Hibernian fans to launch community ownership bid

AN umbrella body of Hibernian supporters are to launch a bid on Tuesday to take the club back into community ownership.

AN umbrella body of Hibernian supporters are to launch a bid on Tuesday to take the club back into community ownership.

The campaign group, which has the backing of the Hibernian Former Players’ Association, the Supporters’ Association and Supporters Direct Scotland (SDS) among other organisations, will invite current owner Sir Tom Farmer to enter negotiations to sell to them as a single package the club itself, Easter Road, and the training centre at East Mains outside Tranent.

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Former Hibs captain Pat Stanton will head the campaign and be present at the launch, where organisers will reveal the name of the group.

They plan to fund a takeover in the same way as the Foundation of Hearts did at Tynecastle, with individual fans pledging a monthly amount and one or more business people committing a lump sum.

Farmer and Hibs chairman Rod Petrie have appeared unwilling to negotiate with recent potential buyers, but a spokesperson for the new group said they hoped for constructive talks, with the aim on both sides of securing the long-term future of the club.

“We want to buy all the assets together - the club, ground and training ground,” the spokesperson said. “We will ask Tom Farmer to name his price and tell us what he wants for the three assets.

“We’re offering a positive exit for him, one that allows him to give the club back to the community, and to leave the club on a positive note.

“This is about uniting the Hibs support to get one group driving positive change. We plan to raise the money via a mixture of individual subscriptions, with fans pledging a monthly sum, and funds from Hibs-supporting business people.”

The new group, which has been working on its plans for several months, concluded from a survey conducted with SDS that there was a willingness among the Hibs support to try to take the club back.

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More than 4,000 people replied to the survey, with a sizeable majority supporting more talks on community ownership.

The group hopes that they will get backing from Hibs fans on a scale that allows them to say the community is behind them. They will also be keen to remind Farmer that when he took over the club nearly 25 years ago he said he had done so for the community.

“It’s common knowledge that Hibs’ current owners have had discussions with some potential purchasers of the club, and that in every single case they’ve said it’s not about money,” the spokesperson continued.

“Well, if it’s not about money, put the club into community ownership and walk away.

“What we’ll say to Tom Farmer and Rod Petrie is: ‘We’ve got a structure here. We’ve got everything set up. You keep saying to people who have put in bids for the club or been interested in doing so that they’re not the right people. Other than Hibs supporters, who are the right people?’

“We don’t know how much they want for the club. But if it’s not about money ... So we’re saying to them either give us a price and work with us, or come out with plausible, proper, fresh plans for investment.

“We’re going to ask people to pledge now, but we won’t take any money from them until we have a deal. It will be very much like what the Foundation of Hearts did.

“I’d be keen to sit down with [Hearts owner] Ann Budge to discuss our plans. In fact, at the last Edinburgh derby one of my colleagues had a short discussion with her, and she seems quite keen to help. I’m sure there are things we can learn from her.

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“I would urge all Hibs fans to work with us and get together. We’re more than happy to work together with anyone for the benefit of the club.

“There have been previous attempts get the club back into community ownership, and in many ways this is the last throw of the dice for us. We either do it this time - or we walk away and leave Hibernian at the mercy of the current owners.

“This will be a positive campaign. The owners have a goal, and it must be to get out. We have a goal to get the club sold to the right people.

“That goal is surely the same. If we work together, we’ll surely achieve it far more quickly and easily.”