Hibernian have responded to accusations of race hate slurs, by saying the player at the centre of the row is welcome to make a complaint to the club.
Raith Rovers midfielder Rudi Skacel has been scathing in his criticism of the Easter Road fans after he was allegedly subjected to unsavoury shouts of “refugee” during a game at the stadium on 24 December. Speaking earlier this week, as he previewed Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie against former employers Hearts, he condemned the vitriol of “small kids”, “old ladies” and supporters “dressed up in ties and suits” as he lambasted the Leith club.
“I read the comments and took the opportunity to look at the official match documents of the SPFL, and speak to our safety officer,” said Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster, who admitted to being surprised by the allegations as observers sitting in the main stand that day have said they did not hear any such abuse. “It was confirmed that nothing was reported to us. I certainly wasn’t aware of anything on the day and did not hear anything.
“However, if Rudi feels like he would like to make a complaint to the club then he is free to do that. We take any unacceptable conduct very seriously, from any of our supporters. Equally, I would say that applies to players as well.”
That appears to be a thinly-veiled dig at Skacel, who antagonised Hibs with a 5-1 gesture when he was substituted by Raith. That was a reference to the 2012 Scottish Cup final humiliation of the Leith side by their capital rivals, a match in which Skacel scored two of Hearts’ five goals.
But, while the player refused the opportunity to explain those actions to the media immediately after the game, and his manager did not mention the racist abuse when questioned about his player’s behaviour, Skacel has claimed that the gesture was a response to slurs which have dogged him for years.
Former Hibs players Derek Riordan and Leigh Griffiths have both been caught on camera indulging in a song which celebrates the derogatory jibes, with Celtic striker Griffiths pleading guilty to the offence in court.
“There is nothing that I can see that reports anything happening on the day [24 December]. However, there is a responsibility on fans and players for how they conduct themselves,” said Dempster.”
Hibs’ focus is now on their own Scottish Cup tie, against Bonnyrigg Rose, at Tynecastle tomorrow. Hibs will be without Kris Commons, whose emergency loan deal has expired and who has returned to parent club Celtic. Dempster remains hopeful of a deal with the Parkhead side by which the attacker would return to the capital, at least until the end of the campaign.
“We have spoken to Celtic about the possibility of that happening and there may be some opportunity there,” she said. “That is a conversation we will continue to have directly with the club and the player to see if we can take it to a conclusion. It is not something we have completely ruled out.”
Dempster has also admitted that while there is an adamance that key players will not be allowed to move on, there is scope to bolster personnel further. “The window does not shut until the 31st and my experience is that there is always another opportunity. However, if nothing else happens I will not be disappointed.”