Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Hibs: That's Fife

Confirmation this week that Fife Hyland, Hibs' managing director, is to stand down at the end of the season.

Few tears will be shed in Leith where rumours of a parting of the ways had been gathering pace for a week or more.

I'm often told that Hyland's real strengths lie on the commercial side of Hibs' operations.

That's a nice, convenient excuse trotted out by those who seem to have forgotten that Hibs remain, first and foremost, a football club where the most important victories have to be won on the pitch.

Since Hyland took over the role last spring Hibs have enjoyed more SPL wins in Inverness than they have at home.

On Hyland's watch they've had more managers than they've had home SPL wins.

They're currently embroiled in a relegation battle. Season ticket sales have fallen, attendances have dropped and the annual accounts are losing the prudent sheen that Hibs have long held so dear.

It's been a disaster, although any joy at his departure must be tempered by the news that he is to be replaced by Scott Lindsay as chief executive.

As executive director in charge of football affairs, Lindsay has mirrored Hyland's annus horribilis - a year described by chairman Rod Petrie as "catastrophic".

Hibs stood firm in the face of overtures from Birmingham City to retain Colin Calderwood as manager in the summer. Inevitably the detached, struggling coach then had to be compensated following his early season dismissal.

Players have come and gone, contracts have been terminated, money has been lost and the team has continued to struggle.

If the role of chief executive is a promotion then Scott Lindsay is being rewarded for abject failure: a state of affairs that pretty much confirms how slowly lessons are learned among the powerful at Easter Road.

Before these boardroom changes are made Hibs still have to negotiate their way to survival in the league and play a Scottish Cup semi-final.

The SPL's post split fixture times have thrown up two home games and three away games.

An oddity of the schedule, perhaps a predictable oddity, is that Hibs have five different kick off times across that quintet of destiny.

Five games. Five kick off times.

On this issue I can admit to a certain sympathy for Hyland.

I wrote about it just a couple of weeks ago and Stuart Bathgate covered the same subject in The Scotsman:

Even a quarter-hour here or there can make a difference to some fans as they try to make childcare or travel arrangements. And, perhaps more importantly, the fact is that they often do not know until a relatively short time before the game when the kick-off will be.

There are probably not too many other industries which sell customers a product while refusing to let them know when they can use it, but that is what football clubs are essentially doing these days when they put their season tickets up for sale. When you buy a ticket you know it will entitle you to a seat for most if not all of your team’s home games – but you don’t know when those games will be. And often, once kick-off times are announced, they get changed nearer the time.

Hibs reckon they get close to four times as much money from matchday receipts as they do from TV. It is therefore easy to understand why Hibs managing director Fife Hyland insists that supporters, not TV, are the lifeblood of the game.

A bad situation has got even worse.

By the season's end Hibs will have endured 16 different kick off times across the three domestic competitions.

The only day of the week they'll not have played is a Thursday. They'll have had six different kick off times on Sundays alone.

There's no longer even the consolation of home and away fixtures, which would at least give the season ticket holder some semblance of a fortnightly structure.

As a TV viewer would you stick with a 44 episode series if the scheduling was as scatter-gun as that?

Probably not. You'd be pissed off, you'd drift away and you'd conclude that the schedulers had no faith in the programme and little respect for the viewer.

The SPL is denied the chance to carve out any real TV identity while at the same time slapping the more valuable paying punter about the face so often that there is an increased risk of them turning away from the game.

That won't have made Fife Hyland's job any easier, dropping another problem in his lap to go with all the others caused by the failings of the corporate structure at Easter Road that he was an integral part of.

Maybe Hibs can put some of those failings right. But the scheduling horse seems to have already bolted.

That inevitably means more fans will make like Hyland himself and scramble through the stable door.

Sweet sixteen:

Monday 12.15 pm
Monday 7.45 pm

Tuesday 7.45 pm

Wednesday 7.15 pm
Wednesday 7.45 pm

Friday 7.45 pm

Saturday 12.15 pm
Saturday 12.30 pm
Saturday 1.30 pm
Saturday 3 pm

Sunday 12 pm
Sunday 12.15 pm
Sunday 12.30 pm
Sunday 3 pm
Sunday 3.15 pm
Sunday 3.45 pm


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