By: Hibernian Media on 22 Jun, 2020 16:59
On the day Jack Ross and his squad kicked off their pre-season preparations at the Hibernian Training Centre, Executive Chairman Ronald Gordon spoke to Hibs TV to provide an update on a range of subjects.
Ron, you wanted the chance to talk to our supporters and maybe provide a little context around the events of the last week…
I should start by thanking everyone. We talk about ‘We Are All Hibs’ and I really think, in these difficult times, that you see what a wonderful club we have and how everyone within the club – supporters, the players, management and staff – have all really stepped up and contributed to our thinking and actions around a very, very difficult, unique and unprecedented time for the club and the world. We’re going through a very challenging time and I want to start by thanking everyone, because we’re all in this together and we're navigating it as best we can.
Everyone has been impacted by this across the world. What does that look like from a Hibernian perspective?
The club was in very good financial shape and still is, given the circumstances. We’ve been able to manage, as best we can. Our goal is to navigate the storm as quickly and effectively as we can so that when we come out of it, when the sun begins to shine again, we can rebuild very quickly and put the club in a competitive position as a business and a football team. It’s not been without some difficulties. You have to make some difficult decisions. There are things you need to think about. Unfortunately, for some of them, the club needs to contract a little bit and right-size the operation to the reality – which is a loss of revenues and uncertainty in football over the next three, four, six months. Who knows when we’ll next be able to have 20,000 people at Easter Road? We need to be smart about the way we navigate the next however many months so that we’re in good shape.
You’ve talked about not just coming through this, but coming through this in as strong a position as we possibly can be.
The good thing is that football is coming back in a month and a half here and we’re very excited about that. Obviously it’s behind closed doors so there are limits there. We’ll have to manage that, along with testing that we need to do at HTC as the players come back. There are a whole series of protocols that have changed that make everything a little bit different. I think, ultimately, our goal is to take a step back and a pause on many of the things we talked about at the AGM, get through this period of time and once football begin to get some traction, we can be on the front foot to move quickly to bring the club back to full energy.
So ‘pause’ is the word? The vision laid out at the AGM is still the plan?
Absolutely. I thought we laid out a wonderful plan for the club. It’s an aspirational plan, so there are a lot of challenges there. At the end of the day, as soon as we can get back to that, we’re going to. There are many things in there that I think are positive for the club. We just need to pause it right now, get through this difficult time and once we’re on the other side of this we can look to activate the initiatives that we’ve put on pause for now.
It’s easy to associate the drop in revenues with matchday income, but there’s a lot more to it than that. What challenges do we face at the moment?
The game is going through a big lull. From a Hibs perspective, we anticipate that the 2020-21 season will be at 50 per cent of our normal revenues. That’s not just lost revenues from ticket sales and attendance. There are no pre-season games and all the usual things we do at Easter Road on non-matchdays. Hospitality is non-existent. There are a lot of areas of the club that will not be contributing to the top-line. That means we need to adjust our costs. I think all clubs will be doing this – even the big ones. It’s just a question of working out the best way to do this with the least detrimental impact to the operation of the club.
Against the backdrop of that, the club are having conversations with the players.
At the end of the day, the players have been magnificent. When we asked them to take deferrals, which helped our cash position significantly, they all stepped up in what was a voluntary initiative, which I think speaks to the spirit that exists at the club. The players are a critical part of that. Their contribution to the financial health of the club is very important. I don’t think we can really address our cost structure without having a conversation with the players. As they have in the past, I’m sure they’ll see the ways they can contribute to help the club navigate this difficult time.
At the same time, we’re preparing for a new campaign. One of the things supporters get excited about at this time of year is the potential arrival of new faces. What can you tell them on that front?
In the conversations that we’ve had, I think there are two very big pillars. One is that we need to have our costs in the right place and reduce our operating budget to something that’s reasonable and that can help us manage through the difficult financial time. Secondly, we’re still a football club that needs to compete. We need to continue to look at ways to improve our team and do all those initiatives and moves that will help us to become a better team. Part of what we’ve done is to focus on our first team because that’s the first thing to come back. Wherever we see opportunities to improve the team, I think we’re going to take them. We’re working on those things because they’re two important pillars – manage the club financially as best we can through a difficult time and look at our football team and ways we can improve it, so when we play our first game in August we’re in very good shape and very competitive.
