BY DARREN JOHNSTONE – Capital City Press
Hearts have condemned the behaviour of a small group of so-called supporters following crowd trouble both during and after Saturday’s win over Ross County.
In a strongly-worded statement, the Gorgie outfit have vowed to identify and ban the troublemakers.
Following the 2-0 victory over the Staggies, reports emerged online that a gang of Hearts fans had allegedly attacked a County supporters’ coach.
Hearts owner Ann Budge, who has vowed to make Tynecastle an environment suitable for families, has personally apologised to Dingwall counterpart Roy MacGregor after again being let down by the conduct of a minority of fans.
A pocket of young supporters that sit in the Roseburn Stand also caused problems for stewards during the game, particularly when a pyrotechnics device made a deafening bang during the second half.
The full statement reads: “It is with considerable disappointment that the club, once again, is put in the position of having to apologise both to our own supporters and, in this case, to Ross County Football Club and their travelling support for the appalling behaviour of a small group of 15-25 young so-called ‘Hearts supporters’.
“Let us make it clear, the club does not need these individuals and, most certainly, does not want them if this is going to be the way they continue to behave.
“Ann Budge has contacted the Ross County chairman to personally apologise and to ask that this apology is passed on to the supporters and to the coach driver, whose trip to Edinburgh was so badly tainted by the behaviour of this group.
“Apologies are however not sufficient. The club is doing everything in its power to put an end to this type of behaviour. We have been working closely with Police Scotland and other agencies to gather sufficient evidence against the individuals involved to enable the appropriate action to be taken.
“It gives us no pleasure to say that a number of fans will be banned as a consequence of their recurring bad behaviour.
“We will now be working additionally with other agencies including schools and social work departments to try to take a more holistic view of the problems facing our football club and the wider community.
“Within the stadium at all forthcoming home games we will have a greater stewarding presence and on some occasions, Police will be monitoring certain areas directly.
“We are also now looking at implementing much more strenuous ticketing control measures. We realise that these measures may then cause some inconvenience to other Hearts fans however we know that the majority of supporters at Tynecastle are as keen as we are to address these problems.
“For instance we find it incredible that even following the terrifying ordeal a young Hearts fan had at Celtic Park due to pyrotechnics in ‘our’ section, an incident which led to him receiving medical treatment, certain individuals still chose to repeat this utterly irresponsible action again on Saturday.
“Once again, we had a home sell out on Saturday with almost 16,000 Hearts fans in attendance and yet, instead of talking about a great performance, our great supporters and the club’s great initiatives, we are instead apologising for the appalling and, in some cases criminal, behaviour, of 15-25 individuals.
“Our inbox at Tynecastle is filled with emails from Hearts supporters asking us to take action and we want to assure them, that we will not rest until we have satisfactorily addressed this problem.
“It seems that many football clubs have to deal with this problem, the actions of a few, besmirching the reputation of the majority of their decent supporters and all clubs are doing their best to address these minority problems, which can only be for the good of the game.
“We will certainly never accept it as ‘an inevitable part of the game’ here at Tynecastle.”