Hearts will close one section of their stadium “with immediate effect” as a response to the disorder at last weekend’s Edinburgh derby with Hibs.
Addressing fans in a statement posted on the club’s website, Ann Budge announced the closure of a section housing supporters nearest the visiting fans and criticised those who had been involved in any misconduct, including sectarian singing, discharging pyrotechnics and throwing missiles.
The Hearts owner wrote: “I have said before that we will continue to take action to drive this behaviour out of Tynecastle Park … and I know that I have the support of all fair-minded Hearts supporters in our efforts to eradicate this behaviour.
“Since a number of the incidents mentioned emanated from lower section G of the Wheatfield Stand, I have given instructions to close this section with immediate effect.
“Season ticket-holders within this section will be offered seats elsewhere in the stadium for the remaining two games of the season. I apologise to any “innocents” who are caught up in this.”
Insisting that the decision had not been taken lightly, Budge added: “This will impact close to 200 season ticket holders and will cost the club financially.
“We have already lost income by closing corner sections of the Roseburn Stand in recent games.
“That we are having to reduce available capacity at games when we have worked so hard to increase our capacity through building our new stand is nothing short of ludicrous - as ludicrous as having spent £1 million on a state-of-the-art pitch, which some of our own fans are willing to risk destroying. Why would our own fans want to damage this? It beggars belief. “To counter this appalling behaviour, I have already committed to spending another £100,000 in upgrading our CCTV system. There are so many other things we could be doing with that money.”
Budge continued: “Barely a week goes by at the moment without the headlines screaming out about the latest incidents at football matches.
“The media has no shortage of material with which to paint a pretty bleak pictures of what to expect if you attend a football stadium to “enjoy” a hotly-contested fixture.
“I am not criticising the media - they are simply doing their jobs. I am, of course, critcising the supporters who carry out the actions which provide the headlines.
“Actions such as singing sectarian songs, abusing players whether verbally or physically, setting off pyrotechnics or causing stadium damage.”
Budge revealed that seven pyrotechnics were discharged during last weekend’s derby, adding: “There were instances of coins being thrown, cups - some containing hot drinks - being thrown and even a coconut being thrown onto the pitch.
“Every single instance could have resulted in injury to an individual and in the case of the pyrotechnics, this did result in damage to the pitch.”
Referencing an arrest for a hate crime at the Ladbrokes Premiership match, Budge continued: “We have seen an appalling example of racist abuse, by a Hearts “supporter” to a Hibs player, circulated on social media. “I am pleased to report that an individual has now been charged by Police Scotland in relation to this incident.
“I have also received reports of Hearts players being racially abused by Hibs “supporters” - just because it happens both ways, in no way, condones it.
“I have also received reports of sectarian comments being made by Hearts supporters. On the day, four Hearts supporters were ejected and three were arrested. Other matters are still being followed up with Police Scotland.”
Budge rounded off her statement by praising the fans for their financial support, but stressed: “We cannot sit back and allow a small group of mindless individuals undermine our achievements.
“Thanks to this kind of behaviour, the costs associated with providing a safe, secure and family-friendly atmosphere for supporters to enjoy the game they love, are escalating.
“Please work with us to stamp this out. Help us protect the reputation we have fought so hard to rebuild.”