Hibernian chairman Rod Petrie has made a direct appeal to fans to attend home games in greater numbers after the Easter Road club posted a near-£1 million loss for the second year running.
Petrie has targeted attracting 12,000 home fans to games in an attempt to increase income at the club and prevent two successive loss-making years becoming a trend, following a run of six years when a profit was reported.
The turnover for the year 2011/12 was £6.9m, down £100,000 from the previous year. The loss before taxation remained unchanged from the previous year at £900,000.
During the year in question, Hibs were involved in a relegation battle and changed managers, with Colin Calderwood sacked in October and Pat Fenlon appointed the following month. Then came the traumatic 5-1 Scottish Cup final defeat against Hearts.
“Trading income benefited from the club’s run to the Scottish Cup final,” commented Petrie. “That augmented the lower levels of income from a second poor season of playing performances at Easter Road stadium.”
The chairman accepts the poor displays on the pitch in recent seasons, culminating in the disastrous cup final loss, has not encouraged supporters to return to Easter Road. However, he has identified next Sunday’s clash against their Edinburgh rivals in the same competition as being a chance to “atone” for that afternoon at Hampden Park.
Hibs’ form this season has improved to the extent that they currently lie second in the Premier League. In his letter to shareholders, Petrie noted that, having secured 24 points from their first 15 games of the current season, Hibs are only nine points short of their total for the whole of last season. The most recent home match, a 2-1 win against Dundee United, was watched by a crowd of 10,596.
As Petrie points out, due to better performances, “each game has seen more Hibs supporters attend the match than attended the previous match”, with more than 10,000 home fans in attendance against United.
“We want to continue that progression and get back to average attendances of over 12,000 supporters,” he adds. In a harsh economic climate, the 8,000 season tickets which were sold during the summer is up slightly on the number sold in 2010-11 and also last season.
However, Petrie is aware that a “significant” number of individuals and families who had season tickets in previous seasons are not currently holders of one. He appealed for them and others to take advantage of half-season ticket deals currently on offer at the club in a bid to add 2,000 spectators to present attendances at home games.
“More gate income means more flexibility for the manager as he continues to revitalise our club,” says Petrie. “Please do what you can, if you can, to help rebuild attendances.”
The financial statements also show that staff costs were kept under control and fell by £700,000 to £4.1m. The crucial wages-to-turnover ratio has been reduced to 60 per cent from 69 per cent. Financial analysts often quote a figure below 60 per cent as being desirable.
The club’s debt has increased from £5.9m to £6.4m, but is described as a long-term, “structured” debt after significant renovation work at Easter Road and the construction of the Hibs training centre at East Mains.
“The financial results for the year reflect the poor performances on the pitch almost throughout the season,” summed up Petrie.
“The one sporting high of reaching the final of the Scottish Cup turned sour in the manner of the defeat. The club apologised to supporters for the lack of a performance on the day, but now have the chance to atone for that defeat in this year’s competition.”
Significant figures at the club have left in the last year. Fyfe Hyland, the managing director, left in June, while Scott Lindsay, chief executive, departed in September.
Petrie thanked directors Garry Hagan and Jamie Marwick, who have since taken on additional executive responsibilities, and confirmed that the delayed agm will take place at Easter Road on 10 December.
Loss before tax: £0.9 million (unchanged from year ended 31 July, 2011)
Net debt: £6.4m (up £0.5m)
Turnover: £6.9m (down £0.1m)
Staff costs: £4.1m (down £0.7m)
Wages to turnover ratio: 60 per cent (down from 69 per cent)
Operating loss: £0.9m (down £0.8 million)
Player trading gains: £0.1m (down £0.8m)
Fixed assets: £23.8m (down £0.5m)
Net assets: £13.4m (down £1m)