Leeann Dempster defends Hibs' recruitment and says clubs still require 'material intervention'

Improving squad is one of few ways to boost revenue according to Easter Road chief executive

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 7:30 am
Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster  Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group
Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group

Ahead of a Scottish football summit aimed at addressing the grave consequences of empty stadiums and pricey covid protocols, Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster has defended the club’s ongoing recruitment of players.

The Easter Road chief executive has been frank in her assessment of the current situation, warning that some clubs could be consigned to the history books and others could face a decade-long rehabilitation period if the industry does not receive “material intervention”.

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But, while there has been significant downsizing throughout the club, Dempster says it makes sound business sense for them to bolster the playing squad.

“It is like any other business investing in its infrastructure,” she said. “You invest in a product that will create revenue and that is what we have done. I don’t think anybody could suggest that any club in Scotland, ourselves included, has done that to an outrageous degree. In fact, I would argue that we have done that in a very small way.”

While Steven Whittaker, Vykintas Slivka and Adam Bogdan left the club at the end of their contracts and a number of loan obligations ended in the summer, the Leith club brought in Kevin Nisbet, for a reported six-figure sum, as well as Drey Wright, Alex Gogic and Jamie Murphy. They also tried to land £300,000-rated Ross McCrorie before the midfielder opted for Aberdeen and have had ‘substantial’ bids rejected by St Mirren for midfielder Kyle Magennis, while also being linked with a move for Motherwell’s Allan Campbell.

“The fact is that is a way of creating revenue,” stated Dempster, who is hoping that Wednesday’s meeting of the nation’s top-tier clubs will help produce a unified message and approach to weathering the current coronavirus crisis. “What other revenue can we create at the minute? Where you finish in the league creates revenue and what affects where you finish in the league? Well, you try to put together a stronger squad and finish as high up the league table as possible.

“That argument [against us buying in players] is a very simplistic argument and for people to say you shouldn’t do X or Y when, actually, what we are doing is investing in our immediate and medium term future and we are doing it in a very considered and relatively small way.

“Also, let’s not forget that the way teams trade players these days means that there are financial arrangements between clubs that span more than a single year or even two years.”

With no money through the turnstiles and no hospitality or revenue from stadium use, she is adamant that the Premiership clubs have done all they can to get football up and running to benefit themselves and clubs further down the ranks.

“I know people say, ‘well you’re the ones who have all the money’ but everything is relative. We have done what was necessary to get the games on and make sure the TV deal was activated and that money comes in and filters all the way down but we are the ones spending all the money at the minute.”

And with swingeing cuts made across the board, she says that all the clubs must get the message out to fans regarding the gravity of the situation especially as it now appears there will be little respite in the league or in the cup competitions, with the readmittance of supporters postponed and looking fairly forlorn until well into the new year.

“We have been quite considered in our planning so from our club’s perspective and from the perspective of others, the disappointment is the fact we are unlikely to see supporters in for the cup matches.

“I didn’t have a huge expectation of large numbers of fans before Christmas but I certainly hoped to have some supporters in the stadium for the Scottish Cup match [against Hearts at the end of October] and then the other [League and Scottish] cup matches.

“Those gate receipts and supporter income are the upside for clubs but it does not look like there will be any income coming in from there now.

“We have cut costs across our larger staff group, we have cut costs across our playing group, we have cut costs across supply groups, we have paused some of the exciting infrastructure plans but we still felt we would see supporters back in stadia in some form, if not by now, then the hope was that there would at least be some visibility of it happening.

“With there not being any likelihood of getting them through the doors soon, we need a material intervention.”

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