Other than issuing a joint statement with Leeann Dempster, CEO of Hibernian FC, condemning the incidents that occurred at the recent derby match, I have until now largely kept my counsel. I did so because Police Scotland were following up on a number of reported acts of violence and also because of the media frenzy that ensued.
Much has been said about whether these incidents reflect a problem within football culture or whether they are indicative of a wider societal problem. Similarly, questions have been raised regarding whether this is a problem specifically for Scottish football or whether it is a wider football issue. These points will no doubt continue to be debated for some time but, in the meantime, we must do everything possible at Club level to avoid any reoccurrence of such unacceptable behaviour at Tynecastle Park. The Club and a significant proportion of its supporters and sponsors are actively engaged in activities aimed at tackling tough issues in our community in the firm belief that football is part of the solution to address society’s problems rather than a root cause. It is important that the mindless actions of a few should not undermine this fantastic work.
Before outlining actions being taken, I would stress once again, that this is a problem created by a tiny minority of supporters and we are seeking the support of the large majority of our fan base who are as appalled as we are with recent incidents, to help us stamp out this behaviour. I would remind all supporters that you can text us confidentially to report incidents which you deem unacceptable on 07467 918874.
This communication is aimed at making it clear to all that I plan to follow up on the statement I made on BBC5Live the morning following the derby; namely, that anyone found guilty of carrying out any acts of violence at the match will face an indefinite ban from Tynecastle Park. While some arrests have already been made, investigations are still ongoing and bans will follow.
Please find below a summary of our position regarding unacceptable conduct.
A. Indefinite Bans
Anyone found guilty by law, identified by CCTV or unequivocally identified by any other means or person of any of the following acts, will receive an indefinite ban from Tynecastle Park. The length of bans will be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence and could mean a lifetime ban.
- In any way, causing damage to the physical infrastructure of the stadium. Similarly, it should be noted that any Hearts fan convicted of causing physical damage to any other football stadium, will also be banned from Tynecastle Park (and from purchasing tickets for away fixtures) for bringing the good name of Hearts and of Scottish Football into disrepute
- Throwing any object within the confines of the stadium, which causes, or could cause, injury to any individual, whether or not specifically directed at any individual
- Throwing any object onto the pitch or elsewhere within the confines of the stadium which causes, or could cause, damage to the pitch or any part of the stadium infrastructure
- Singing or chanting of any song or flying of any flag which is recognised as being sectarian, racist or political in its intent.
The use of pyrotechnic devices at the derby was significant. A total of 16 such devices were thrown, by both sets of fans, either onto the pitch, the track or in the direction of rival fans. We cannot emphasise strongly enough that these devices can cause serious injury to individuals and serious damage to property.
They operate at temperatures of between 600 and 2000 degrees centigrade. They can cause burn damage to the skin, as well as damage to property from smoke dyes and high temperatures, and, of course, from secondary fires. In addition, the inhalation of particles generated by these devices, whilst a less visible threat, are capable of triggering attacks from various acute and chronic illnesses, such as asthma and heart conditions.
Quite simply, these are life endangering objects. As such, any supporter involved in attempting to bring them into the Stadium or identified as discharging them in the Stadium, will receive a lifetime ban.
C. Specific Club Initiatives
1) The Club is in the process of significantly increasing its in-house matchday security staff. They will work proactively with Police Scotland and our stewarding company to stamp out incidences of unacceptable behaviour in the Stadium.
* I would remind supporters that the principal role of the stewards is to ensure safe access and egress from the stadium....and not to confront thuggish behaviour. Our in-house staff will increase our capacity to identify those guilty of unacceptable behaviour, enabling us to more effectively address issues, either at the time if safe to do so, or retrospectively.
2) Additional ticket checks will be carried out inside the stadium to ensure supporters are seated in their allocated seats. We ask all supporters to assist the stewards by cooperating and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
* Some supporters ...often in numbers....ignore their allocated seat numbers, making it difficult or impossible for stewards and supporters to address the situation at the time.
3) In the interests of safety, supporters are expected to remain seated during a match, with the exception of goal celebrations. Those supporters who consistently fail to adhere to requests to remain seated may either be escorted from the stadium or, if this is not possible for safety reasons, will be identified and contacted post-match. We reserve the right to revoke season tickets, the right to purchase tickets and also to consider any further future sanctions.
* When supporters refuse to sit, many of their fellow supporters are unable to see the game, unless they too stand…and some are either unable or unwilling to do so. Others feel they have no option but to stand and this simply exacerbates the problem.
4) Additional security measures are already being focused on those areas of the stadium where problems are known to have happened. These measures will be further strengthened. In addition, we are withholding sales of matchday tickets in these areas for the foreseeable future to assist with identifying the troublemakers. We have emailed all season ticket holders in these sections to advise them of our intentions and to apologise to those innocent Season Ticket holders for any inconvenience caused.
Much of what is said above is a repeat of the Unacceptable Behaviour Policies already in force within Scottish football stadia. I repeat some of these policies here, both as a reminder and also as a clear indication that at Tynecastle Park, we will be redoubling our efforts to ensure these policies are adhered to at all times.
We will not sit back and allow the reputation we have fought so hard to rebuild, be damaged by the mindless acts of a few individuals. Hearts‘ supporters have proved their loyalty to a level well beyond most people’s imagination. My personal objective is to help make Tynecastle Park a stadium of which we can all be proud; the most family friendly stadium in Scotland; and the most supporter friendly stadium in Scotland. By working together, we can achieve these objectives.