LEEANN DEMPSTER has revealed that Hibernian are set to shell out more than £100,000 on a state-of-the art CCTV system in a bid to combat the blight of anti-social behaviour at football.
The Easter Road chief executive has taken a no-nonsense stance following a string of high-profile incidents involving her club this season, notably describing the supporter who entered the field of play to confront Rangers captain James Tavernier last month as an ‘idiot’.
That occurred less than a week after one thug had lobbed a Buckfast bottle at Celtic’s Scott Sinclair.
Police Scotland interviewed 37 witnesses but have been unable to identify the perpetrator of that act, which was not caught on film due to cameras being momentarily trained on a different area of the ground.
While the previous surveillance system was considered one of the best in the country out-with Celtic and Rangers, Dempster has signed off on an upgrade that will supersede anything else in use in the SPFL.
The new set-up will see 11 high definition cameras installed this summer that will cover every area of the stadium and ensure no blind spots, with one member of Hibs’ hierarchy revealing ‘it can read a tattoo’.
“While we already have an excellent system, every CCTV system has its limitations,” she explained. “It’s important that, where we think technology can be improved and help us, we utilise that.
“Prior to the events of the last couple of months, the club were already looking at additional cameras to help with supporter safety. Subsequent to the events of the last couple of months, we’ve decided to install a whole range of cameras.
“It will add in, effectively, another 11 high-definition cameras into the stadium. That will give people extra assurance when they come into the stadium, knowing that we’ve added another layer for their safety.
“And I hope we don’t need to use them for this but, if there was another negative event in the stadium, we’re not in the situation where the traditional CCTV systems don’t catch it. It would be difficult for us – in terms of our reputation as a club – if that happened.”
Hibs have been far from the only club forced to face up to the idiocy of a small minority of fans this term. Previous manager Neil Lennon was struck by a coin at Tynecastle, prompting Hibs to begin installing Go Pro cameras on their dugouts – home and away – to monitor punters.
Tavernier had a lighter aimed at him against Motherwell at the weekend, while there have been numerous incidences of pyrotechnics being set off, incursions onto the pitch and offensive chanting.
All of which has brought about the prospect of the Scottish Government intervening and strict liability being introduced.
However, Hibs are evidently of a similar mind as Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows, who insisted yesterday that football can combat its own problems.
Hibs’ impending new CCTV system – which, it is understood, will not impact on their playing budget – is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of deterrents.
Dempster hopes to work with Police Scotland to utilise sniffer dogs, which could help to curb supporters entering the stadium with drugs, thought to be a major factor in recent high-profile issues at SPFL matches, and certain types of pyrotechnics.
She plans to introduce an anonymous text lines – already in place at Aberdeen and Hearts – so fans can report unacceptable behaviour and has even deployed undercover steward to monitor problem areas.
“I try to, wherever possible, highlight the things being done by clubs,” she continued. “There are so many professional people in the background responsible for detailed operations and plans. It is important that we DO talk about that.
“I think sometimes it can look like we are not as organised as we could be – and we need to get that more positive message over.
“However, where we can improve and be better, we must try to be better. If we can create deterrents, whether they are stewards or cameras or whatever it may be, we need to use them.”
Meanwhile, Hibs are ready to clamp down on the use of flares, smoke bombs and other pyrotechnics.
No Pyro . . .
Club chiefs have become increasingly alarmed by the prevalence of ‘pyro’ and are determined that supporters begin to realise the danger of setting them off inside a football stadium, including causing burns, smoke inhalation and recent incidents of disabled fans being negatively impacted.
And the Edinburgh outfit are ready to take a stance on the issue, including issuing banning orders and referring cases to the cops.
Dempster added: “We want to make sure people come to the games, enjoy the experience and make sure football is not tarnished by this and get away from unacceptable behaviour.”