The club means everything to supporters. Naturally, during a time like this, they’ll have their own concerns. From what you’re saying, though, there’s no hint of closure or any of these areas being scrapped.
It’s a pause. The initial thing is our first team coming back to play in August, which we’re excited about. All the other things are not going to happen. We were going to improve and upgrade our hospitality, so that’s paused just now. The Academy? There’s not going to be a lot of activity there so that’s paused for now, although we’re still engaging with our youngsters and keeping them involved. Some of our capital investments are paused but we’re still planning so when things get back to near-normal then we can move forward with that. Once we come out of this, I’m very optimistic we’ll be in a very good position to move forward at a reasonable pace, to accelerate and be on the front foot.
The players are back today for pre-season training, supporters have snapped up season tickets in great numbers. You must share in that excitement for the new season?
I really can’t say enough about the supporters. They are the heart and soul of the club. The fact that more than 8700 have signed up for season tickets, at a time when people don’t know what the season will look like, is fantastic. They’ve stepped up to support the club and it gives me a sense of pride to be part of this. Every time the club has needed them, they’ve more than stepped up. They love their club and rightly so. They have built a phenomenal club over nearly 150 years.
We throw out the phrase ‘We Are All Hibs’ and we don’t want that to be an empty marketing line. So, what does that mean in reality?
I’m very proud to be part of the Hibs family. I couldn’t have landed in a better home. Every aspect of the club has stepped up. It’s in times of difficult when you see what you really have. It’s time like these when the club has needed everyone to step up and they have. It’s been difficult to navigate. You can’t sugar-coat it but, all in all, what gives us the strength is when everyone chips in, collaborates and comes together. The supporters have led the way but I have to commend the players, the leadership of the club, the management, the board. Everyone has been working very, very hard. There’s no rulebook or guidebook to this. Its very different. It’s been brutally difficult on businesses all over the world.
We’re all looking forward to the day when the players run back out at a packed Easter Road. Supporters are looking to find out what they can do to help, but, in the meantime, we’re also looking to give them an improved matchday experience wherever they’re backing us from.
We’re all looking forward to the day when we have 20,000 fans rooting the team on. Hopefully it won’t be in the distant future. In the meantime, we’re coming back to football in August and we need to prepare. One of the exciting things we’re looking to do is to upgrade and improve the Hibs TV production and delivery of the matches. That’s one of the areas we’re looking into, in terms of the resources we need to put against producing an upgraded football matchday experience. As well as creating content that will engage fans. We want them to be able to enjoy their football through Hibs TV. For the foreseeable future, that’s going to be the primary way for fans to support the club and be part of the club. That requires a little bit of thinking and creativity.
We’ve had a lot of message from supporters who just want to play their part.
Our season ticket holders, we can’t thank them enough, but there are many different ways to support the club. Buying season tickets is a very good way to do it, along with organisations like HSL. That’s also very helpful, along with supporting our NHS ticketing initiative. I think supporters will find a way they can step up, tick the box that says ‘I’m here to support Hibs’ as they have. We’re very encouraged by that.
There are obviously challenges to come an everyone will have their own role to play. What does that look like for you?
I do think that we have a lot to look forward to. The club is in reasonable shape in the circumstances. I think the sooner we navigate this, get back to football and make progress, the sooner we can build quickly and get back to a strong position. Importantly, I think everyone can contribute to the success of the club. One of the themes we used at the AGM and that we’ve used since is ‘one team, one club’. Everybody at the club makes a difference – whether it’s at the Ticket Office, the Academy, players, supporters. We all contribute to the whole that is wonderful in its spirit and mission. That beacon and light that is always there is still burning bright. I’m excited that football is coming back, we’re gong to get through this together and at the end of this we’re going to have many years of wonderful football, positive results and some success on the field and as a football club. I know we’ll have sunny and better days ahead.
You can watch Ron's interview in full on Hibs TV and our YouTube channel.