Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Save the Leith One?

A strange Tuesday for Hibs. With their city rivals toiling under the threat of financial calamity, it was Hibs who ended the day with a dismissed employee and something of a PR storm.

At half time in Sunday's game against Dundee United the tannoy at Easter Road blasted out a few lines of George Harrison's Taxman.

A dig at Hearts, a gentle, chuckle inducing diversion during the tedium of half time.

A short blast of a short Beatles track that was picked up in a few reports on Monday morning, was described by one Hearts supporter's representative as "crass" - which it was - and the world continued to turn.

End of story?

Not quite.

It later emerged that the man responsible for playing the track, Hibs' tannoy announcer Willie Docherty, had been relieved of his duties at the club.

And so something of a social media storm developed. A 'Bring Back Willie Docherty' Facebook page has over 1100 likes at the time of writing, a #JusticeForWillieDocherty hashtag has sprung up on Twitter and forums - on both sides of the city divide - have seen fans post their support for the "Leith One."

Eventually Hibs released a statement:
The Club stressed that speculation that the action had been taken as a song played may have offended supporters of another club is not correct. 
Rather the action has been taken because the individual chose to wilfully disregard specific instructions given in the pre-match briefing which itself was consistent with guidance given during the week in the run-up to the match at Easter Road Stadium on Sunday, which was broadcast live on television.

The stadium announcer is not an employee of the Club, but is contracted to provide the service. In doing so, he operates as part of the Club's official channels of communications - which also includes the Club website and match day programme. 
Under SPL and SFA rules, the Club is directly responsible for what the Stadium Announcer does, says and plays. For that reason, the Club has specific guidelines in place and before each match detailed briefings take place. 
These reflect the values and behaviours the Club and its Supporters believe Hibernian FC should stand for. The conduct of other clubs is a matter for them. 
Before our recent home match against Dundee United discussions took place and specific instructions were given. The individual concerned has admitted that he deliberately breached the terms of the instructions the Club had given. The Club was left with no option but to take the course of action it did.
So there we are.

There are rules in place and they were broken. Specific instructions were given for this game - I'm unsure why the game being broadcast on TV is relevant - and they were ignored.

Why are rules in place if not to govern the fun?

Maybe playing the song - or a snippet of the song - was a needless dig at Hearts, at a situation Hibs have no interest in getting involved in.

But surely it was an inoffensive enough aberration. Certainly not one that necessitated the club setting itself so apart from what seems to be the prevailing public opinion, to make such a magnificent job of turning a molehill into a mountain.

In their statement Hibs said: "This is not an issue about having or not having a sense of humour."

If you have to point that out then you're probably doing a poor job of showing people that you've actually got a sense of humour.

Hibs went top of the league on Sunday and their star striker was called into the Scotland squad. It's taken them a gargantuan mishandling of a daft situation to get people talking about a song and a DJ instead.

Willie Docherty might have shot himself in the foot on Sunday. He's far from the only person guilty of that at Easter Road.


A lot of the arguments around Wille Docherty's treatment have centred on Hibs becoming the latest organisation to launch an attack on football "banter."

I'm not quite sure what that means.

Does embracing "banter" mean Tim Lovejoy and Paul Merson should front Sportscene?

And "banter" can be used to cover a lot of ills.

If Hibs wanted to make a stand about something that happened on Sunday then they might have chosen to speak out about the "refugee" chants continually and tiresomely aimed at Rudi Skacel.

Harmless "banter" in the eyes of some.

But harmless "banter" that was aimed at Skacel even when Shefki Kuqi was on the pitch for Hibs.

Kuqi was a Kosovar Albanian immigrant to Finland, as his family escaped the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. They were refugees.

Go figure.

I find Skacel as hard to warm to as any Hibs fan. But he's not a refugee. Which makes the song both nonsensical and potentially more offensive to a Hibs player than its target.

A "banter" double whammy.

If Hibs really wanted to launch a war on "banter" on the back of Sunday afternoon they missed the target.

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