Hearts chief executive Ann Budge has condemned a rogue element of the club’s support, claiming their conduct is costing the club thousands of pounds.
In a bold statement posted on the club’s website, she said fighting and abusive behaviour at recent matches meant the club will need to police all home games between now and the end of the season, amounting to between £40,000 and £50,000.
She pledged to tackle the problem by beefing up surveillance inside and outside the stadium and increasing the number of fan checks.
Budge also hit out at abuse aimed at Dundee United manager Mixu Paatelainen by some Hearts fans during last month’s match at Tynecastle.
Regarding the additional policing costs, she said: “Apart from the reputational damage that this behaviour causes the club, its employees and its supporters, this is £40,000-£50,000 that we cannot put towards our stadium and facilities improvements programme.”
In the half-yearly statement she said the club continued to make good progress on the business side and praised the majority of the fanbase for their “magnificent support”.
Budge said: “We have made it clear over the past 18 months that unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated by the club and have indeed gone so far as to ban a number of our supporters from the stadium.
“It was, therefore, with much regret that for the third time this season, we had to call the police, in this case to the Hearts v Motherwell game, due to rival fans fighting in the streets, in the immediate environs of the stadium, both before and after the game. I cannot begin to tell you how angry this makes me. Instead of talking proudly about the team’s superb performance, or indeed our supporters’ unprecedented loyalty (yet another home sell-out), I am instead having to hold meetings with the authorities regarding how we are going to address this behaviour problem.
“The outcome of these meetings is quite simply that we have had to agree that we will have no police-free matches, between now and the end of the season. This will cost the club between £40,000-£50,000.
“We will be clamping down on supporters who behave unacceptably. This will mean more stringent checks and more surveillance both inside and outside the stadium.
“Many of you will have seen in the media that Hearts is under investigation because of incidents that took place during the recent Hearts v Dundee United fixture. I will robustly defend the club’s position on this, but there is one area which I cannot defend. It would appear that excessive verbal abuse was directed at the opposition manager. While the manager [Paatelainen] was both understanding and pragmatic in his acceptance that ‘this happens’, it has been reported by the match delegate that this reached unacceptable proportions.
“As a consequence, additional stewarding will be put in place in this area, along with video cameras, and any behaviour of this nature, in future, will be robustly dealt with.”