THE Hibernian fans’ Petrie Out campaign group will ask club owner Sir Tom Farmer to oust a man that Easter Road legend Jackie McNamara snr has labelled a “charlatan”.
McNamara joined former players Paul Kane – who is spearheading the bid to force out chairman Rod Petrie – Pat Stanton, Mickey Weir and Mike McDonald in delivering rousing addresses to the 1,500 crowd that gathered for Saturday’s rally at the stadium.
Hibs legend Jimmy O’Rourke was in attendance, while Kenny McLean junior – son of the former vice-chairman of the same name who fronted the Hands off Hibs campaign – also spoke to the supporters.
McNamara offered a savage assessment of how he feels the club, which has just been relegated to the Championship following a pitiful play-off loss to Hamilton, is being managed.
McNamara, who played for Hibs between 1976 and 1985, said: “The fans love the club and I don’t think they will want to hurt them financially.
“But it’s the same as the Rangers situation, they are getting strung along and being asked to pay for season tickets while there are charlatans running their club, and I think there are a few charlatans running our club.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs but I think Rod Petrie is the one that should lose his.
“When the punters pay, they want some transparency; they want to see where the money is going because it has obviously not been invested in the playing staff.”
Just as the fans gathered for an 11.30am start, the Working Together fans umbrella group met with new chief executive Leeann Dempster inside the ground to express their concerns over Petrie’s continued presence on the board.
In his speech, former midfielder Kane urged Dempster to prove she has full autonomy when it comes to running the club by axing the long-serving Petrie.
Former Motherwell chief executive Dempster rightly pointed out that her authority does not stretch that far.
“How can a chief executive remove a chairman?” she asked. “There is a process and a board of directors.
“It brings a very simplistic perspective view – and I don’t mean that to be taken in a derisory way. There is a lack of understanding over how a board operates. Rod is a board member here. He’s a non-executive chairman, that’s how we operate.”
Following the Working Together meeting, Mike Riley – chairman of the Hibs Supporters Association – claimed the club were facing a financial black hole should Petrie remain on the board.
He said: “There were 31 people at the meeting and it was made very clear that her job could be easier and she could have a lot more money to spend on quality players if Rod Petrie leaves the club. There are five-6,000 supporters waiting to buy their season books, but only if Petrie quits.”
With Petrie so far showing no appetite to comply with the campaign group’s requests, Kane insists they will ask majority shareholder Farmer to intervene.
But the apparent unyielding relationship between Farmer and Petrie suggests that request has little chance of being entertained. As Hibs noted in a statement last week, Petrie remains the conduit between the club and owner.
Petrie also possesses a 10 per cent stake in Hibs, with former Kwik-Fit tycoon Farmer in control of the remaining 90 per cent.
Kane, however, remains optimistic in forcing change.
He said: “I think Leeann Dempster will have a major decision now because if you look at the size of the crowd, look at the size of the support, if she is telling us she has the autonomy to make decisions for the betterment of Hibernian Football Club, she should tell Rod Petrie to go.
“If he doesn’t go, we will have to see what the reaction is from the fans; stage two is to go into dialogue with the club to see what they want to do with that kind of fanbase. We will ask the owner Sir Tom Farmer for a meeting to see what he wants to do with the support here today.” Asked if the supporters could make an offer for Petrie’s stake, Kane replied: “I think the question that has to be asked is, what does Sir Tom Farmer want to do with his majority shareholding?
“Does he want to do a [former Motherwell chairman] John Boyle and pass it to the fans.
“If that’s the case we’ll get involved and we’ll do our best for the club. If he wants to do it another way, then we’ll also try to help him. The ball is in his side of the court and it’s up to him.”
Former Hibs favourite Mickey Weir, a League Cup winner with the club in 1991, also addressed fans outside the ground.
He said: “When I was a young boy I walked into Easter Road and I was very fortunate to work alongside great Hibs people like Pat Stanton and Jimmy O’Rourke.
“They brought us up with the attitude that you’re playing for Hibs now son, you need to learn that quickly.
“They taught me that when you play for this club there are standards that have to be met. Now I look at the mess this club is in and it breaks my heart.”