Club News

Ann's commitment to fans

3rd December 2014

Club striving to create safe and comfortable environment for supporters at Tynecastle.

Ann Budge today gave this latest update to fans following the fourth-round meeting with Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup.

I feel it is important that I respond to some of the issues that have arisen/emails received following the Scottish Cup tie between Hearts and Celtic on Sunday and I hope this goes some way to offering reassurance that we are totally committed to creating a safe and comfortable environment in which to enjoy the Tynecastle matchday experience.

It is important to stress the values and principles we are trying to promote within the club and the behaviour we are seeking to encourage.   

Many of our fans are supporting our efforts to improve the overall experience at Tynecastle and to create a truly family-focused culture.  

For this to work, we need to do everything in our power to ensure our opposition on the day also enjoys the experience of coming to Tynecastle. Friendly banter is acceptable - some might even say desirable - threatening and intimidating behaviour between supporters is not.

However, we also need our visiting fans to behave accordingly. Based on emails and communications received into the club it would seem both sets of supporters had cause for complaint on Sunday.

Sunday past - November 30th - was, of course, St Andrew’s day - a day when we should all be proud to be Scots!  Unfortunately, I was certainly not overly proud of some of the behaviour I witnessed and heard about both during and after the game.

The match was a disappointing football spectacle for both sets of supporters. However, as football supporters, we know that things will not always go our way on the pitch; we know that players will make mistakes; we know that referees will make calls that we do not all agree with. That is football! It does not justify bad behavior - on or off the field. 

At Hearts, poor on-field behaviour is scrutinised, disciplined and, where appropriate, punished. The same approach must apply off the field.

The police report confirms that one Hearts supporter was arrested at the match for sectarian abuse. That is unacceptable and dangerous. In line with my previous statement of zero tolerance, that individual will not be allowed back into the stadium.

The same police report confirms that five Celtic supporters were arrested for sectarian abuse, coin throwing and disorderly behaviour. I hope that Celtic will take appropriate action against those individuals who let them down. Certainly, at Hearts, we will do everything in our power to ensure they are never again allowed into Tynecastle.

I was appalled at the vandalism carried out by our visiting supporters on Sunday.  Having recently spent significant sums to replace broken seats in the Roseburn Stand, for the benefit, primarily, of our away supporters, I was hugely disappointed to witness the destruction of close to 100 seats. Similarly, the graffiti on walls, tiles, doors - basically all types of surfaces - was quite disgraceful and this is not to mention the damage to toilets.

I have discussed all of these matters with members of the Celtic Executive and we are working co-operatively to address the issues.  No club should be on the receiving end of such unacceptable behaviour and no club should be put in the position of having to defend such behaviour.

The most distressing emails/reports I have received are of intimidation both to fans and to staff from away fans. Everyone gets frustrated when officials and police appear to take little or no action. 

This is something I will discuss with the authorities but as many of us know, their response is very often influenced by a need not to further inflame a situation. The only real answer is to try to remove those people who cause the problems and who spoil the whole experience for so many others.

I was pleased to learn that approximately 20% of the Hearts supporters on Sunday were youths. This is fantastic evidence that we are appealing to the family. The not so good news is that I have received a number of emails/letters from parents stating that their children were terrified/had to be removed part way through the game/were traumatised - and as such would be unlikely ever to want to return to a game. This is appalling.

OK. These letters relate to a tiny proportion of the 12,000-plus crowd. The number is unimportant. We want to be a family-oriented club, offering a thoroughly enjoyable matchday experience for both sets of supporters - in a safe and non-threatening environment.

I promise that this current management team will do everything in its power to try to make this happen. This includes taking action against our own supporters who let the side down; vigorously pressing other clubs to be accountable for the actions of their supporters and where necessary petitioning the authorities to take appropriate action. 

I would urge Hearts supporters to stick with us and supporters of other visiting clubs to recognise that we want to offer a welcoming environment at Tynecastle where both teams can enjoy the matchday experience. For Scottish football to survive and develop, we need each other.

Let’s look forward to welcoming the Queen of the South supporters to Tynecastle on Saturday.