PAUL Kane insists the size of Saturday’s “Petrie Out” rally will be the best sign of whether Hibernian supporters believe new chief executive Leeann Dempster’s declaration that she is now fully in charge of the embattled club.
Campaigners seeking the removal of chairman Rod Petrie were yesterday on the look out for a new venue for this weekend’s planned demonstration after the club refused them access to Easter Road.
Hibs have cited a lack of clarity on numbers and the protestors plans, ongoing pitch and stadium maintenance work, and health and safety issues as their reasons for rejecting a request to open up the 6,000-capacity East Stand at the stadium on Saturday morning. The “Petrie Out” group were last night investigating taking their get-together to either Meadowbank Stadium or Leith Links, with an announcement due as soon as possible.
The rally was organised to coincide with a meeting on Saturday between Dempster and the Working Together umbrella group of fans’ representatives in a bid to show the club’s new CEO the strength of feeling against Petrie.
Kane, who has indicated he will attend the rally but not the talks with Dempster, which he is invited to in his role with the Hibs Former Players Association, is adamant the change of location will not dilute the impact of the demonstration.
The club attempted to take the sting out of the protests with a statement on Monday to mark Dempster’s first official day at Easter Road since joining from Motherwell, in which she claimed she was “confident” she would be given full autonomy as Petrie relinquishes control of the day-to-day running of the club in favour of a non-executive position.
However, many fans are sceptical that Petrie, whom the statement said would remain as a “conduit” between the club and owner Sir Tom Farmer, will take a back seat and Kane believes Saturday’s rally will be an indication of that doubt. The former Hibs midfielder said: “I think how many people turn up on Saturday will show whether the fans believe Leeann’s statement about having the freedom to make the decisions she wants.
“Having not been allowed into Easter Road, we’re now having to look at an alternative venue. But wherever it is, it is about shaping the future of the club. If we get it right now, our voice will be heard forever more. If we get it wrong, then I think the supporters will be diluted probably even worse than we are just now. I’m sure the change of venue won’t put the Hibs fans off, wherever it is to be. It will only be another five minutes away and if the numbers turn up then I’m sure it will still have the same impact.
“The reaction since Friday’s launch has been very positive, but it’s the same with everything else, people saying they’re going to come and people turning up is a different story. The proof in the pudding will be on Saturday when people turn up.”
Organisers have arranged for season-ticket holders who cannot make the rally to hand season books into the Four In Hand pub on Easter Road or the Hibs Supporters Association club to show support for the campaign.
And Kane insists he has been heartened by the reaction to Friday’s official launch of the campaign, which drew support from around 15 fans’ groups and Charlie Reid of The Proclaimers.
Kane added: “What has been encouraging, more than anything else, is that a lot of lapsed supporters, who have not been to Easter Road in a long, long time, have said they’re going to come along.
“That is very encouraging; people who have been disillusioned saying they’re going to come along and support the campaign.
“I think that’s one of the most encouraging points.”