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Last Updated: Friday, 19 September, 2003, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Farmer backs Easter Road
Hibs owner Tom Farmer
Sir Tom Farmer has been criticised by some Hibs fans
Hibernian owner Sir Tom Farmer has insisted he will back a "Stay at Easter Road Business Plan" should it prove to solve the club's financial problems.

The millionaire Kwik-Fit founder was responding strongly to suggestions by some fans that a decision to move the club to a joint stadium with Edinburgh rivals Hearts had already been taken in secret.

Hearts have themselves been in talks with the Scottish Rugby Union about moving their club to Murrayfield.

And Farmer told a forum of 250 fans set up as part of consulation into the proposed move to Straiton: "All I want is for Hibernian Football Club to progress and to be around in 25 years time, in 55 years time and into the year 2075 and beyond.

"No-one wants that to be at Easter Road more passionately than me, but the board has to examine every option.

"I would be the first to criticise the board if they did not explore every option to safeguard the future of the club.

We met with Hearts within the last three weeks and the increased usage of Murrayfield remains part of our strategy
Scottish Rugby Union spokesman
"There is no hidden plan to go to Straiton. There is no hidden agenda. There is no secret game.

"There is only one game and that is to ensure that the Hibernian Football Club survives."

Some fans have accused Farmer of self-interest as he is part-owner of the land at Straiton where the new stadium would be built.

Suspicion increased when it emerged that former Farmer employee Colin McNeill, of Crystal Blue Ltd, would lead the consultation process.

But Farmer, who has owned Hibs for 12 years, insisted that he would continue to offer every support he could no matter where the club's future lay.

Chief executive Rod Petrie and chairman Ken Lewandowski again stressed that the board's preferred option was to remain at Easter Road.

But Petrie explained that, in the three years to 2002, Hibs had lost 4.9m.

Only Kilmarnock (3.2m) and Motherwell (4.4m) had smaller losses in the Scottish Premier League, but Petrie said that it was still unsustainable for a club like Hibs.

Hibs will release their annual financial results in October and Petrie said it would show that recent cost cutting had decreased their wages/turnover ration to nearly 60%, which was at the lower end of the sustainable level recommended by football accountants.

However, reductions in television revenues meant that a significant loss would still be revealed, taking the club's debts to more than 16m.

McPherson blamed the uncertainy about the move to Straiton - and opposition to it - for the 11% drop in attendances so far this season, but Farmer insisted that it was simply a continuation of a steady decline.

Meanwhile, an SRU spokesman told The Scotsman newspaper: "We met with Hearts within the last three weeks and the increased usage of Murrayfield remains part of our strategy.

"We are keen to see Murrayfield attract a variety of events in the belief this would be good for Edinburgh and Scotland as well as rugby.

"Continuing dialogue is something we are looking forward to."


Hibs reveal Farmer stake
30 Jul 03  |  Hibernian
Kwik-Fit keeps Hibs afloat
25 Jun 03  |  Hibernian
Stanton leads consultation
24 Jun 03  |  Scottish Premier
Edinburgh clubs keep talking
22 Jun 03  |  Scottish Premier
Land gift for capital pair
18 Jun 03  |  Scottish Premier
Capital groundshare plan
16 Jun 03  |  Scottish Premier
Hibs fans share scepticism
16 Jun 03  |  Scottish Premier

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