HIBERNIAN chief executive Leeann Dempster has outlined plans for at least two supporters to be appointed to the Easter Road board.
After meeting 600 fans over three days of consultations at the start of last week, Dempster insists there is “overwhelming” backing for supporter representation among the club’s hierarchy. The club now plan to launch a survey by tomorrow at the earliest to give the entire fan base a chance to express their views. A timetable for any expansion of the board and the mechanism for appointing the fans is likely to be determined by the results of the questionnaire.
Dempster said: “One of the main focuses is that supporters overwhelmingly want representation on the board.
“This has happened at some other clubs in Britain – I’ve got experience of it at Motherwell.
“The intricacies of the debate were about what that means. People said: ‘They won’t listen, anyway.’ My response is, why not test it? The only way you’re going to know if supporters will be listened to is if you test it. We’re more than willing to make it happen.
“We want to make it happen – supporters want to make it happen.
“You become a board member of this club, a director, a decision maker, sitting around the boardroom table deciding on the small stuff and the big stuff.
“They seemed to get really excited about that. Then we got into the debate about how to appoint directors. We’re not just looking to appoint one new director from the supporters – we would want two on the board, just as a starting point.
“Any supporter is eligible. There is nothing that would prevent you putting yourself forward.”
Dempster’s revelation over potential greater supporter involvement comes amid a backdrop of unrest among some fans about non-executive chairman Rod Petrie’s continued presence at the club.
In the wake of Hibs’ relegation to the Championship in May, a Petrie Out campaign – led by former player Paul Kane and backed by legends such as Pat Stanton – demanded that the long-serving Petrie stepped down.
The group changed its name to Hibernian Forever and are now liaising with Supporters Direct Scotland over a possible community-led takeover.
Amidst the off-field disquiet, a £3.5 million buy-out offer from a consortium involving financial advisor David Low and former Hibs chairman Malcolm McPherson was rejected by majority shareholder Sir Tom Farmer and Petrie, who has a 10 per cent holding, last month.
Dempster, who arrived at Hibs this summer after leaving her post as chief executive at Motherwell, hopes that fan involvement will help to mend some of the fences with the support base. She added: “Having supporter representatives on the board creates an element of trust between the board, management and the fans.
“We want to be more transparent. And we want fans to be heard. The way they’ve made themselves heard in recent months has been demonstrations and other ways.”
She added: “If they had board representation, board members, there would be a clear connection there. That got people interested.”
Among those who attended the three meetings last week were supporters of the Hibernian Forever campaign but Dempster is hoping her proposal will be widely accepted. She said: “It would be wrong for us not to face the fact that there are a number of supporters that have those feelings.
“We have started the process and that should be enough to say to fans, ‘we’re on a journey here.’
“Some people that shout the loudest are heard the most. I’m not saying that it never came up, it did come up at the three meetings.
“But there are as many people that say to me ‘I’m not involved in this, I just want to watch my team’.
“I suppose you could say it can be a major distraction as well.”