Leeann Dempster has insisted she won’t hesitate to slash ticket allocations for visiting supporters, declaring: “Hibs fans will always come first.”
The Easter Road chief executive ruffled the feathers of Rangers when she halved the number of tickets available to their fans for the final game of the season, the Ibrox club claiming the decision “beggars belief” and promising it would be kept in mind for future visits to Govan by the Capital club.
Hibs made the move after their own supporters snapped up tickets, selling out the other three stands of their ground, for a match which, potentially, could have decided second place in the Premiership.
Consequently, home supporters took up half the South Stand which has traditionally housed away fans, a near sell-out crowd of 19,579 justifying the decision, one which Dempster insisted she’ll make again if need be.
Rangers themselves have since announced even Celtic will get a severely reduced allocation of tickets at Ibrox next season, a move which will allow them to sell thousands more season tickets and one which their Old Firm rivals say they’ll be “happy to reciprocate”.
Dempster firmly feels every club has the right to make such decisions, saying: “There’s an element of supply and demand and ultimately I don’t believe that any football club coming into a final game of the season and a run of games where you already have three stands sold out, that you would sell to the opposing team irrespective of who that team is and irrespective of what has happened in the past.
“Every club wants to look after its own supporters, its priority has to be that and for me that’s exactly what we were doing. There was an early demand from our fans that we wanted to meet. I don’t understand what is controversial about that.”
Dempster pointed out that in a season in which average gates soared to their highest since the mid-1950s and season ticket sales hit an all-time record, Hibs fans had regularly been accommodated in the South Stand.
She said: “We monitored it all season.
“There were home supporters in that stand for the visits of Kilmarnock and Aberdeen and we’d had discussions with those clubs as well about allocations. Aberdeen wanted more a couple of times and we had to refuse them.
“If there’s a need again, we’ll do it again. Absolutely. It’s important to me that the people who come to support this club week in, week out, are looked after.
“You want the away supporters to come to a good stadium and environment and other than the result, enjoy their day. But it’s the home fans for me.”