Hibs look to future with new chief Leeann Dempster

HIBERNIAN yesterday confirmed that Leeann Dempster will take up her duties as the club’s new chief executive on 1 June in a move that further re-shapes the footballing landscape in Edinburgh.

Leann Dempster, pictured in August 2010 at Fir Park, has been named as Hibernian's new chief executive. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Leann Dempster, pictured in August 2010 at Fir Park, has been named as Hibernian's new chief executive. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The appointment means the current chairman and interim chief executive Rod Petrie will stand down in his latter role. He remains as non-executive chairman.

The Easter Road club were keen to stress yesterday that Dempster will assume all the decision-making powers that are associated with the role of chief executive, which is the position she currently occupies at Motherwell. In a statement posted on the Hibs website yesterday, Dempster admitted that the club needs to “re-engage lapsed supporters”. Moves to appoint her have been ongoing for several weeks. In a statement on the Fir Park club’s website, board member Derek Weir explained that Motherwell “were made aware of the discussions as they have developed”.

Dempster’s appointment comes as Hearts chairwoman-in-waiting Ann Budge prepares to assume control of the Tynecastle club after a £2.5 million takeover. It was confirmed yesterday that the “cooling-off” period for creditors to lodge objections to the transfer of shares in Hearts from former holding company UBIG to Budge’s ownership vehicle Bidco had passed without any hitches. A sale and purchase agreement must now be concluded before the club can formally begin to exit administration, and Budge is able to take full control.

At around the same time, Dempster should be settling into her new position at Easter Road, in a move welcomed as a positive one by Hibs supporters yesterday. Dempster will become the second female member of a seven-person board at Easter Road, joining lawyer Amanda Jones.

Petrie, the target of criticism in recent weeks as Hibs have slipped towards a relegation play-off place, will take a step back from running day-to-day affairs at the club. It is the second time he has sought to reduce his responsibilities. When Scott Lindsay was appointed as chief executive in 2008, Petrie looked forward to spending more time serving on the boards of the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Premier League, although he was drawn back into the day-to-day running of the club when Lindsay stepped down two years ago. Even when Lindsay was in place, Petrie retained control of “executive duties” including the negotiations of player contracts and budget control.

However, according to a club statement, Dempster has the remit “to lead the club” in their plans going forward, as Hibs seek to employ the new chief executive’s skills for promoting links with the community. In her time at Fir Park she has been fully involved in the creation of the Well Society, a membership scheme set up to hand eventual overall control to the fans.

“Everyone is delighted Leeann is here,” said a Hibs spokesman yesterday. “She is coming in as chief executive and will have all the decision-making powers one would expect to come with that. Rod Petrie is taking a backward step from executive duties but will continue as non-executive chairman of the club.

“Leeann has all the skills we need to go in the direction we want to go,” the spokesman added.

Dempster, who will continue working at Motherwell in the meantime, said in a statement posted on the Hibs website yesterday morning: “I believe that to succeed in a sustainable way in the long term we need to grow club resources, re-engage lapsed supporters and strengthen the club collectively. As a big city club, Hibernian has a fantastic opportunity to build on the great physical assets and grow attendances through increased engagement and success on the pitch. I am looking forward to the challenge. There are a number of initiatives that we will be able to announce to supporters in due course and that will show we want to meet the shared ambition of supporters. We want a vision that everyone can buy into so that they can play their part in the future of our club.”

Petrie said that he was “delighted” that Dempster had agreed to join the club. “I am certain she will be a tremendously important ‘signing’ and will provide the daily leadership needed next season to help achieve the board’s plans and meet the aspirations of supporters. In the club statement, Dempster’s appointment was described as “the first major step” to delivering a vision developed in collaboration between club management and supporters through the Let’s Work Together project. The ultimate aim, the statement added, “is to create a club which will be competitive in every match and where winning becomes a habit, but it is done so with the club operating in a sustainable way”.

Fans’ leader sees new chief executive as ‘breath of fresh air’

HIBERNIAN Supporters’ Association chairman Mike Riley is praying Leeann Dempster will be a “breath of fresh air” and is hopeful her appointment heralds further boardroom shake-ups at Easter Road.

Riley has welcomed Dempster’s arrival, but he would love to see more wide-ranging changes to the hierarchy during the summer, including the implementation of a director of football.

“I am quietly confident that it will be a very good move, and hopefully it will be a new lease of life and a breath of fresh air for this club,” said the fans’ chief. “I made enquiries about her after the news came out, and everyone I have spoken to speaks very highly about her and the job she has done at Fir Park. She has overseen a tight ship there, helped to pick good players and good managers. So it all augers well.

“Rod [Petrie] has obviously acknowledged with the appointment of Leeann that he is not happy with the way things have been going. This is his first move to correct that, and it could be the first of many. There have been whispers of a director of football, also, which I have been saying for over a year that we should really consider. You certainly hope there will be changes . From top to bottom, things need to be in place. If you have something in the structure that isn’t working then you will never be successful. Hopefully a new person coming in can help us go in a new direction.

“Without a doubt, fans are disillusioned, but statements about re-connecting with the supporters and engaging with the community are certainly welcome. It is simple enough: if you put the product on the park then the supporters will come back.”

BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon

THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.

The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.

Email your Scottish football question for the BT Sport panel to answer. The next show will be recorded on May 7 after St Johnstone v Celtic with the video available on The Scotsman website the following day. You can also tweet us @TheScotsman.

A line-up of experts will handle your questions after each BT Sport game. Most match days, the team includes Darrell Currie, Derek Rae and Gary McAllister.

Over this season, BT Sport will air 30 SPFL matches plus 10 Rangers games from the SPFL League One.

• T&C We can not guarantee which presenters will answer your questions. Questions are vetted and no correspondence will be entered into.