HIBERNIAN chairman Rod Petrie last night warned supporters at the annual general meeting that the club will have to make “substantial reductions in costs” unless attendances rise at Easter Road this season.
Petrie addressed a more subdued meeting than last year when majority shareholder Sir Tom Farmer stole the show after protests against the club and Petrie’s stewardship following the sacking of manager Colin Calderwood.
Farmer was in attendance last night, and was given a round of applause from shareholders but remained silent as Petrie and manager Pat Fenlon answered questions that reflected the club’s healthier on-field position this term.
Petrie, who again admitted “responsibility” for “mistakes” made in the appointment of Calderwood, told around 200 supporters that Hibs had done what it “thought was right at every step of the process” with regards to Rangers’ administration and their subsequent reintroduction to Scottish football at the Third Division level.
However, he confessed that the issue had affected the Easter Road outfit financially and, with an operating deficit of £957,000 for the 12 months to July this year – the second consecutive such loss, he cautioned there may be difficult decisions to be made in future unless bigger crowds can be attracted back to home games.
Petrie did not expand on the nature of the cuts, but it is understood that a cut to Fenlon’s budget would naturally be included if reductions have to be made.
Petrie told shareholders: “Growing attendances by Hibernian supporters is our core strategy. We are asking supporters to do what they do best – support the team at home matches. If we cannot do that and if we cannot grow our income, then the only route to get back to break even will be to make substantial reductions in costs.
“The club is asking shareholders, supporters and everyone connected with the club to play your part in getting back to where we all want it to be.
“The stewardship of your club is in the hands of the board of directors.
“The future of your club is in the hands of the supporters, who help in a real and tangible way by attending matches, either on a seasonal basis or as walk-up supporters.
“Our plea is a simple one – if you can, please attend matches at Easter Road Stadium and support your team.”
One concern that was obvious from the supporters in attendance was the prospect of the on-loan trio of Leigh Griffiths, Jorge Claros and Ryan McGivern all departing when their current deals expire next month.
But Fenlon indicated all three had indicated a desire to remain at the club and Petrie reassured shareholders that everything possible was being done to ensure their contracts are extended for the rest of the season.
He added: “Pat and I speak about players on a regular basis. We have been in talks with the three loaning clubs and we are keen to get things done, but the other clubs have different agendas. Each of the clubs have to make a decision but we are trying to help the manager in that regard.”