Hibs togetherness among staff and fans is helping club through coronavirus crisis

Easter Road employees support cost-saving measures while supporters step up

By Matthew Elder
Monday, 11th May 2020, 7:30 am
Greg McEwan, Hibs' Head of Marketing and Brand Partnerships
Greg McEwan, Hibs' Head of Marketing and Brand Partnerships

A sense of togetherness within the club and among the fan-base is helping Hibs through the coronavirus crisis, according to one of the key figures at the club.

Greg McEwan, Head of Marketing and Brand Partnerships, and who was heavily involved in the launch of the widely-acclaimed 'Thank You NHS' strip, is part of a team that is continuing to work through the lockdown while the majority of the rest of the Easter Road staff are placed on furlough.

McEwan believes the club's inclusive approach of treating all employees the same, from first team players through to off-pitch workers, has helped maintain a positive atmosphere through difficult times.

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"The directors, Leeann (Dempster) and senior staff worked hard over the initial period to work out the best foot forward for the club," he said.

"We made the decision on furloughing some staff and the wage deferrals which was hugely appreciated.

"In our scheme everyone is the same. Whether you've been furloughed or not it's wage deferrals. So everybody is in the same boat.

"That's a big thing for the club that everybody gets treated equally. We didn't want anyone thinking, 'I'm furloughed so I'm being punished for something'.

"It's not that at all, everyone is in it together, and that's certainly gone down well with the staff. Guys like Graeme Mathie are working hard keeping engagement going between the squad and staff. Every Friday we've got quizzes which brings everybody together, which is nice.

"We're moving on and just trying to make sure we position everything correctly for when football comes back."

McEwan also reiterated the club's gratefulness to the fans, not just in purchasing over 6000 season tickets thus far but via other methods such as the record-breaking NHS shirt sales, player sponsorships and stadium tiles, explaining that without this backing, the club would be in even greater financial difficulty.

"The fans have been first class in buying their season tickets, buying the new home shirt and generally supporting the club," he said.

"Sport in general is struggling a little bit through this crisis. You see how it's affecting clubs and it's great to see fans rallying around.

"It's so vitally important that fans do because this is very real, that without their support there might not be a club.

"It's not a false promise to fans. Everything they are doing is helping us to survive on a month-to-month basis to allow us to come out of it as strongly as we possibly can, whenever that might be.

"I know from my own perspective, I'm right into my golf, and you're paying your subscriptions but you know that you're not playing and you can't get access to golf clubs. But you're doing it because you want to have a golf club to go back to and play. Football fans are no different.

"They know what they are doing is helping the club survive and giving them a football club to come back and watch when we get through Covid-19.

"We've then got a duty to make sure we provide for them on the other side of that, so we're doing all we can to make sure we can have Easter Road ready to get them back as soon as we can."

McEwan, who was previously Marketing Manager with the R&A for three-and-a-half years before taking up the Easter Road post in December, has been working to transform the commercial side of the club.

"When I first went in there was a case of doing a big evaluation of where we were at as a club commercially, and all the commercial partnerships that we had," he said.

"There was a belief through conversations with the likes of Ron (Gordon) and a few others that we're probably guilty, as is Scottish football, of undervaluing its assets.

"So it was a case of looking at all of those and putting a bit of structure in place. We've managed to do that, so there's a structure in place now commercially, and we've been having a number of conversations with brands about joining us, and then tied into all of that we had the launch of the Greenest Club in Scotland at the turn of the year, which was a big initiative for us to get out with.

"That was great, and then over the last few weeks we've had the NHS partnership being another good one, the timing was just right for us to do that.

"Then Sporting Pay last week and allowing us to go cashless is a big deal in terms of the ecosystem. From a hygiene factor alone it's a big progression and it improves queue times and speed of service. In general it improves the customer experience.

“We're looking at other things like getting fans into the stadium in a nice manner, and using different exit points similar to what you're experiencing in super markets right now.

“We want to make sure Easter Road is a welcoming, clean environment for that day when fans can get back into the stadium.

“We're just trying to move things along a bit, and have that bigger picture of what's coming down the line, and not just being short-sighted into the next few weeks."