Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hibs: Rod Petrie Counts The Cost

"Verily I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in his own country."

There's different levels of prophecy. My meandering mumblings on the accounts of Hibernian Football Club wouldn't have made Luke pick up his quill.

It's also easier - especially in this world of Scottish football - to herald the arrival of bad news than to proclaim the happy-clappy joys we yearn for.

So there's little pleasure in being right. But I was. About Hibs. Horribly so.

Negative? Yep, that was me. More doom laden than Private Frazer? Hands up.

Hibs, you see, were the paragons of financial virtue that ducked the SPL trend.

Our football often went a bit wobbbly. But we had seven years of profit and a board that knew what they were doing with their prudence, their training centre, their new East Stand.

"But," I said, "the football's become so bad, the sell-on value of the players dissipated so much, the attendances dropped so alarmingly, the thudding march of apathy so insistent, that our economic excellence is under threat."

Too miserable. That was me.

Yet here we are. Hibs, the footballing spinster neighbour who lives a frugal life before leaving the local cat and dog home a million pounds, have posted losses of £900,000 for the financial year.

That news has been delivered slowly. The board, the Iron Chancellors of Easter Road, have sat on bad tidings.

But financial statements must be released, AGMs must be held.

Wait, hold your breath, hope.

But if no good news comes you'll have to deliver the bad tidings eventually.

Big earners have gone, money has been snaffled for Sol Bamba and Anthony Stokes, innocent people have been made redundant, fans have been asked to pay prices they can ill afford.

And still:

  • Loss for the year of £0.9m
  • Staff Costs remained static at £4.8m - representing a ratio of 69% to Turnover
  • Turnover reduced by £0.1m to £7m
  • Operating Costs were £3.4m
  • Net Asset position reduced to £14.4m
  • Net Debt of £5.9m, positive Cash Balance of £2m

£900,000 lost. All but 70 percent of turnover spent on wages.

Worth it?

Never a club to hide when financial successes are there to be hailed, Hibs' official website is the only place you'll find comment now.

Rod Petrie:

"In the current difficult economic conditions ['Always said Fred Goodwin was a Jambo'] every household faces pressure on its domestic budget and on discretionary expenditure. This, in turn, has an adverse effect on the Club's finances.

"Of course we are very mindful of the obvious fact that the lack of success on the field had a direct bearing on the level of turnover. The sporting outcomes for the Season were not what any of us would have wished. The team exited two competitions before the change in management ['This remains the fault of John Hughes'] and suffered the disappointment of an exit from the third competition in early January before new Manager Colin Calderwood was able to refresh the squad ['Poor Colin, defenceless little lamb'].

The board and Mr Petrie are blameless. They've always given the impression that we should tolerate their footballing stumbles and simply embrace their financial prowess. The finances have faltered. So it's time to blame other people.

Even if we're to read between the lines as Mr Petrie wants us to - if we're to accept John Hughes caused a football club to stumble on to a fault line - who was it that gave him the job?

Mr Petrie, if he cared, might realise that shirking responsibility doesn't appease supporters.

What next?

Colin Calderwood remains, looking for all the world like a dispirited accountant who's got lost on the commute home to Swindon. And remain he must.

How can he be sacked? What questions would the removal of Calderwood raise about the merry band of (handsomely) remunerated board members?

Did they not stubbornly refuse to countenance his departure in the summer when compensation offers were tabled?

They blame John Hughes. But they stand by Colin Calderwood. Stand by his 24 percent win rate.

Stand by a performance against Motherwell last weekend that pointed less to a manager turning the corner and more to a manager losing a torturous game of snakes and ladders. And losing it badly.

A Rod for their own backs?

A managerial change, we're told, contributed to this bout of financial pain.

A roll of the dice: cut your losses and admit you got the Calderwood call wrong? Or risk ever decreasing crowds and an increase in the apathy that's emptying the stands and muting the boos that greet a manager who can't inspire a team that hardly seems to care?

This board has been flung a shovel.

And they've dug and they've dug and they've dug.

I hope I'm wrong. But I can't see Calderwood turning this season on it's head.

That might not mean relegation but it means uncomfortable times.

Sack him and the board prove themselves footballing incompetents.

Keep him and the disconnect between club and supporter grows ever deeper.

You can choose either option and next year's financial results will still turn out even worse.

A rock and a hard place. A situation of entirely their own making.

Duck and take cover.

Because there's always one prediction that's safe to make: whatever happens next it won't be Rod Petrie's fault.

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