Former Hibs star Jackie McNamara today revealed he’d felt “insulted” at his integrity being questioned after being accused of being part of a “Ponzi scheme” as he threw his weight behind a move towards fan ownership at Easter Road.
The Capital outfit’s share issue to supporters – offering them the opportunity to own up to 51 per cent of the club – went live on Monday with the promise that all money spent, potentially up to £2.5 million, will help the club’s football ambition rather than benefit any existing shareholders.
The offer to be part of a collective ownership through Hibernian Supporters Limited, a company limited by guarantee and with the sole objective of buying and holding shares in the club, has been attacked by some fans.
Shareholders attending last week’s annual general meeting were met with placards claiming HSL was nothing more than a ‘Ponzi scheme’ – in other words an investment fraud – and that the move was a “shakedown” aimed at pouring cash into the pockets of club owner Sir Tom Farmer.
However, McNamara, one of seven directors of HSL chaired by MSP and former Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, firmly believes the Hibs support should unite behind the move having been an advocate for change at Easter Road. McNamara did attend an angry protest outside the ground following last season’s relegation but, he insisted, that while those running the club had to be called to account, he didn’t feel that was the right way to go about it.
He said: “I can understand it because of the feeling of the supporters. The way the team was playing football, it was just “lump it” football. It was embarrassing and I can understand their anger but I wasn’t happy being there.
“I’d been asked for five minutes of my time, I didn’t know anything about it. Someone said I hadn’t said much on the day but I didn’t have any speech prepared. I just said there has to be change, the people at the top keep employing managers and having to pay them, their assistants and backroom staff off.
“So they are culpable, they are responsible for the money going out the door. How many managers have there been? Eleven or twelve? It’s not right and there has to be change.
“However, that [the agm protest] wasn’t the right way to go about things, I don’t think you get anywhere with that.”
One complaint about the fan ownership move is that supporters already contribute through season tickets, buying club merchandise and so on and are now being asked to dip their hands in their pockets once again, a point McNamara is well aware of.
However, he said: “They are being asked to invest again but this is the only way we will get change if we are serious about it. It’s a start, it’s getting a foothold, getting into the club which has been going for 140 years – let’s just hope it goes on for another 140.”
Among the most vociferous opponents to the scheme has been Paul Kane, chairman of the 160-strong Former Players’ Association, a body of which McNamara is a member. However, he claimed, no formal vote has ever been taken on the proposal.
He said: “I was at a meeting just last week although it’s only the hard core of us who go every month. I was getting asked questions like ‘where’s the money going? what’s happening?’, but I can categorically state we have never had a vote. There’s been nothing about it in the emails we get about HSL and asking what we think about it.”
Under the HSL umbrella, fans can invest £225 or £18.75 a month and, while they won’t get a share certificate they will receive a membership certificate and have one vote on issues affecting HSL including the make-up of its board.
And, when HSL obtains 20 per cent of the club’s shares, it will be entitled to have a representative on the football club’s board which is already set to increase in numbers with two supporters, Frank Dougan and Amit Moudgil, having been voted on in a non-executive basis.
McNamara insisted the scheme is totally transparent unlike the current situation at Ibrox where various factions are fighting for control and that, he revealed, had left him annoyed at the accusation it’s a Ponzi scheme.
He said: “I found that a wee bit insulting but I’ve been called many things about my religion, my politics. It doesn’t bother me. It’s water off a duck’s back but I don’t like my integrity being questioned.
“Hopefully, this is the start of something good for the club. Give up six pints of lager a month and help the club.”