Ron Gordon needs to recognise Hibs fans’ efforts and work with them

Supporters’ group aiming to raise £400,000 for Easter Road club
Ron Gordon was unveiled as Hibernian chairman almost a year ago. Picture: Ross Parker/SNSRon Gordon was unveiled as Hibernian chairman almost a year ago. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Ron Gordon was unveiled as Hibernian chairman almost a year ago. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

When Hibernian Supporters Limited (HSL) was conceived five years ago, founding director Jim Adie told me that one problem the group faced was there was no burning bridge scenario.

Hearts fans had rushed to their club’s aid because there was no other option. It was do or die.

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As for Hibs, demotion to the Championship in 2014 was an admittedly bitter blow but it didn’t put the club at existential risk. “There is sometimes an ingredient which the fanciest marketeer cannot re-create,” said Adie.

This was illustrated very potently 30 years ago this summer when Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer provoked fury by mounting a hostile takeover of Hibs. It’s hard to think of a more effective way of guaranteeing a response than for an owner of a club to announce an intention to take over the local rivals. As chronicled recently in these very pages, Hibs fans rose to the challenge.

In more recent times, the admirable efforts of the Foundation of Hearts have deservedly commanded attention. Hearts remain in line to be the largest club in Britain to be fan-owned. Indeed, they already would be had Covid-19 not struck.

Which brings us back to Hibs and the first anniversary of Tom Farmer selling the club to Ron Gordon, which falls at the start of next month.

The new owner breezed in to his first press conference brimful of optimism. It was revealed how he had left Peru with $200 and turned this into $75 million after starting a TV production company. He now faces the prospect of discovering the other side of the coin. What’s that old quip again? How do you make a small fortune from football? Start off with a big one.

This tended to apply even prior to a pandemic. If not quite the burning bridge scenario, Hibs can now smell the smoke along with nearly every other club in Scotland. Cutbacks are being rigorously pursued, including, in Hibs’ case, reports of startling plans to mothball the academy.

It must be particularly distressing for Gordon, whose ambitions for the club shone through at his first agm in February, just weeks before lockdown. He spoke of wanting to double the club’s player budget. Another grand plan was selling alcohol at games. The women’s team, he said, were “at the forefront” of the club’s thinking. As the old proverb goes, if you want to give God a laugh, tell him your plans.

There’s a crowdfunder campaign currently running to help ensure the same women’s team are competitive whenever they get underway again. Almost half of the £10,000 target has currently been raised.

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The onus is being put on supporters again. This is interesting since the evidence so far suggests Gordon is not in favour of greater fan involvement at boardroom level, which is his right. Farmer, at least, gave the impression of being interested, hence the creation of HSL.

Now is not the time to hold a gun to anyone’s head. Despite the fact that gaining a 25.1 per cent stake in the club was part of their 
mission statement, HSL are currently happy to simply donate money. An agreement guaranteeing new shares in return for investment no longer applies in the Gordon era.

It would be unfair to reach any sort of judgment about Gordon’s running of the club just a year in and following the exceptional circumstances of recent months. However, it seems reasonable to suggest that if HSL contribute as much as they hope will be the case – and they are targeting as much as £400,000 – then it’s almost incumbent upon Gordon to recognise such a commendable effort by committing to work with the fans in the future. Perhaps the share issue can be revisited.

Otherwise it begins to look like another case of football fans taking the strain for little in return at a time when their families could justifiably wonder about priorities.

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