Leeann Dempster speaks on Ron Gordon Hibs relationship and 'being in transfer market'

Easter Road chief executive Leeann Dempster says she is pulling in same direction as owner Ron Gordon

Hibs Chief Executive Leeann Dempster and owner Ron Gordon are working closely. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Hibs Chief Executive Leeann Dempster and owner Ron Gordon are working closely. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Earlier this week, Hibs owner Ron Gordon promised Easter Road fans that if they can pull together through the ongoing Covid-19 storm, there will be sunnier times ahead.

But if the improving backdrop produces a rainbow, there is unlikely to be a pot of gold at the end of it.

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It was only a few months ago that the US-based businessman outlined a bright future at the AGM, since then, plans have been either ripped up or filed under the stack of bills which still demand payment despite the paucity of income due to lockdown.

It has prompted concerns that the multi-millionaire may be rueing his foray into football club ownership. It has also been mooted that he and club chief executive Leeann Dempster have been struggling to hone a truly harmonious working relationship.

However, she has said there is no credence to those reports.

“When you go back to the aspirations we outlined at the AGM, I think the aspirations we had for the club then haven’t changed,” said Dempster. “The timing on them has changed and any unnecessary capital expenditure, and let’s be honest, a big screen for this season would be considered unnecessary, given the other discussions we are having with our people at the minute.

“But that doesn’t mean we don’t still want to do those things and, over time, football will rebound in some way. It will be different because there will be some who might only want to consume remotely now and there will be a whole raft of people who had been remote from the game who may want to come back.

“I don’t want to speak for Ron but he has expressed to me that he has no regrets about getting involved with the club. He is still as excited as ever. He knows we need to make priorities but he is no means regretful about getting into football or Hibs, albeit at one of the most difficult times you could imagine.

“As far as I’m concerned, and I can hopefully speak for him as well, him and I are fine. There is no distance between us and we are moving in the same direction. In fact we are working so closely together that we speak a couple of times a day. Between the two of us, and Graeme [Mathie], and a few others, we are effectively taking the full weight of the club on our shoulders. Folk will say whatever they want but there is no issue for me.”

Dempster acknowledges that the unprecedented nature of the Covid crisis, the fast moving pace of advice and collateral damage, and the difficulty in planning which has been exacerbated by off-field disputes over SPFL proposals and resolutions, has fostered a feeling of uncertainty, and while the harsh realities of wage deferrals, salary cuts and job losses have been hard to swallow, she points out that numerous clubs are being forced into similar actions.

“Look, the things we are doing here and the challenges we have talked about, with the academy, with the staff and the players, other clubs are either doing exactly the same thing as us or doing it in a slightly different way or doing it quietly. But we decided that it was right to tell supporters what the season might look like. It is important to bring people with us and to play our part in getting the game up and running again.”

Tackling cash saving measures, the club is still looking for ways to avoid compulsory redundancies, with the consultation period with staff gets fully under way next week. “But,undoubtedly, where we are as a club at the moment, the plans we had in February will have to be reassessed and paused,” said the chief executive.

Yet the club is not hanging about when it comes to bolstering the playing ranks. Drey Wright is expected to make the switch from St Johnstone imminently; brought in to patrol the right flank and free up Martin Boyle for a more advanced attacking role, alongside Christian Doidge, and while delaying would save the club money, time is of the essence, insists Dempster.

“We are now just five weeks away from games so we are in the market at the minute. It is difficult just now because transfer windows are not really open yet and we don’t know when they are formally going to close.”

The disjointed timeline for seasons across Europe and even north and south of the border, is one reason UEFA are considering postponing the closure until January. But Dempster says Hibs still have to move quickly to ensure greater balance in their first team ahead of kick-off.

“We start back on August 1 but in England League One and League Two teams are not even back training until we have started playing so traditional markets for us won’t be back.

“I think that will shrink the market and we will need to focus on the Scottish environment - that gives us some control and we are only going to add to areas we feel need extra depth and strength.”