresses youth academy concerns
Hibs chairman Ron Gordon has assured supporters that the club intends to remain competitive - and financially stable - despite the challenges faced throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
The club's American-based owner reflected on the "difficult decisions" being made at Easter Road after entering a consultation period with players and staff over the need for cutbacks due to the loss of vital income.
Speaking to Hibs TV, the man who spent £3.5m to take over the club last July said he was hopeful of reaching agreement with players over proposed wage cuts while promising that Jack Ross will be able to strengthen the squad ahead of the new season.
Amid reports that the youth academy could be mothballed, the Hibs chief also stressed that some club operations will be placed "on pause" with the intention of restoring the infrastructure once the situation recovers.
"The club was in very good financial shape - it still is under the circumstances - so I think we've been able to manage as best we can," he said.
"Our goal is to navigate the storm as quickly and effectively as we can so that we can come out of it in a way that we can rebuild very quickly and put the club in a competitive position from a business and a football team.
"It's not been without some difficulties, you have to make some difficult decisions. There are things we need to think about and unfortunately the club needs to contract a little bit, rightsize it's operation to the reality, which is basically a loss of revenues, in an uncertain time for football, over the next three, four, six months.
"Who knows exactly when we're going to be able to have 20,000 people at Easter Road. That may be quite a ways away still. So we need to be smart about how we navigate the next, I don't know how many months, so that we're in good shape all along."
Mr Gordon had outlined an ambitious vision for the club at its most recent AGM in February, promising investment in the stadium and the squad, and he insists those plans are still in place, but are on temporary hold while Scottish football traverses the Covid-19 landscape.
"Our goal is to take a step back, take a pause on many of the things we talked (about) at the AGM and get through this period of time. And once football begins to get some traction, be on firmer foot so we can begin to move quickly to bring the club back to full energy," he said.
"I thought we laid out a wonderful plan for the club. It's an aspirational plan so there are a lot of challenges there, but as soon as we can get back to that, we're going to. There are many things there that are going to be very positive for the club going forward. We just need to pause it right now, get through this difficult time then once we're on the other side, we have to be smart about how we do it, but begin to activate some of the initiatives we've put on pause for now."
His intention, Mr Gordon added, is to streamline the business to focus primarily on the first team in the coming months with other club departments likely to be scaled back due to the projected loss of income.
"The game right now is going through a big lull and from a Hibs perspective we anticipate that the 2020-21 season will be at 50 per cent of the revenues we had the previous season," he explained. "It's not only loss of revenue from ticket sales and attendance, but there are no pre-season games, and all the kind of things we do at Easter Road on non-match days, all that revenue has dried up. Hospitality is non-existent.
"So there are a lot of areas of the club that are not really going to be contributing to the top line, which means that we need to make adjustments on our costs. I don't think we're going to be very dissimilar to many football clubs around the world. I think all clubs are going to be doing this, even the big ones, and it's just a question of what's the best way to do this while having the least detrimental impact to the operation of the club. That's what we're trying to navigate now."
Addressing reports of the possible closure of the club's academy, Mr Gordon added: "It’s a pause. The initial thing is our first team coming back to play in August, which we’re excited about.
"All the other things are not going to happen. We were going to improve and upgrade our hospitality, so that’s paused just now. The academy? There’s not going to be a lot of activity there so that’s paused for now, although we’re still engaging with our youngsters and keeping them involved.
"Some of our capital investments are paused but we’re still planning so when things get back to near-normal then we can move forward with that. Once we come out of this, I’m very optimistic we’ll be in a very good position to move forward at a reasonable pace, to accelerate and be on the front foot."
Hibs fans were also singled out for praise after closing in on 9000 season tickets for the new season in the knowledge that, initially at least, matches will be played behind closed doors.
"I really can’t say enough about the supporters. They are the heart and soul of the club. The fact that more than 8700 have signed up for season tickets, at a time when people don’t know what the season will look like, is fantastic," Mr Gordon added.
"They’ve stepped up to support the club and it gives me a sense of pride to be part of this. Every time the club has needed them, they’ve more than stepped up. They love their club and rightly so. They have built a phenomenal club over nearly 150 years.
"I’m excited that football is coming back, we’re going to get through this together and at the end of this we’re going to have many years of wonderful football, positive results and some success on the field and as a football club. I know we’ll have sunny and better days ahead."