The mountainous task facing Ron Gordon in steering Hibs through coronavirus crisis

Hibs owner Ron Gordon during a Ladbrokes Premiership match between Hibernian and Rangers, at Easter Road, on December 20, 2019. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)Hibs owner Ron Gordon during a Ladbrokes Premiership match between Hibernian and Rangers, at Easter Road, on December 20, 2019. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Hibs owner Ron Gordon during a Ladbrokes Premiership match between Hibernian and Rangers, at Easter Road, on December 20, 2019. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Chairman must find balance between cutbacks and competitiveness

When Ron Gordon arrived at Hibs just under a year ago, he came in with grand plans for the club.

At his first AGM in February, he spoke of his aim to increase turnover, double the player budget, improve hospitality and invest £1m into the stadium.

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What he, nor anyone could have predicted was his vision being thrown into chaos by the outbreak of a global pandemic before he even had the chance to mark his first anniversary in charge.

Faced with the prospect of empty stands when the Scottish Premiership returns in August due to coronavirus, his ambitions to transform the club have had to be parked for the time being as he is now tasked with the daunting challenge of navigating the club through a financial crisis.


He certainly faced up to it head-on, effectively becoming the first top flight club in Scotland to warn of the need for major cutbacks due to the "substantial and unsustainable strain" the situation is having on club finances in a forthright statement last week.

The subsequent reports of wage cuts, redundancies among non-playing staff, possible player departures and mothballing the academy have painted a bleak picture of the landscape at Easter Road.

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Hibs fans seeking reassurance will have found some comfort in the chairman's address via club media on Monday.

He spoke calmly and confidently about the current situation - and even promised a return to "sunny days" in the future. He certainly didn't appear to have dark clouds hanging over him, but it's fair to say that there are genuine concerns about the months ahead.

Balancing act

Faced with dwindling revenues, Gordon has to find a way of balancing the books while putting a competitive team on the park.

There's also the challenge of keeping everyone happy from the manager to the players to the staff, and most importantly, the supporters.

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More than 8700 season ticket sales in the circumstances is remarkable given the current circumstances and would suggest the fan-base at large is firmly behind the current regime. Fans group HSL has also reported a surge in membership with over 3300 contributors now pledging funds - an increase of around 660 in the past week.

The fans are proving to be a lifeline in these difficult times and Gordon has to ensure he protects that vital revenue source by keeping them firmly onside.

He also has the challenge of keeping the players on board at a time when he is asking them to accept wage cuts on the back of the sizeable deferrals that were put in place following the football shutdown in mid-March.

The players have already taken a significant financial hit with the previously arranged deferrals and few could blame them for resisting further damage to their livelihoods in the months ahead, so it's likely Gordon will have to tread carefully to maintain dressing-room harmony.

Squad issues

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He also has head coach Jack Ross to consider. The man he brought in to replace Paul Heckingbottom last November has not yet been given a chance to put his stamp on the squad, so will be keen to bring in some new players this summer, particularly as Premiership rivals are making improvements. Aberdeen recruited Jonny Hayes this week following his release from Celtic despite themselves warning of a £5m shortfall in club finances.

Only one member of the current Hibs squad was signed by Ross, with Paul McGinn arriving from St Mirren in January, leaving him essentially stuck with a squad he inherited from his predecessor, and one that is currently seven players lighter than it was when last season was cut short and in need of replenishment in certain areas.

The challenge for Gordon and chief executive Leeann Dempster is how to balance the need to fill the gaps in the squad with asking the current players to accept reduced terms, particularly as those funds could arguably be used to contribute towards their full wages.

It's a difficult dilemma for the club hierarchy to resolve, but it's one they will need to find the right solution to in order to keep all the different groups within the club happy.

Mountainous task

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With all that in mind, Gordon's ownership is already facing a critical juncture, and you have to sympathise with him.

Having parted with £3.5m in order to take control of the club last July with a view to building on the foundations laid by Sir Tom Farmer, things appeared to be heading in the right direction.

A climb into the top six (until points-per-game kicked in), a Scottish Cup semi-final against Hearts, and a set of encouraging financial results at February's AGM had given cause for optimism.

The Thank You NHS strip on the back of being awarded the Greenest Club in Scotland was another example of the good work being done at Easter Road.

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However, the biggest challenge now lies ahead. Gordon, renowned for conducting his successful business quietly and without fanfare, is now at the foot of a mountain approaching a year into his tenure. Hibs fans have placed their trust in him to scale it. The long climb begins now.