By Chris Myson
Scottish Premier League side Hibernian have controversially sacked their stadium announcer and DJ after he poked fun at the club’s financially-stricken rivals Hearts during a match at the weekend.
The two Edinburgh clubs are fierce rivals and Hearts are currently suffering serious financial difficulties, having been served with a winding-up order over unpaid PAYE and VAT bills.
Towards the end of the half-time interval at Hibs’ 2-1 win over Dundee United on Sunday – a result which took them to the top of the SPL – the stadium announcer played The Beatles’ track ‘Taxman’.
So while Hearts desperately attempt to get their fans to invest in a share issue and buy up tickets for upcoming matches, Hibs supporters were revelling in a joke at the expense of their struggling rivals from Tynecastle.
Since the weekend, Hearts have negotiated an extension with HMRC to pay back their outstanding bill, meaning the immediate threat of going out of business has been quelled, but a serious fight remains to save the club.
After the game, Hibs announced that the stadium announcer who had played the track, Willie Docherty, had been terminated for what was described as “a breach of contract”.
“Willie is devastated. He was brought up in Leith and is a lifelong fan of the club. It was a dream job for him,” a source close to the announcer told The Daily Record.
“He believes it was just a joke. I don’t think many Hearts fans would want to see Hibs going as far as sacking him.”
Hibs have come in for criticism from their own fans for sacking the announcer, prompting the club to release a statement explaining their decision.
It read: “The action has been taken because the individual chose to wilfully disregard specific instructions given in the pre-match briefing which itself was consistent with guidance given during the week in the run-up to the match, which was broadcast live on television.
“Before our recent home match against Dundee United discussions took place and specific instructions were given. The individual concerned has admitted that he deliberately breached the terms of the instructions.
“The club was left with no option but to take the course of action it did. This is not an issue about having or not having a sense of humour.”
It is not the first controversy involving the two clubs that has taken place this season. When Hearts icon Rudi Skacel, who was playing for Dundee United on Sunday, signed for his new club, he requested to take the squad number 51.
The number was a reference to Hearts’ famous 5-1 victory over their Edinburgh rivals in the 2012 Scottish Cup final and his gibe infuriated a number of Hibs supporters, while others dismissed it as ‘banter’.
He was the subject of heavy abuse from the stands throughout the match at Easter Road, in which he hit the bar as Dundee United came close to mounting a late comeback.